A Starving Man

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For Clive I was down there for nearly eight days before I gave in. The thought to me was, at the time, quite sickening, and as I remember it now, I am still disgusted at what I have done to myself. I sought only survival, and now I lay dying, ironically as a result of what I have done to survive. My whole predicament is rich with delicious consequence, as it was my greatest passion that brought me to this place; this dreadful dark prison where I have lived for the last 24 days, and where I wi
  For Clive  229 I was down there for nearly eightdays before I gave in. The thought to mewas, at the time, quite sickening, and as Iremember it now, I am still disgusted atwhat I have done to myself.I sought only survival, and now I laydying, ironically as a result of what Ihave done to survive. My wholepredicament is rich with delicious conse-quence, as it was my greatest passionthat brought me to this place; this dread-ful dark prison where I have lived forthe last 24 days, and where I will die,probably momentarily.Spelunking has long been a great pas-sion in my life, and the thing that has brought me the most joy. I have navigat-ed caverns in India, Ireland, Spain, andthroughout the United States, but mycurrent location is among the least exoticI have explored: Serona, California. Ihave always treasured the solitude andsilence of the deep, but after these lastthree plus weeks, I have learned to  despise the darkness for its ugliness, mys-tery, and the terrible emptiness that it brings. When I came into this cavern, Ianticipated only a few hours of peace, butI received an awful lot more.I have experienced earthquakes inCalifornia before, but they are far morefrightening when you are underground.When the cavern around me began totremble, I immediately knew I wasgoing to die. It turns out I was right, but this is not quite what I was expect-ing. Rocks began to tumble around me,and I struggled for footing on theground, which seemed to wiggle andwrithe beneath me like a serpent. I felland hit my head against the jagged wallof the cavern, then dropped to the still-moaning ground.The duration of the experience wasprobably less than a minute, but itseemed to rumble on for an eternity as Itwisted for support on the rockyground. Finally it stopped, and I laypanting on my back for a solid five min-utes. I smiled, relieved to be alive, and breathed deep, knowing that I waslucky to avoid the rocks that tumbledfrom above me. Lucky? That actuallyseems rather funny now.When I finally dared myself to myfeet, I could not find my flashlight, so Ipulled out my lighter and attempted tosearch for it on the floor. As I stumbledthrough the dark, I kicked the flashlight,then located it with the lighter, only tofind that it had been smashed by one ofthe raining stones. I remember not beingtoo concerned at this point, as I knew theway back. Though it was quite a walk, myZippo had been freshly filled, and I car-ried extra fluid for it in one of the pocketsof my cargo shorts, so I knew I wouldhave enough light to navigate back to theentrance I had come in.It wasn’t until I began walking backthat I realized about ten feet in front of methe tunnel had become jammed. Where Ihad walked through moments ago, therewas now a menacing wall of rocks imped-ing my way. I put the lighter into mypocket and began to push and pull at thelayer of impedance in front of me. But, Icould not budge any of the large stones,each held tightly in place by the weight ofthe stack above it. This section of the tun-nel was only about ten feet high, but thatten feet was completely consumed by thedreadnought wall.My next idea was to venture furtherdown into the cavern and find anotherpassageway out, but that’s when the situ-ation proved to be much worse. For,when I walked less than ten yards in theother direction, I was greeted by analmost identical mountainous roadblock.Here, too, giant rocks had bonded togeth-er after collapse and formed a wall thatprevented me from traveling furtherdown into the cave. This is where I really began to panic, because at that point Irealized that I was trapped in this place; anarrow, secluded tunnel belowCalifornia. I think I tore wildly at therocks on that side too, but at that point Ientered some stage of shock, and myactions are rather blurry to me.So there I was, trapped in this darkcavern, walled in on all sides by rock andunable to travel more than a few yards ineither direction. All I had with me wasmy lighter, the bottle of lighter fluid, myknife, a thankfully full canteen, and acrumpled ancient topographic map ofCalifornia. Then I sat and thought for avery long time in the quiet, imposingdarkness, alternating for several days between despair, deep repose, anduncomfortable sleep. Without the gentlegift of sunlight, I used my wristwatch totrack the time, and four days passed withhardly a sound, and hardly a movementfrom me. I sat languishing on the floor forthis entire time, nipping occasionally atmy canteen, but doing so sparingly. Themore I thought, the more frustrated I became, because I could not think of anyway for me to escape this predicament.After these days, I began to tug feeblyat the walls again, hoping that perhaps asthey settled, the rocks had loosenedslightly. I could not budge any of them,and I even tried climbing to the top of thewall and loosening stones at the ceiling. I 230
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