Chasm - Part One

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mAImaS
Seafoam Poet
Posts: 204
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2003 3:13 pm
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Chasm - Part One

Post by mAImaS » Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:02 am

My name is Simon Trevoc, and I’ve been told I hate other humans. I’ve been accused of being anti social and rude. I’ve been called a selfish man. I’ve even been labeled “crazy.” But this is simply not true. Sure, I avoid others. I am not much of a conversationalist and I spend almost all my time alone - reading, writing, playing my piano and teasing my Persian cat, Fargo. My parents are dead. I have no brothers or sisters and no girlfriend – not anymore. I work at home as a graphic designer. I send out the finished product via the internet or the snail-mail. I have yet to meet any of my clients face to face. And I like it that way. Paul Simon once said it perfectly, and I hold his words to be true.

I touch no one. And no one touches me.

But “hate”? I hate no one. I think it’s wrong to assume that I hate simply because I’m content being alone. Call me a loner if you will, but please, don’t accuse me of hating. In my thirty-five years of life, I’ve never hated anyone. Not even myself. I just want to be left alone. I don’t want to go to bars and drink and pat people on the back, feeling the false love and companionship that alcohol seems to inject. I don’t want to go dancing with a woman who will say she is falling in love with me, then watch helplessly as her head is turned and she leaves for someone (or simply something) better, new and more exciting.

Relationships are a waste of time. I learned long ago that if given the right circumstances, anyone will leave you. Even your own mother.

But I cannot abandon myself. I don’t have to guess what I am thinking. I cannot stab myself in the back. There are no games. No lies. As long as I am honest with myself, I will always be my own best friend.

I woke up that morning feeling just fine despite the gray-touched sky and the threat of rain, despite the noise that surged from the busy Salt Lake City street below my third-floor apartment. I had something to look forward to.

I had Uinta cave.

Uinta was a natural cave that penetrated almost a mile deep into the guts of Uinta Mountain, which, at fourteen-thousand feet, towered like a king among the Wasatch Range of Utah. They had tours from spring to fall. I had been there many times before. It was my favorite place on earth. It was dark, mysterious and beautiful. But most importantly, it was somewhere I could go where the rest of the world could not find me. Sure, there would be others in the tour group. But they usually kept to themselves. Once in a while a stranger would try to make trivial conversation. But most of the time no one bothered me. When I was in the heart of that underground paradise, I was alone. I was in a group, but utterly alone.

I reached the cave around noon. The mile or so hike up the mountain trail was for me a torture. Not physically, mind you. I was in great shape. Rather, it was the anticipation of knowing what was at the top - what awaited me within the heart of this Wasatch Mountain Range. The hike was like the space between a man dying of thirst in the desert and the shore of a freshwater oasis. I ate up the mile of trail like a child eats liver in order to get to dessert.

I was the first to reach the top. I waited rather impatiently before the large wooden door that led into the cave. The tour guide sat in a chair just in front of the door. She looked to be in her late twenties. She was a tall, gangly blond woman, tan in a leathery sort of way. She wore cargo shorts that exposed her knobby knees. Her feet were shod with brown, leather boots that were scuffed with months of hiking. On her white polo shirt she wore a badge that said, “Welcome to Uinta Cave! My name is Nancy”. She did not look up at me as I approached. Instead, she sat there reading from a magazine I could not identify and did not care to. Despite there being no sun, her eyes were hidden behind mirrored sunglasses, and I thought, we all hide in our own way.

Other tourist began to pile up behind me. They chattered like birds amongst themselves. Children ran with unruly freedom, the parents not seeming to care that only a few feet away sat death in the form of a two-hundred foot drop-off. I shook my head. Of all the people on this planet, parents could be the most ignorant. They think tragedies happened to other people’s children, not theirs. Unfortunately, we are all “other people” to other people.

Tour guide Nancy closed her magazine, set it beneath her chair and stood. She scanned the crowd with a well-practiced smile – as if this were the greatest day of her life and we were the most important people to enter it. Though I had never seen her before, I knew she had done this many times. Hundreds of times perhaps. And yet, she served her pretense like a teenager serves fast food, with a patented smile. Nancy wanted to be somewhere else, and if I could see them, her eyes would tell me so. This was another reason I could not bear the companionship of others. People were false. And they had themselves fooled into thinking that no one could see through their façade. They told you what they think you want to hear to either spare your feelings, or spare their own discomfort. But me? I would rather hear ugly truths than beautiful lies.

