The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
page 10  [contents] (< prev) (next >)
 vol. 40. iss. 1, December 2005
clinking cobbles underfoot returning from nearby walls, announcing that the engulfing enormity of the Auditorium was now behind me.  I was finding my footing to be far more arduous than I remembered, however.  My one comfort was that I knew it would all be over soon.  Surely our twenty minutes were nearly up. 

At about this juncture in my frustration I realized I could see my hands.  For all I know, I had been walking around with my eyes closed.  But suddenly there were my hands, scampering about on the wall in front of me like reef crabs exposed at low tide.  I looked over my shoulder to see an aperture of light far down the passageway where I was now feeling my clumsy way.  Evidently I had ventured down the unilluminated tunnel toward the north entrance, heading off at the right of the stage area—completely opposite the passage I had needed to find!  “Hell’s bells,” I remember thinking as I picked my way over the saltpetre mining mounds toward Echo Auditorium.  Although I could see the Auditorium brightly lit before me, shadows still obscured my footing and I had to proceed cautiously in order not to fall.  I felt pretty stupid, realizing that I’d circled back and headed down the opposite corridor, all the while thinking I knew where I was.  But at least now the game was over.  Everyone could have a good laugh at my expense yet again. I stepped into the Auditorium’s orange incandescent glow, admiring its soaring, sculpted architecture in my solitude. 

But this aesthetic appreciation was short lived.  I had no more than set foot into the Auditorium when “chuck!” and all again was darkness.  The Game, Round II, had begun.  “One last little prank,” I thought, peevishly.  I called out, “Hey guys!  Not funny!” but continued walking forward, pursuing the rapidly fading photograph emblazoned on my mind of

the exit passageway before me.  This time I found myself across the room without error.  I once again heard the consuming openness of Echo Auditorium replaced by the sound of echoes returning close at hand.  I found my way to the cave wall, reading its pebbles like the cryptic Braille of giants.  At first I thought this was some final joke and was tense with anticipation of the group leaping out at me as I putzed about in the darkness.  But after twenty minutes had passed, I realized that if there were a joke in progress, I was the only one conscious of it.  How could they be unaware of my absence, as noisy as I am?  Wopatulis—that ichor of godlessness—was the only explanation.

There is little to hold the reader’s interest about my next hour and a half.  I rubbed my fingers raw, scanning the abrasive surface of the cave walls.  I kept thinking of the hideous orb weaver spiders I had seen dangling like macabre ornaments in small solution pockets along the walls; the thought of caressing one of them along the way gave me a shudder of
arachnophobic loathing. Fortunately, this never happened.  My hearing had grown very acute; every now and then I heard a thud in the darkness, informing me that although I lacked human companionship, I was by no means alone in the cave.  Something more accustomed to the invisible terrain was scurrying nearby.  From my experience with packrats, I know that they are very bold and curious creatures (though essentially non-aggressive), and I had no doubt that something four-footed was tracking my crippled progress.   Having no fear of rats, this did not bother me particularly, though the occasional sound of another presence close at hand was somewhat unnerving. 

Another sensation I would like to mention is that, after an extended period of absolute darkness, the mind’s