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The stupid light was shining right in my eyes, so I motioned for David to take off his caving helmet. “Sorry about that,” he told me. “I forgot that I still had it on.” David was in his fifties, in full caving gear, and was meeting me where the gravel road intersected the path leading into the woods.
“Have you already been caving today?” I asked. “I thought we were supposed to meet-up at 8 PM, after I got off work.”
“Right, but I had a small group of cavers who wanted to go in, so I took them. They’re still probably down there milling around.” He grinned sheepishly, as if he were a schoolboy who had been caught doing something naughty.
“Do you think they’ll find the Indian carvings?” I asked. “I don’t want anyone around it until I can get more pictures and publish my paper online.”
“I didn’t take them back that far, just 200 feet. I’m sure petroglyphs are okay.” He switched on his flashlight before turning around, motioning for me to follow him into the trees and shrubs.
As we began to hike, I noticed how quickly the darkness had fallen under the leafy canopy. “It seems creepy to be going in after sunset.”
“Day or night, stormy weather or fair – it’s all the same inside a cave,” answered David. “Nothing changes down there, ever.”
As we walked along through the underbrush along the wagon rut path, I saw the abandoned stone lodge. “That’s odd,” I whispered. “It looks like there’s a blue light coming through the windows on the top floor.”
“That’s impossible,” sighed David, as if shushing a child. “There’s no second floor anymore. It rotted out decades ago. It’s probably just the reflection of the moon.”
“But it’s cloudy – there’s no moon out tonight.” I strained to see. “Stop David, please!” I whispered emphatically. “Look at the window! Someone’s in there!”
David looked up and a dark figure behind the window shifted, allowing the blue glow to shine out for only a moment before it suddenly blinked out.
“It’s just a cloud passing overhead, Michele. Let’s get to the cave.”
I could feel my legs beginning to tremble as we started our descent to the canyon’s floor. I heard water rushing from the cave even before I saw the cave’s mouth in the near darkness.
“We need to turn on our helmet lights,” instructed David, and I did as I was told. I had the feeling that someone was watching from the darkness of the steep, graying cliffs, so I was glad to get inside the cave.
As we splashed through the shallow stream, I was surprised to hear voices coming from further back. “Who is that?”
“Oh, you mean those voices? Those are probably the people I led through earlier. They’re members of that online club, the ‘I love CRV’ club.”
“I saw the homepage online. What’s up with their membership list?”
“The membership list?” asked David.
“The names are so odd: Alva Watts, Fern Voyles, Lyce? Some of them are the same as names on the wall – the ones I took pictures of last time I came down.”
David began to hurry a little, as if irritated by the question. “Maybe they’re family names, passed down, you know. We’re almost to Indian Rock, Michele. Should be right around the corner here…”
Suddenly the cave opened up into a large room and we could see forty people standing in front of the wall with the petroglyphs, bathed in the light from gas lanterns that were scattered around the rocks.
“I thought you’d never get here,” said a tall man with dressed in coveralls. “It’s almost time for him to arrive. Is this her?”
“Yep!” said David. She asks a lot of questions.”
“Well, Michele – all your questions are about to be answered. I’m Charles Heifes,” the tall man said – motioning for two men to block the path to the entry corridor.
I was stunned and confused. “Charles Heifes? From Brookmor Indiana?”
“That exact man.”
“But the date etched into the stone was Jan 25, 1909? I don’t understand. Brookmor Indiana is a ghost town now – I checked online. In 1900 there were only twelve houses there and no one lives there now.”
A woman step forward wearing a bonnet that obscured her face. “And I’m Mrs. Heifes. A century ago my husband and I were trapped in the Inn by a terrible blizzard. We were cut off from the main road, the food was gone and the firewood was running out. So we came down into the cave, where it was warmer.”
It was at this point that the rest of the group began to put out the lanterns one by one, as everyone listened to the story.
Mr Heifes took over, talking to the entire group. “That was when we found the altar – and the image of the shaman began to glow.” In the faint light we could all see the shaman’s petroglyph begin to glow an eerie red color. Someone blew out the last lamp. I tried to run in the dim light, but the two men continued to block the exit.
“We were starving until HE appeared to save us,” shouted the man. All eyes were transfixed on the wall now, waiting, waiting… “Look now! He comes!”
All those present dropped to their knees as a blue figure stepped through the wall onto the ancient altar. He had a square helmet on with piercing blue light shining through where the eyes should have been. He was majestic in a feathered kilt and waist apron with leather moccasins that reached his knees. His chest was bare with a scar that ran from throat to navel. “Is this the new one?” the wind in the cave whispered.
“She is,” answered the group in unison, bowing their heads.
I had now edged my way to the far wall, close to the opening leading further into the darkness of the cave.
“Carve your name into the wall and join with us forever!” said the figure bathed in blue light.
Suddenly all those present took down their hoods, revealing only skulls in the unearthly blue light. “Carve your name – protect his altar! Carve your name – protect his altar!” the skulls began to chant, casting their empty eyes upon me. I felt my knees give way for a moment, weak – until some inner strength overwhelmed me, and I ran into the darkness away from the cult, away from the blue figure, tripping through the water, over rocks. Only by chance a faint light appeared, revealing the deep blue of the night sky outside. I grabbed onto tree roots that I could feel, pulling myself upwards with the last of my strength, climbing, climbing towards the outside.
That was how I ended up shivering here, hiding behind this rock in the woods. I think it is finally over. It is too dark to see and I am too scared to look.
micheledutcher - I'd love to be able to post a picture of the original petroglyph that inspired this story - but alas, The Muse won't let me post a picture. *sigh*
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