“Good afternoon, folks,” the tour guide said. She tapped her badge with her index finger. “My name’s Nancy and I’ll be your guide. Now, before we enter the cave, let me lay down a few rules.”

Nancy started in with her usual tour-guide speech about the safety and protection of not only the tourists, but the cave as well. I thought it was ironic on her part to try and show such concern for the safety of others, while clumsy children stood on the railing by the cliff, only inches from certain death. A sign on the railing cried out in bold, black letters: “Do not sit or climb on railing! Parents – Please be aware of where your children are at all times!” I shook my head again. Yeah, right.

I tuned Tour Guide Nancy out. I heard her say something about an earthquake that took place only last night. The quake had occurred miles beneath the earth, undetectable by anyone on the surface. But she reassured us that the cave was not only in tact, but safe.

I looked down at my feet, letting my mind wander off ahead of me, already exploring the depths of the chasm beyond the wooden door.

Nancy finished up her speech. So I paid attention.

“Now,” she was saying, “with no further ado, welcome to Uinta Cave!”

My heart pounded with excitement. I could not help but smile.

The great door opened, and I entered my private world.

I found myself in a cavern I had seen dozens of times. I was like a child who’d seen the same Disney movie over and over and loved it the same every time – repeating every line, singing every song, irritating all the adults.

The first cavern was one of the largest parts of the cave. It was lit with a soft, yellowish glow from the lights embedded in the cave walls. Sounds were muffled here, deadened by the smooth walls of granite and limestone and making my ears feel as if they were full of cotton. The great mound of mountain around me and above me hugged my body in its embrace. It whispered to me with sounds of dripping water and buzzing silence. I could hear my own mind pulsating inside my skull. No cars honking. No sirens screaming. Simply silence. Even the voices of the other tourists were muffled, as if I was hearing them from below the surface of a peaceful lake and far, far away. Here, you can hear your own heartbeat.

I loved the smell, too. It was an ancient, musty smell of dust and aged water. It was a scent that was not man-made, but had been here millennia before any human had set foot within the stomach of the great cave.

Stalactites and stalagmites, mineral deposits formed by dripping water, hung from the cave’s ceiling and protruded from the floor like giant teeth. It was as if I was walking into the great throat of some prehistoric monster – a monster that did not frighten me, for it could not hurt me. It didn’t want to hurt me.

To my left, on the other side of a metal railing that “protected” tourist, was a dark pool of water. It was roughly twelve feet in circumference. The water was black as ink, and from my studies I learned, almost two-hundred feet deep. This was the only aspect of the cave that unnerved me. The nothingness below the surface of that black, black water for some reason reminded me of people. Staring at that pool of ebony was like staring into the pupils of other humans. Zombies, dead inside. A blank nothingness. Though I found the pool fascinating, a certain chill would touch my bones every time I laid eyes on it.

Nancy continued to talk, and I continued to tune her out. Occasionally, someone would pipe up with a question. The questions always seemed so elementary to me. I already knew everything about the cave – or so I thought.

The group moved forward a few feet, while tour guide Nancy pointed out two natural rock formations they called “the salt and pepper shakers.” They were called this because that’s exactly what they looked like. They were even the same size of real salt and pepper shakers. These were the only formations the public was allowed to touch. They were worn smooth, glassy from the oily hands of thousands of tourists.

I wanted to move on by myself, but this was not allowed. It wasn’t “safe.”

To my left, a bubbling sound in the pool caught my attention. It sounded like someone under the water blowing out a lungful of air.

That’s when the lights went out.

The sudden, unified gasp of the group around me seemed to give the abrupt blackness a sound of its own. In an instant, the cave was absolutely devoid of light. In the dark, children began to cry.

“Mommy! Mommy!”

“Over here, sweetie! I’m right here!”

“Everyone, stay calm,” I recognized Tour Guide Nancy’s voice - almost. Her tone was corrupted by a nervous tremble she could not hide. A bright light flashed on. Nancy was holding a flashlight. A powerful one. Its beam spewed up from under her chin, making her look like a camp counselor about to tell a scary story around a campfire. Shadows from the upturned light fell upon her face, giving it a morbid, grotesque appearance. “Just stay calm,” she kept saying. She was still wearing her sunglasses.

The same thought kept pushing into the front of my mind – This has never happened before. Something isn’t right. Oh, my God. Something isn’t right. A splashing sound came from the dark pool. I turned to look. At first I thought someone had fallen in. The thought of a small child sinking into that eternal water – falling and falling into the bowels of the earth – froze my blood. I prepared my mind to jump in after the helpless victim.

