Eileen led the way. The light from her phone flashed off the sides of the cavern walls like a strobelight. Eileen would be two feet in front of me, then fifty, then a hundred, then I’d almost run into her at a turn.
At first the path was even, a dirt path through rough hewn walls, roughly the size of a sewer canal. But then the walls widened and became smooth and ribbed, like the inside of a Thanksgiving turkey.
We made it to a small landing with three exits, and when we looked back the way we came we saw that we had descended several floors. The entrance was now a small blue hole in the ceiling, like a new moon.
I yelled, “Chuck!”
Eileen stopped moving and we waited for a response. At first nothing came, but then a sound like a low trumpet followed. After listening for a moment I realized it was a distorted echo of me yelling for Chuck, but it sounded muffled, like I was yelling underwater.
No wonder Dave didn’t get back to us. You couldn’t make anything out.
Eileen called out, but this time to Dave. Her words twisted around the branching pathways like an air bubble trying to escape. The same trumpet noise from above filtered down.
“He can’t understand us,” Eileen said.
“Who?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “My thoughts exactly. Try his phone again.”
I called Dave again though my bars were getting low I still got a ringtone through.
This time, Fur Elise chimed back loud and clear, it’s chip-tune notes chiming off the walls in an echoey choir, the sound was haunting and loud, like it was playing inside my head.
“This way,” Eileen called and headed down the path to the right. I followed her, dimly aware of the trumpet sound somewhere beneath the ringtone.
I called again, so we could follow the music, and the sounds felt like we were descending into the lair of the Phantom of the Opera, my light and Eileen’s light swayed against the tight walls until we reached a wide open chamber and we saw a point of light blinking on the ground.
“There it is,” I said. “DAVE? DAVE WHERE ARE YOU?” “Wait,” Eileen said and put out a hand to stop me from moving forward. I stopped mid-stride. “We don’t know what happened to him,” she continued. “We need to be extra careful here.”
First, we looked down at the ground and felt around on our hands and knees. There were footprints heading further into the chamber, and some stalagmites (stalactites?) coming up from the ground ahead of us.
“This cave is a lot bigger than I thought it would be,” I said. I could feel Eileen nod around me, but we kept both our eyes on the ground. The light from Dave’s phone went off.
“I’ll call him again–” “Just text him,” she said. “I can’t stand to hear that song again. It’s creepy down here.”
I fired off a text: HERE. I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
The phone lit up in the middle of the cave.
“Fuck it,” I said, and went towards it. “DAVE IF YOU’RE HERE THIS IS SUPER UN-FUCKING COOL AND IF YOU SCARE ME I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL KILL YOU.” “Wait–” Eileen said, but I was already moving to the phone.
I reached the middle of the room, which was enormous now that I found myself in the middle of the place and I picked up the phone. Six missed calls. Five from me, one from Chuck. I re-dialed Chuck.
He picked up on the first ring, “Holy shit dude, where the fuck are you? The girls are freaking out.” “It’s me,” I said. “We found his phone.” “Shit.” “Tell him to come down,” Eileen said. “It seems safe in here.” “’Leen says to come down.” “Fuck you,” Chuck said. I had to laugh at that. “Alright,” he conceded. “I’ll be down in a minute.” “Take the path on the right,” I said.” “There are paths? Fuck. Alright. On my way.” He hung up.
Eileen paced the chamber. It was about ninety feet in diameter, the walls were smoothish and the ground was soft dirt. It smelled stale, but not rotten. Just, old.
“No other paths out,” Eileen said finally. She called out for Dave again. “Where the fuck is he?” “I’m starting to get freaked out,” I said.
At first I thought Eileen was giggling, because the sound came from over near her. I was about to ask her what was so funny, when her head twisted around to face me and I saw her mouth, wide open, but silent.
“Is that you?” “I thought it was you.” “Let’s get out of here.”
And that’s when a drop of some liquid hit me on my forehead and I lost it. I fell to the ground screaming, batting at my head with my hands. I couldn’t even figure out what had hit me. Eileen ran over to my side and grabbed me, asking what was wrong. She put her phone next to my head so she could get a look at me. And that’s when I saw Dave.
His body was stuck to the ceiling, blood dripping from his cracked skull.