It was the voice that convinced Remy to go further into the cave.
He initially went into the cave to escape the blistering heat outside. As an old desert rat, treasure-hunter, gold miner, and seeker of riches, he knew better than to challenge the sun at its apex.
At first he only went in a few yards. With the help of his flashlight he found a comfortable spot on a large outcropping of rock to sit on. He pulled the canteen off his belt and took a short swig of it. Just enough to wet his tongue and throat so he could swallow. He looked at his old Timex wristwatch that still glowed in the dark after 50 years, and decided to take a quick nap. He relocated himself on the ground with his back to the granite wall, and pulled his baseball cap (that said Lakers on the front) down.
When he woke up an hour later the first thing he noticed was a horrible smell. Standing up carefully, there was only a small clearance between the roof and his head, Remy took a few steps further into the cave and shone his light down into its dark depths. He didn’t see anything, but the smell told him something was wrong. It smelled like death. Decaying corpses. Humans turned into torches with napalm. The fat in their body fueling the flames and causing a greasy smoke that clung to whatever was near.
That bad. If Remy wasn’t an adventurer at heart, he would have left the cave right then. But his curiosity, which had nearly cost him his life before, was too strong. When he heard the voice in his head that cinched it…he had to go further inside and find out why it was calling him.
He double checked the contents of his backpack. Extra ammunition for the old Army .45 he brought back from the Nam, and carried on his web belt. Enough dried, and canned food for a week. A Vietnam-era metal mess kit, plus P-38. A compact First-Aid kit. A compass. A flip phone (a concession to his grown daughter) with minimum functions. A charger for the phone which was only good if it could be plugged into an electrical outlet. A local map of the area he was in. A folded up plastic poncho. An extra t-shirt, and pair of socks. Extra batteries for his flashlight. A metal flask filled with Bushnell’s Irish whiskey. Along with the .45, he had a flashlight, two canteens, and a k-bar knife hanging on his web belt.
Caves didn’t scare him. He’d been in a few hostile ones in Vietnam and Cambodia. He took his bearings with the compass, mentally noting them before pushing on further. After an hour he stopped when the cave abruptly broke off into three directions. The already stale smell of the damp cave was enhanced by the sickening smell that drove him on.
The air was getting thin as he pondered which way to go. His sense of smell wasn’t so acute that he could tell which cave the stench was coming from. They all smelled like hell to him. Then he heard the voice.
“Chests full of old Spanish gold and rare jewels…”
“Where?” he roared, his voice reverberating down all three tunnels.
“Down here…down here waiting for you…” the voice promised.
Remy knew, on one hand, that he shouldn’t be listening to a voice in his head. After years of PTSD counseling he knew it wasn’t right to respond to a voice in his head. It was the fine line between sanity and insanity.
But, on the other hand, he’d responded to voices (one’s he didn’t tell the psychiatrists about) before and things had worked out. He picked the tunnel to the right and started walking as he debated with himself about the value of voices with messages. After walking for eight hours he took his backpack off and sat down on the damp ground. He rummaged through it until he found some beef jerky and his plastic poncho. He unfolded the poncho and slipped it on. It afforded some protection against the dampness. He finished his meal off with a swig of water and whiskey. Before falling asleep it struck him that he was getting use to the foul smell.
When he woke up the first thing he did was look at his wristwatch and turn on his flashlight. He’d slept eight hours. That was two hours more than his normal rest. He wondered how much the thin air weakened him. As if in answer, he got dizzy when he stood up. It took a couple of minutes to be able to bend over and retrieve his web belt. He felt a little better after sipping some water. His first decision was to go back the way he came until he found the crossroads again. It took him over eight hours because he had to stop and rest several times.
When he came to the opening for the three tunnels he sat down and pulled out his metal flask and took a healthy swig. He sat down and took his compass out and studied it for a few minutes under the flashlights beam. He was exhausted and decided to camp right where he sat. After eating, still wearing the poncho, he curled up on the ground and fell asleep. An hour later he woke up, startled by an overpowering smell stronger than what he remembered earlier.
Instinctively he reached for his web belt and his gun. He drew the .45 from its canvas holster, before slowly standing up. The smell was so strong he felt like vomiting. Then he saw the eyes – hundreds of them – glaring at him from all three tunnels! The only option left was a strategic retreat.
The things in the tunnel made a low chattering sound in anger. Some grew more bold than others and came closer so that he was able to see their short, squat, hairy, naked bodies, clutching weapons made from human bones. Their faces were disfigured parodies of humans and they were covered in vile-looking boils. Some had three arms One had two heads, and hopped angrily on one leg.
Remy backed up and kept the flashlight in front of him. When one of them burst forward and came within a few feet of him he fired his gun three times, then turned and ran as fast as he could! Gun in one hand and flashlight in the other, he stumbled but never stopped running. It seemed like forever before he saw daylight and the cave’s opening.
He was blinded by the sun and held his hand in front of his eyes. He looked back at the cave’s entrance once, expecting to see pursuit. None came. As he hiked back to his old jeep he decided this was one adventure he wouldn’t share with anyone.
Especially with his friends who warned him to stay away from the Yucca flat region of the Nevada Test Site near Area 51.
As It Stands, some of us are born adventurers that will always be looking for treasure, but not necessarily finding it.