The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
page 11  [contents] (< prev) (next >)
 vol. 40. iss. 1, December 2005
eye begins to play hallucinatory tricks.  At times I could swear I could dimly see the walls in front of me, which a physical exploration would readily disprove.  I experimented with this eerie phenomenon by brandishing my hand a few inches from my nose.  My cerebrum took up the slack for the missing stimulus with disturbing verisimilitude, recreating the shadowy silhouette of my wiggling fingers—something I knew would not be the case were a stranger’s hand placed unknown before me, a thought that was instantly unappealing.  Also, the longer I was blind, the more frequently I would turn to pursue some will-o’-the-wisp of imaginary light that would seem to appear at the corners of my eyes, always eluding direct witness.  Many times I turned to face the headlamps of rescuers that were not there. 

It is harder than I would have thought to know if you are straying from the main passageway when you only have your hands to guide you.  As I mentioned, corners are indistinguishable from crannies, especially along walls as serpentine and pitted as found in GSP.

At one point I began to detect an increase in moisture in the air.  Wondering why I was sensing a fine mist in passageway where no appreciable water exists, I felt along the floor for clues.  I soon found some rotting logs of substantial girth, spongy with decay.  Where the hell was I?  I still don’t know, but I must have been somewhere in one of the side passages that trails off the main route out—probably either Pig Pen or Booger Branch; two places whose names have yet to charm me into investigating them during more leisurely hours. 

It was here that my optimism left me as though exhaled.  I glumly recalled the legend of the original cave owners being lost in the dark for two days; at least I knew I wouldn’t be trapped for longer than

morning.  I reckoned that, as people were now partying with abandon (or attempting slumber), my whereabouts probably would not become an issue until I didn’t show up for the second day of the cave clean-up.  It would not be long after that before they deduced the last time anyone had seen me.  Trying not to despair, I sat down on the damp, gravelly floor, psychologically preparing myself for the long, dark night.  At least I didn’t have broken ribs and hypothermia.  Yet. 

But after a short while I became aware of a sound, unlike the thumps and bumps of curious rodents or the hollow, marimbal notes of the occasional drop of water from high above.  This was a sort of remote white noise, like a television left on in a room far away, still playing after the station has shut down for the night.  At first I thought it was just another hallucination, my ears nearly as starved as my eyes for any kind of sensory input.  But then, through the sough, I heard definite punctuation.  Shish-shish.  Shish-shish.  Crickets!  The outside kind with raspy legs!  Hope was renewed with each faint chirrup. 

I stood and faced the sound in front of me.  I figured that wherever I heard the crickets there was open space.  For the first time in over an hour I dared to leave the cave wall and step into the measureless void.  I followed the sound around crooks and bends in the passageway.  It was almost like following something on the move, as each time I would round a corner, the sound would appear to issue from another direction.  But if it seemed as though I were pursuing a ghost in flight, I was definitely gaining ground.  Around each turn the sound became more distinct and complex with lesser noises.   Although the going was quicker than raking my way along the cave wall, it still took twenty minutes or so to reach the gate.  I knew that when I had begun to smell the outside that I was