#BlogBattle 76: Debacle 🙂 Come one, come all! Read and write and have a ball!
Choking dust plumed about. I pulled the front of my shirt up and coughed into it, at the same time squinting my eyes against the assault of tiny particles. With my free hand I waved through the dust with the hope of clearing the fine powder from the stagnant air but only made it worse.
I stepped back without realizing my friend Sean stood right behind and bumped into his solid chest, bouncing forward a little to catch my balance. Probably by instinct more than design, Sean’s hands shot out and grabbed my upper arms, effectively keeping me from toppling over.
“Thanks,” I said, the word muffled under my shirt and hand.
He dropped his hands and coughed once. “Yeah.”
The explosion of dust slowly settled from the air, but the beam of Sean’s flashlight shot through the heavy darkness so I could still see the bits floating like microscopic feathers on a nonexistent breeze.
“What happened?” I blinked rapidly, trying to clear the grit.
Sean grunted. “A debacle.”
“Ha. Ha. Sean.” I couldn’t mask the sarcasm. It was like ‘no duh’ was the only response to his pointing out the obvious, as usual.
“I think you shouldn’t have touched that lever.”
“No? Really?” Okay, now the sarcasm laid on thick, but could he be any more deadpan? I had to wonder, not only about that but how he could sound so calm.
We had found this amazing old mine, or what we’d thought was a mine, on our day hike near Lake Spokanee in the Cascades. Of course, I had to see what might be inside, and Sean, saint that he is, let me pretty much do anything I wanted without much argument. He’s more like my volunteer bodyguard in that respect.
He and I had been friends ever since he rescued me from another debacle back in fourth grade when I’d been trying to get the most popular girl in school to be my next best friend and had made a huge fool of myself on the playground, getting my boot stuck while upside down on the monkey bars with my skirts drifting about my ears. Yeah. Not my finest moment. Sean had crawled up there and unstuck my booted foot while I held my skirts . . . erm . . . up? Ever since then he’d been my silent partner in crime.
That was six years ago. Now here we stood in–literally in–the mountains of Washington, no cell service and no visible way out.
Sean shined the light in a slow circle all around us. The beam from the flashlight caused the still floating grit to sparkle in the air and reminded me of confetti, but this was definitely no celebration.
I followed the path of light with my eyes but didn’t move, too afraid to step on something and Indiana-Jones-style make something worse. He stopped on the place where the open, short mine shaft had been but was now a solid wall of rock, like a huge door had lowered out of the ceiling cutting off our only escape. We’d barely walked twenty feet in for goodness sake! Now it was too dark in every other direction to know what lay ahead, but unless we found something to open that . . . what? Door? Well, we’re screwed.
“Shine the light on that lever-y thing.” I could feel panic rising in my throat like a stuck potato chip. The longer we stood in the black dark of this place, the more freaked out I got.
He obeyed and flicked the light toward the handle in the wall that I’d grabbed and pulled without a second thought. I had second thoughts now, but it was a little late for that. There was nothing else near the handle. I reached for it and pushed up, but it wouldn’t budge. I put both hands on it and pressed up using my shoulder as extra leverage.
“Don’t just stand there,” I grumbled.
Sean, ever the stoic and obedient pal reached over my shoulder and pressed up on the end of the handle with me, but still it wouldn’t move.
“I thought you had all those muscles so you could do stuff like this.” I stood with hands on hips, huffing and puffing from the exertion.
“I thought you knew better than to pull levers in strange caves.”
I rolled my eyes. These gibes would get us nowhere fast. “Okay, onward it is then.” I thought I saw Sean’s eyebrows raise, but it was too difficult to tell in the shadows. “You’ve got the flashlight, whiz kid, so you lead. Or . . . you could give me the light, and I’ll take the lead.”
“It’s pretty clear, Jos, that you should take second from here on . . . in.”
“Aren’t you just full of . . . wisdom.” I shot the words back at him, unable to contain the continued sarcasm.
I decided it was probably the stress. Were sarcastic remarks really how I handled stress? That was something I’d have to work on. In the meantime it was best to let Sean take the lead. He was bigger than me anyway. If we ran into any bears, at least he’d work as a buffer. Not that I had anywhere to run if there were a man eating mountain lion or something in here.
He stepped around me and, out of what I’d like to call caution but was more likely fear, I grabbed the arm of his plaid shirt, gripping it until my fingernails felt like they were ripping off against the material. He glanced over his shoulder but seemed to approve and took cautious steps forward, the flashlight highlighting a swath of dusty floor in front of him.
The ceiling was high, like we’d entered a cavern and the air was cold, but somehow it seemed less stagnant than it had ten steps back. Sean stopped without warning and I walked smack against his backpack with a soft grunt.
“Warning would be good next time, big fella.”
“Where would the fun in that be?” he asked and reached to pull his backpack around.
He rummaged through it, and I didn’t think to ask what he was searching for even though the curiosity had hit me.
“Ah-ha.” He slipped his hand back out with a book of matches gripped between his man-sized fingers. It looked almost dainty in his hand.
“What do you need those for?”
“This,” he responded, lit one and dropped it on a ledge along the wall. I’d noticed it but hand’t thought much of it until then.
A sudden whoosh filled the stillness of the place and a trail of flickering flame shot up along the winding path of the ledge which turned out to be a trough of some sort of flammable liquid. I hadn’t smelled any acrid odors and wondered what it could be.
The flames kept going and met up with other channels, light burst across the space and so did the shock in my chest as my heart rate skyrocketed at the sight. We’d walked into a treasure trove with an unbelievable hoard, like in pirate tales or Ali Baba and his forty thieves stuff.
“Open sesame,” I whispered.
I didn’t bother taking my eyes from the glowing mass of gold and chests strewn about. “Nothing.” This was . . . woah. I couldn’t think of a single word that could describe the sight.
“Unreal,” Sean said and stepped toward the rising pile of shiny trinkets and coins.
I had a super bad feeling hit me at that second and grabbed for his arm again. “Hold it, cowboy. It could be like cursed or something.”
He nodded and took a step back to stand beside me. We stared at the wealth for maybe a minute before Sean spoke.
“Josie, as awesome as this is, we’ve gotta get out of here.”
“Yeah,” I said. What else could I say? That was the only door in here? We’re not getting out of here alive? Good luck with that? I’m sure he was already thinking the same things anyway, but man oh man, I wished he’d have a solution to our predicament, ’cause I sure as snot didn’t have one.
To be continued . . . ! Wait. What?! Yeah. Sorry. For some reason I cannot keep this whole microfiction thing micro. It wants to grow and grow into a short story of substance almost every time. If you want to show me you’d like more, put a LIKE on it or leave a comment (which is super awesome-sauce when you do), and I’ll write some more. I like Josie and Sean. Would love to see what happens to them myself . . . .