However, even with the little bit of illumination from Nancy’s flashlight, I could see clearly. No one had fallen in. The splashing sound had belonged to an object breaking the surface.

Something was coming out.

At first, it was only a ripple on the plane of the black water. Then, long, silver shards of glass broke the surface and it took me a moment to realize they were fingernails. Fingernails attached to inhumanly long, black fingers, at least six inches each in length. They continued to rise. The fingers were attached to a glistening, black hand. The hand attached to a shimmering, skinny black arm.

Nancy screamed. She dropped her flashlight. It struck the ground with a thud and spun in place on the floor, creating a strobe-light affect. Bodies began to rush in panic. Someone crashed into me. I could smell sweet perfume and knew it had been a woman who’d bumped me. My mind filled with detached pictures. I could imagine her, only hours before, standing in front of a mirror. Checking her hair. Spraying herself with her favorite scent. Nagging her children and husband that they would be late for the tour if they didn’t hurry. Her biggest worry then was whether or not the kids would behave.

Now, I saw her face in the faint glow as she fell against me. It was white with fear, her eyes as wide as small teacup saucers. Slung over her shoulder was a red purse. She simply stared at me with terror, as if she were asking me to stop what was happening. She ignored the cries of a little boy who clung to her pant leg calling, “Mommy! Mommy! What’s happening?”

Blue emergency lights suddenly flashed on, and I remember thinking how stupid it was that they were blue. Why not just make them normal lights? Whose stupid idea was this?

The thing that had arisen from the pool was half out of the water by now. I looked down as its long arms – at least five feet each in length – slapped upon the cement floor with wet smacking sounds as it slowly pulled itself from the water. It looked directly at me with large eyes, like the smooth sides of two giant black olives. Strands of matted hair protruded from its dark head like long, rotten seaweed. It opened its massive mouth as its narrow jaw dropped open, exposing rows of needle-like teeth. It hissed at me with the sound of steam escaping from an ancient, rusty pipe. Drops of oily water sprayed from its throat.

It reached out deliberately and grabbed the woman’s ankle. She screamed. And even in the muffled cave, the scream hurt my ears. At first, I thought I’d simply imagined her scream turning into a gurgle. But a gurgle it became, as a blue-black liquid ran from her mouth and down her chin, like a little girl who had messily devoured black licorice. From deep within her body, I could hear a crackling, stretching sound, as if something were pulling her bones apart. She turned and looked directly into my eyes. Her pupils seemed to grow and spread. I watched in horror as the inky blackness smothered out the whites of the eyeballs. More purplish-black branched out beneath her skin. It looked as if her veins and capillaries were filling up with the same liquid that was still spilling from her quivering chin.

Her neck began to extend. The woman fell to the floor, shivering and convulsing as her arms stretched, followed by her legs. One of her high-heeled shoes burst out with a leathery popping sound as her feet morphed into gnarly flesh, ending in thick, silvery claws. The blackness spread throughout her body. Her skin darkened. Her fingernails and toenails grew at an unnatural rate into the glassy points I had seen break the water’s surface only moments before.

The woman grabbed hold of the little boy. The boy’s body began to convulse. The now familiar crunching sound came from deep within him.
More splashing sounds. More clawed hands broke the surface of the pool.

I don’t know what moved me. I simply ran. I headed for the wooden door, but stopped short. A mass of bodies blocked my way. Tourists clawed at the door, like victims trying to escape an inferno. One man fell. The others simply trampled him. He looked directly at me and screamed as a careless woman stepped on his head. But the door would not open. This didn’t surprise me, since they were pushing on a door that needed to be pulled.

Without thinking, I turned and ran deeper into the cave I knew so well. If I could get outside, I could hike down the trail and back to my car.

I could hear footfalls behind me – the clacking of giant nails upon the stony floor, the hissing and growling of unearthly throats. I didn’t look back as I rushed through the corridors of the cave. Some spots were so narrow I had to slow to a nerve-wracking pace. I could imagine the long, black arms reaching for me, fingertips brushing my blond hair, wanting to grip me with water-glistening hands – wanting to change me.

It seemed like hours in my head before I saw the exit sign. I hit the door at full speed and stepped out into a deluge of water from the heavens. Lighting struck just in front of me, sizzling in the air and vaporizing the raindrops around it. It seemed even God was determined to stop me. I ran toward the mass of pine trees and aspens, wanting to hide. Wanting to disappear.
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