Trace Back to Cave
(Part 2 of Chapter: Cave of Escape. Location: Lost World of the Wends)
Aware that danger might await Amie, Joseph followed. ‘You do remember where the cave is, Amie?’
‘Somewhere in the mountains.’ Amie seemed unsure. ‘I’m sure I’d recognise it when we get up there.
‘Can’t see this ending well,’ Joseph muttered.
Amie faced him at the gate. ‘What did you say?’
‘Are you sure you want to do this?’
‘What’s the alternative? Stay here for the rest of our lives?’
‘And what’s so bad about that—we could help them.’
‘What are you running away from?’
Joseph stared at the mound of charcoal cockroach.
‘And how’s anyone going to help them unless they know?’ She sniffed. ‘Phew! They stink. We need to get back to Earth and tell them.’
‘About the Wends—cockroaches—that Boris character you’re always going on about.’
‘They won’t believe you.’
‘But we’ll take them through, the Wends, we’ll rescue them and bring them to Earth. Then they’ll believe.’
‘Who? The police? The army? The Indig elders?’
Amie shrugged. ‘Someone like that—we have this Indig guide—Nathan. He’ll believe us—I’m sure.’
Joseph shook his head in disbelief. ‘Whatever—Okay, let’s climb this mountain.’ He wasn’t sure they’d get too far. They’d be lucky to get to Earth. First, they have to trace their route up to the mountain, Mt. Martin, then locate the cave, get the portal working, and then transport successfully back to Earth and not some other planet, and then to the same cave through which they came. Too many risks, too many variables and that’s without factoring in Boris. Who knows, Boris might be behind their transport to the lost world of the Wends. For the moment, he wasn’t even sure Amie would find the cave. He thought, I bet she’s a typical woman and can’t follow a Google map to save her life.
Amie strode over the hills, into a valley, and then along a river. Joseph trailed after her, running at times to keep up. She’s certainly fit, he mused. He enjoyed the back of her, tight and curved in all the right places—strong and confident.
Most girls he knew huffed and puffed walking to the shops. They preferred to drive rather than use their legs. He recalled a hike up Mount Lofty and one of the chicks had to stop halfway—legs hurt. Another kept whining about a broken nail, as if that was going to stop her reaching the summit.
Not Amie—she scaled up the gully climbing over the rocks like a mountain goat, better looking than a mountain goat too—or the other girls he knew.
The gully narrowed.
Amie stopped and inspected the boulders blocking the way.
‘Now what?’ Joseph studied the obstacles. She’ll never get over those big boulders. Besides, where was the rocky outcrop on the plateau that marked the path to the cave? None of this terrain is familiar. She must’ve gone the wrong way.
Amie retraced her steps a little way down the gully and then looked up. ‘We’ll need to go up and around—here, that looks like an animal track, something like a goat track, if this planet has goats.’ She pointed at a trail carved out in the vertical rise. ‘Can’t let a couple of rocks get in the way of progress.’
‘You’ll need help with climbing that. Ropes at the very least.’ Joseph considered the opportunity to be the hero and help Amie up the sheer cliff. If he were willing…If she were willing…
‘Pfft!’ Amie placed her hands on her hips. ‘Ropes? Who needs ‘em. All you need is your wits. You know Mt. Giles? Climbed it from the west side.’ She gazed up at the cracked and knobbly wall and nodded. ‘Yeah, I like a challenge.’
Joseph cleared his throat. ‘Right, then, lead the way.’ His voice squeaked. He hoped she was bluffing.
Amie eyed him up and down. ‘You’re not chicken are you?’
‘No, ladies first.’ Joseph rubbed his hands together. His palms damp, stuck together. She’s not bluffing, he realised.
‘Well, that’s a first,’ Amie said with a laugh.
Amie reached for a stone jutting out and then she gripped it. She hoisted herself up and rested her feet in crannies half a metre apart. Amie then hunted for a higher handhold, grasped it, and then settled her feet astride, one in a dent and the other on a small ledge.
Bit by bit she inched up the cliff like a spider climbing a wall.
Not to be outdone, Joseph matched her handholds and footholds. He progressed halfway up when Amie had reached the goat trail. She rested on her haunches there, watching him while he planted his foot on the next jutting rock. It crumbled under his foot. It plinked down the cliff. Joseph slipped. His hands gripped the hole. His knuckles turned white. He dared not look down at the shattered bits of rock at the base.
‘To your right, a hollow. Put your foot there,’ Amie said.
Joseph clenched his teeth. With all his strength, he lifted his hanging foot feeling for the hole. His fingernails dug into the sandstone ledge. He kicked at the wall trying to make a dent. His heart thumped.
‘I mean your right foot—lift yourself up to the hollow just below the ledge where you’re holding on.’
‘That’s a bit awkward. Do you think I’m Houdini?’
‘You can do it. Push yourself up like you’re doing chin ups.’
‘Easy for you to say.’
‘Come on, if I can do it, you can, easy.’
Can’t have a girl telling me what to do. With one mighty push, Joseph lifted his body over the ledge. His foot gripped the hollow. His other foot landed in a nearby nook. He reached and hooked one hand, then the other in the cracks above.
Once his feet rested on the small ledge, he noticed the cliff-face sloped slightly. He crawled towards Amie, clutching at tree roots, and standing on grassy tufts and so reached Amie.
‘You made it,’ Amie said. She stood up and leaned into the rocky wall. ‘Now if we follow this goat path, I think we’ll find the cave. I think we climbed too far up the gully. When we came down with Friedrich, we walked further down the hill before crossing into the gully.’
‘If you say so,’ Joseph said.
They tramped up the path until they came to the crest of the hill. Mountains like waves on the sea rose and dipped into the distance. Between Amie and Joseph and the feet of those peaks, a canyon with rapids carved a barrier.
‘You were saying?’ Joseph asked.
‘That wasn’t there before—the cave is definitely on this side. We never crossed a canyon. We walked over a plateau, though.’
‘I knew you’d get us lost.’
‘We’re not lost. Look all we have to do is go along this saddle in the direction the sun sets, cross the top of the waterfall, and then the cave is there in that mountain over there. I recognise that mountain, it’s shaped like—er—what’s that mountain in Switzerland called? The one that looks like a half-eaten ice-cream in a cone?’
‘Yeah, that one. Come on!’
‘What about the waterfall?’
‘We crossed it on the way down, you know, when we came down with Friedrich and went to the village—so…’
…to be continued.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Painting: Mt. Martin—Lost World of the Wends © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017