Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Five

  1. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part One
  2. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Two
  3. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Three
  4. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Four
  5. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Five
  6. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Six
  7. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Seven
  8. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eight
  9. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Nine
  10. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Ten
  11. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eleven – Finale



Part Five: The Mine’s Mystery


Jeffrey hurried back up the rocky path he had descended after finding the open door, preparing his response for the inevitable line of questioning. As he approached the brightly lit hallway, he could see Alan’s hobbling figure stop when he noticed Jeffrey emerge from the darkness.

“What the fuck are you doing back there?” Alan growled as Jeffrey came closer. 

“The door was open! I was checking to make sure nobody was back here before I closed it up,” he responded as casually as he could, attempting to ignore the Alan’s irritation. 

“Does that badge give you access back here, huh?” Alan sarcastically gestured at Jeffrey’s badge. “You been told you can go behind these doors?” 

“No, but I-” Jeffrey stammered. 

“Right, of course you haven’t!” Alan had stepped close to Jeffrey, waving a scolding finger. “You don’t go behind these doors unless I drag your ass back here to beat the living shit out of you!” 

“Okay, damn,” Jeffrey mumbled as he stepped back, shocked by the rage that seemed to consume Alan over such a minor issue.

“Don’t you ever step foot back here again!” Alan’s final warning came as he pushed past Jeffrey toward the dark, cavernous path. “And get the hell out of here!” 

With that, Jeffrey slowly began his exit, lingering only a moment to watch Alan disappear into the darkness at the end of the corridor. The break room brought a familiar dimly lit aesthetic, cluttered and quiet as usual. Jeffrey uneasily sank into his chair as he tried to process what had occurred. The odor he noticed near the pit clung to his clothes, and his nostrils seemed unable to pick up any other smell but that one. With an unexpected flare of panic, Jeffrey hurried into the bathroom and ran his face and head under cold water in the sink. Using his hands, he fruitlessly tried to wash the scent from his face and hair. In the mirror he watched his bloodshot eyes stare back at him, his pupils noticeably dilated and his mouth hanging open in a trance-like stupor. After shaking himself out of his own gaze, Jeffrey returned the break room still intoxicated with the odor but managing to hold himself together until the end of his shift. 

A hot shower brought a small amount of escape from the night’s worries when Jeffrey returned home that morning. The water seemed to moderately dilute, or at least mask, the scent. He decided to throw out his clothes entirely instead of risk permanently infecting his apartment with the pervasive odor. His fitful sleep was punctuated with the frightful visions that had become common by now, and Clara’s return in the afternoon brought little relief. She noted his exhaustion with concern, but his irritation at her inquiry repelled any sympathy she might have mustered after weeks of incrementally increasing friction between the two. 

Clara had repeatedly probed to try to understand why Jeffrey had become so distant, having begun to believe something else was going on unrelated to the discovery of the body in the cave. He regularly lost his temper, cutting deep with his biting retorts. More conversations ended in heated argument, and he soon noticed Clara reciprocating the cold demeanor he exuded from his very pores. Persistently he lay awake for hours as his imagination spun together fractured images of the abhorrent fiends in his dreams. Clara’s presence next to him on weekend nights brought no comfort anymore, for in the dark the silhouette of her body in bed simply became fodder for his brain to conjure up horrifying images of otherworldly terrors lurking in his room. 

He felt the musty odor from the cavern continued to linger in his nostrils, though he was certain it had to have long dispersed. As sleep evaded him day after day, he began with just a brief internet search on the land surrounding the facility. It occurred to him how little he knew about the history of the area and purpose of the facility where he worked. Only snippets of archived news articles and old photographs revealed a largely uneventful couple of centuries. From the time of its founding around 110 years prior, little of note had occurred. A slowly growing population had led the area through the typical patterns of development. Jeffrey discovered the town had been founded after a mining operation took root in the hills nearby, unsurprisingly. 

What did surprise him, however, was that the mining operation shut down after only nine years. A local historian’s blog mentioned the strange story in passing. The mine’s almost decade of operation produced a fruitful stream of income for the locals, and the population sprang up quickly as people were attracted to the local lakes. The mining operation had only a paragraph’s worth of information, though, and Jeffrey was disappointed to find almost no details about its closure other than the operators and management deemed it “untenable to continue digging.” According to the record, the mine shafts were sealed off and the site abandoned entirely within a few months. 

As Jeffrey looked at the antique map detailing the mine’s approximate location among the mountainous foothills, he noticed that, in relation to the town, it actually appeared near the facility where he worked. With interest piqued, he skimmed forward in the historian’s recounting to find where he discussed the facility’s beginnings. The land had remained untouched for nearly thirty years before construction began on the large complex seated in the gorge. As he suspected, the facility was built precisely on the location where the mining operation had sealed off its entrances. The only other information about the facility he could glean was that it was established to research “the unique geography of the local mountain range.” He scoffed at the intentionally vague description. By now he assumed the facility constituted more than a simple geology lab, and his imagination built all sorts of possibilities around the void deep in the rock underneath the mountain. 

For all his reading, little more than intensified curiosity resulted. Questions abounded and few answers were to be found underneath the rocks he kicked about. Days stretched on as he mulled over these oddities, entirely unaware of his own behavior’s increasing strangeness. Clara could see all too clearly his dissociation from the daily life they used to share, growing more anxious as he regularly lost track of conversations or simply broke off his sentences entirely in confusion. Jeffrey had ceased attending any of their typical social gatherings, and friends soon became acquaintances. Most attributed his decline to his discovery of the bodies, writing off his newly developed oddness as some sort of trauma response. Her resolve to remain sympathetic, however, had worn thin. 

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