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

  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 Scheduled for February 17, 2024

 

 

Part Two: A Sacrifice to the Deep

 

The weather outside had begun to cool, and frost crept across each night as September rolled into October. It was a typical evening when Jeffrey was standing at one of the large windows overlooking the gorge below the facility, waiting as he normally did for the floors to dry after mopping. The wind had picked up and leaves were blowing from the trees, swirling through the corners and crevices of the mountainside. Though he couldn’t be sure at first, it seemed after a while that a small orange glow was emanating from the wooded hillside across the dark gorge. He strained to focus on the spot, but soon determined that a large bonfire was alight among a clearing of trees. It appeared that a small assembly danced around it, silhouettes of wild figures leaping around the flames. After looking about for Alan to no avail, he returned to the window to see the fire still ablaze, but no longer any activity or dancing figures. Worried that the fire could spread, he found the nearest phone and called for the fire department in town. Waiting for their arrival did little to satiate his curiosity, however, and he soon set out through the darkness to inspect it himself.

After clambering up through the gorge and finding his way among the tangled undergrowth of the dark forest, he came to the edge the clearing and saw that the fire still roared inside a circle of stones wedged into the rocky, root-tangled soil. He peered into the open area from the tree line, still seeing nobody around the fire, nor any movement among the trees except for the gusts of cool Autumn wind rustling branches covered in crisp leaves. After a moment of scouting from the trees, Jeffrey stepped into the clearing and approached the fire, his eyes darting about in search for the figures he had seen from the window. 

Looking around the clearing, he noticed a small, rocky path exiting the clearing up the hill. Pushing his way through the brambles that nearly obscured it, he followed it for just a short distance as it wound up the side of the slope. By the light of his small flashlight, he could now see that the short path led to an opening in the boulder-strewn hillside, tucked behind a large bit of shrubbery. Jeffrey inspected the mouth of the cave and looked back at the path once again before he cautiously entered the dark cavity. The passage provided only a foot or so of clearance above his head, and it was just wide enough for a person to comfortably traverse. As Jeffrey pushed deeper into the cave, he found that it widened and finally opened into a space about twelve feet wide and twenty feet long. Upon entering this small underground room, the sight before him sent pulsing fright through his flesh. The beam of his flashlight had caught only a glimpse at first, but he soon found the courage to again shed light on the display which had shaken him so violently. His hands shook and his stomach turned as the beam of light exposed the hideous scene. 

Lying face-up on a raised pillar of rock about waste-high was a woman’s corpse; her arms and legs hung splayed from the edges of the small mound of cold limestone large enough only for her small torso. Her clothes had been torn from her and strewn across the floor, and her lifeless eyes remained open as her head hung down from the alter-like outcropping of stone. Jeffrey began to inch forward, moving around the woman’s head to the other side of the space. He soon noticed that her throat had been roughly cut, and the blood had now slowed to a drip into a small channel carved into the rocky floor. When his eyes could behold the dead woman no longer, he turned his attention to the floor, following the small blood-filled canal to a crevice which opened where the floor met the wall on the backside of the cave. The crevice led deeper into the earth, but Jeffrey could not see far into the small hole. Standing back up, the beam of his flashlight now scanned along the walls. Words made of strange symbols were carved into the stone on all sides, none of which he could read.

Jeffrey finally stumbled his way out of the cave, realizing the firefighters would likely arrive soon. As he found his way back to the fire, he could see the lights approaching on the lonely road. At this point, the fire had receded slightly but still endured beyond his ability to put it out. The firefighters listened in disbelief as he described to them what was in the cave. They immediately called in the local sheriffs and Jeffrey was escorted back to the road where officers soon arrived and questioned him. Crime scene investigators followed, climbing the hill and shuffling into the cave to take in the gruesome display of cultish brutality. Jeffrey’s return home later that morning brought little comfort alone in his apartment, nor would his racing thoughts allow his eyes to close in slumber. He decided not to call Clara about what had happened, unsteadily waiting in the coffee shop near his apartment building until she returned home that afternoon. 

Relaying the events of the night before prompted Clara to keep him home from work that night, allowing him to sleep more easily to ease his exhaustion. He slept until early afternoon the next day and awoke having no memory of nightmares or the ominous dreams of the past couple months. His mind seemed clear in a way it hadn’t been for a while, and he felt energized and optimistic with only slight apprehension going back to work. The drive through the mountainous terrain to the facility stirred less fear than he thought it might, and soon he was going about his typical routine as the evening hours quickly darkened. Naturally, he couldn’t help but peer from the windows periodically to watch the activity on the other side of the gorge. Investigators were still combing the forested slopes late into the evening, and he could make out yellow tape and tents set up around the clearing and the mouth of the cave. 

“Rough stuff, eh?” Alan croaked in inquiry as he joined Jeffrey at the window.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Jeffrey answered, a little surprised by Alan’s interest in talking with him at all. 

“You, uh, you doin’ alright then?” the older man pressed with curiosity. 

“I’m fine, just a little shaken up,” he replied, not entirely interested in discussing the events as he expected Alan to do next. 

“Well, good to hear. You know, never in my forty-one years here have I ever seen anything like that,” Alan huffed with a blank expression. “The officers told me some of the crazy shit they found out there. Can’t believe it,” he continued. “You know, you’d have thought I might’ve noticed something like that before now. Guess these eyes are too damn old!” Alan gestured to his face with wrinkled hands, eliciting a chuckle from Jeffrey. 

“Well, hopefully it won’t happen again,” he returned. After a pause, Jeffrey’s own curiosity prompted him to ask, “so, you’ve been here forty-one years? I didn’t even realize this place was that old. When was it built?” 

“Oh, this place has been here much longer than that- built in the twenties I think.” Alan had begun to turn away.

“This place has been around that long? What are they even doing here, anyways? Seems a bit locked down for geological survey work. How much is there to study out here?” Jeffrey now followed him down the hall.

“There’s plenty to study under these rocks, pal,” Alan replied with a smirk. “What the hell do you know about what’s under the mountain? Could be tons of shit down there they want to know about.” At this, Alan turned off down a corridor and Jeffrey left him to whatever he was doing.

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