The others couldn’t hear her, but is that any surprise? They’re too focused on the swish of their horsehair brushes and the tap of their tiny hammers. For the first two days, I thought she was just my imagination. Then, I began to hear her clearly; that’s when I noticed the longing in her voice.
The days of the excavation passed and my work turned into hollow motions. I brush away loose dust on the cave walls I no longer have any interest in, lost in her melody. Again, I casually mention that there may be more to this cave than we think, and again one of the others dismisses me.
This trivialization used to make me angry, but now these feelings have given way to contentment. I have her all to myself, my woman within the walls. I wipe my brow, sit back and take a break to listen fully to her song. The words are in some ancient Pictish language, but that doesn’t matter to me, really. I don’t need to understand, I can feel their meaning. I know, somehow, that she is calling to me. That fact has been clear for the last week. Today, however, it’s different. The words are clearer, and somehow I know she needs me; I think she’s in trouble. I need to find her. I just have to find the right time to begin my search.
The winds out here are worst at night. As I walk towards the cave, my body shakes as spikes of freezing pain shoot into my legs. Thoughts of turning back flow in and out of my mind, but with every shuffling step, I hear the wisp of words on the breeze, beckoning me forward. Inside the mouth of the cave, I feel the comforting warmth of the earth walls as they block the wind’s cold sting. I walk to the back of the cave, where I had been pretending to work earlier today. I use the dim light of my headlamp to sweep the undulating rock, searching for a way through. I crouch down and feel around the stone wall. My hand finds an unusually rounded mound, something near the crease between the floor and the wall. I slide my hand over it, and am able to press it up into the stone. A section of the wall suddenly shifts with a low click. Small streams of dirt drain down the rock face from exposed slits to my right and left. I push on the wall and, with a slow creaking sound, the stone section swings inward. Stale air flows into my nose. I step forward, feeling the weight of the stone door on my hands. As I enter the tight passageway beyond, I let the door slide free. It swings back, clicking into place. I wait a moment, my light cutting only so far into the darkness. Then, with a quick breath, I take a step forward, doubting my actions to this point. But just as my emotions start to falter, I am hit with her voice, ringing true down the passage and she is singing in English. She is coming; I just need to follow the passage.
I could feel the heat flow to my cheeks and my limbs. I run forward in a burst of speed, my headlight bobbing up and down, the elastic desperately trying to hold the lamp in place.
The walls of the passage hug close.
Soon, I find doubt creep into my mind again so I slow my pace. My hands reach out to feel my way down the tight hallway. Dirt billows into view of my light, kicked up from my feet. A clump of thick moss runs between my fingers, sending needles up my arm. This pulls my attention from the path for just a moment and I barely notice a large twisted root, which has punched its way through the ceiling of the tunnel. I manage to duck, but it knocks off my headlamp. Frantically, I reach back to grab hold of it, and, as I do, I feel the walls slide away from free hand.
I drop about 10 feet through air, musky with the smell of sawdust and mushrooms. I feel a pile of thick sticks crack under my weight as I hit the floor. I put my hand back to feel around and it crushes something brittle and round. Her voice sounds louder than ever now, but through it I feel the need to look at the earth around me. I replace my headlamp and glance down. Piles of ancient skeletons, their bodies long dissolved, with paper-thin wrappings of skin over their dust laden bones, cover the ground. I feel an urge to scream pulse in my chest as stomach acids churn in my gut; but then I focus on her voice, powerful and melodic.
She is coming.
I decide to sit among the dead men on the floor, trying not to look down at them. I level my head and notice one of the skeletons has not fallen like the others. It sits upright with its legs crossed. I uncross my legs and lean back on one hand, shifting so I don’t have to look at it. There is some thought itching at the back of my mind, but it is smothered by the sound of her singing, the beautiful sound of her voice. She will be with me soon and I realize there is nothing to fear.
So I wait.