It was our yearly boys' hiking trip but it went completely wrong, at least for me. Everything started pout normally until, of course, I had to pee. That's when I got myself lost. I knew I shouldn't have gone in that cave without my backpack or without letting anyone know. I should have stayed on the trail. I should have at least taken my flashlight. All I'd had with me was my pocket knife and the clothes on my back. Maybe I should have just held it because by the time I'd found my way out of the cave, there was maybe three hours of daylight left. Wild Alaskan nights were cold and long. I knew I was in trouble.
I'd excused myself from the group and made my way off the trail. That was my first set of mistakes. I traveled a little further than I normally would have, but I was getting older and I wanted some time to myself. At thirty-seven I just needed a little peace and quiet, though it seemed as if my life-long friends didn't have the same desire for peace as I did. They waved to me and told me not to get lost. It was a joke, but I would remember their words the entire time I was gone. It was almost as if the light-hearted comment was an omen.
Off the beaten trail, I started to feel my stresses melt away more than they had the entire day. I breathed in the fresh pine scent and felt the cooling breeze on my face. It was amazing and relaxing. After I'd walked further than I knew I should have, I unzipped and relieved myself on a nearby tree. When finished, I covered myself back up and turned. That's when I saw it. A cave. One that I hadn't noticed was there when I had been making my way out here. It was beautifully eerie. There was something about it that seemed off and yet I felt as though I were being pulled towards it.
"Hey man! You good?" A buddy was yelling for me from the path about a quarter mile away.
"Yeah! I'll be there in a few. Enjoying the scenery!" I shouted back. I heard a few loud chuckles and rolled my eyes. Those fools could think what they wanted. I was more interested in seeing what the inside of this cave looked like.
Looking toward the sun I noted that it was still high in the sky. Good, I'd thought to myself. That gave me plenty of time to get back to the guys and make it to the car before the sun went down. But first, I just had to see what was so strange about this cave that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. I honestly couldn't remember seeing it when I'd made my way over there and I wasn't sure how I'd missed such a curiosity. It wasn't as if we hadn't been down this trail many times before on our other trips, and yet not a single one of us had known this cave was here. I'd been sure of it, because I knew my friends would have gone in just as I had and would have said something about it. Or we would have never gone on another hiking trip again.
The closer I got to the cave, the more it felt like something was actually puling me in. I started to fear what I was walking in to but I didn't have the ability to stop myself. It was like some instinct was pulling me in and I was powerless to stop it from doing so. All the while, I became more and more afraid, terrified, that something was very wrong here. I wanted to know why the cave walls were dripping when I could feel the ice growing on my beard. I wanted to know why there seemed to be a glowing light coming from the walls. I wanted to know so many things and my head spun.
I kept going, afraid to do so and unable to stop. My feet pulled my forwards at a painfully slow pace. I just wanted to go back to my friends. I'd thought about yelling to them, yelling for help, but I was too scared. It was like a nightmare where you can't talk or yell when you need to. I was helpless and yet fully capable and nothing had prepared me for such a feeling. It only got worse the further in I went.
I knew I was crying. I could feel the tears freezing to my eyelashes and cheeks. Yet, the dripping continued. I looked to my left, seeing that the liquid from the wall was bioluminescent. Nothing about this cave was normal and I had found myself wishing I'd never seen it in the first place. I wished I'd just peed on the trail like we'd always done when we were younger and feared these woods.
Looking at the wall, I noticed things were getting darker. I supposed I was getting further into the cave and I was losing the light from the entrance. I would have given anything to stop my feet from putting one in front of the other at that moment. I would have given my entire fortune just to turn around. There was nothing to be done at this point. I kept going, further and further, until I could hardly see.