The closer I moved to the end of the tunnel the colder the air became. Chills wracked my body when I finally stumbled to the entrance, or in my case the exit of the cave, a huge bush blocked my way out. I moved a few branches aside, just far enough to notice the inky sky and whiteout conditions. I squinted in attempt to get a grasp of the location of the cave, but could barely see my hand in front of my face, let alone the rest of the forest. I considered using my cell phone and sighed. I didn’t think I’d pick up a signal in this mess and I didn’t want to run down the battery trying to get one.
Mumbling more than a few expletives I walked back down the tunnel at a fast pace, until I made it back to the smoke filled fire. I nodded my head in exhaustion. I needed to add more fuel to the dying embers. I didn’t want to freeze to death in a cave where no-one would ever find me. I rounded the cave, checking the dark corners, and stumbled upon heavy branches, drug them to the pit, and proceeded to break and stack a few pieces, tee pee style, onto the dying blaze. The dry leaves and wood caught quickly and my eyes followed the flames to where I believed would be a ceiling. I’m pretty sure there was a ceiling somewhere up there, but I couldn’t see it. Feeling toasty again I took a deep breath before wandering through the opening of the second tunnel.
Halfway down the tunnel I stepped on something dry and crunchy; I jumped back, picturing cockroaches crawling over the floor. Did I mention my imagination was working on overtime? A shiver marched up my spine to the top of my head, making my hair stand on end, bile rose into my throat. I despise cockroaches, they gross me out, and even worse was the sound of them being stepped on. Yuk. Another shiver ran up my spine.
I lowered my torch, sweeping it above the floor and close to the walls. Nothing skittered across the rough stone. The floor was different. I swore the floor moved, but didn’t have enough light to identify what crept under my feet. I took a few soft steps, hearing a crunch with each. Freaked out I ran the short distance to the other smaller cave, praying a huge momma cockroach didn’t wait for me inside. Pitch black surrounded me; I crouched down, waving the torch close to the floor.
A crazy women’s laughter bubbled from my throat as I sat down to catch my breath. Leaves were scattered throughout the soft dirt. My mind had been playing tricks on me. My nerves took over, shaking uncontrollably a cackle escaped my mouth. Taking big gulps of air I relaxed a little, telling myself I wasn’t going to cry. I just needed to wait out the storm, and for daylight for my escape. Once I started breathing normally again I rose and began to search the cave.
My stomach rumbled, my lips were parched. I didn’t think I would find any food, but water or a bowl would fill me up for the time being. I followed the same routine I had before, only this time I followed the walls. Halfway through the cave I stumbled upon a big pile of leaves. As I circled around to the front of the pile I realized it was some kind of nest, another small nudge at my memory. I squatted down to look inside, careful not to start the thing on fire.
What I would do for a flashlight right now.
Yuk. Dead bird carcasses.
I moved away from the nest quickly and finished scouting the cave. Besides the burrow of leaves, nothing else stood out.
I returned to the main cave, sat down, and lit a smoke. Something about the nest tickled the back of my brain. I waited for the memory to surface, but it stayed beyond my grasp. Sighing, I forced myself to stand and walk to the cave entrance. I needed water, snow was frozen water. I eyed the trunk of the bush and began to carefully cut a makeshift bowl out of it.
My first attempt rewarded me with a medium size piece of bark. I set the makeshift cup down and sliced out a bigger piece of bark. After scooping fresh snow into both pieces I turned my back on the darkness and blowing snow, trudged to the fire, set the bark down close to the heat, and melted it. I drank the minute amount of water, knew I should collect more, but couldn’t convince my body to move another inch. Yawning, I crawled back to the far end of the wall, shoved the knife into my boot, got into the most comfortable position I could, sitting up, and closed my eyes.