The cave grew dark almost as quickly as the temperature dropped. Darren turned on the flashlight and lit up the jagged sandstone walls that stretched out of sight of the torch. He’d been here before, but this was the first time on his own. In caves, you have a tendency to lose where you are. Anxious isn’t the right word, but when you turn around and it is just as dark and unfamiliar as where you came from, you wish you weren’t so scared.
“Help!” the words echoed around the tunnels and crawlspaces.
Darren shone his flashlight around, trying to find the source of the sounds.
“Someone help me, please!”
It was a woman, or girl.
“Hello?” he shouted, “Is there anyone there?”
Darren jogged along, until he reached a young girl, sitting on the floor. The light from the torch lit up her small features.
“Thank you. I thought I was going to die in here.”
She got up and approached him. He was secretly happy to see another face.
“Can I walk with you?” she asked.
She put her arm through his and turned around.
“Do you know the way out? I think I’m lost,” Darren asked.
“I do, I have been here for many years. Just follow me.”
She held out her hand and he gave her the torch.
“You see that over there?” she pointed the light to a collection of paintings that covered the cave wall, “those are over four thousand years old. My ancestors painted them.”
“Wow, they are amazing,” Darren said actually impressed.
“Do you feel the breeze? That is my ancestors, still wandering the passages after all these years. They brought you to me.”
Darren feigned a smile, not being one for superstition.
“It is said that my ancestors had the power to call on the spirits of the animals they slain. Someone entering these tunnels to find shelter would hear the growl of wildcats from behind and run further in. Disorientated and scared, they’d back themselves into a dead-end.
“The wind would gather, and the fire on their torch would blow out. Left lost and alone, they’d wander around, going in circles, until the blackness they saw with their eyes open was indistinguishable from the darkness they saw with their eyes shut. The spirits would be happy with the sacrifice and the land would be blessed with fertility.
“Now-a-days less travellers come this way, and when they do, there is no fire to be blown out, even the lost eventually find their way out.”
Darren was suddenly aware of his empty hands.
“Sorry,” she said.
And with that, the flashlight clicked off.
Darren didn’t hear her run away, Darren wasn’t sure if she was even ever there at all.