Cordula's Web. Carlsbad Caverns National Park: Chinese Theater.
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The Cavernous Mountains of Death

Farid Hajji

Pain. Pure agony. The light at the end of the tunnel was not only out, it was stolen! Darkness, deep ugly darkness all around. A ray of hope is but the lightning that burns you asunder. You've been foolish enough to strive for higher values; for a better life; for untainted friendship. You boldly stepped into the Cavernous Mountains of Death; seeking what can't be found. Now, you're trapped; deep down, never to see the light again.

You were so naïve back then. You've read the Constitution and deeply and sincerely believed, that you were entitled the inalienable Right to the Pursuit of Happiness. Unfortunately, the Mountains of Death are in the Land of the Huns, a cold, unfriendly, intolerant and above all, unforgiving land. To pursue happiness is not a constitutional right over here. Oh no, happiness is not only as rare as diamonds, it is even unlawful to seek it.

Darkness all around. Your attempts to light a candle are thwarted: all your matches are wet, useless. That's your fault (isn't it always?)! Didn't they teach you to use batteries instead? So crawl where you belong, you didn't deserve it any better. No-one will ever lend you a helping hand; no-one will ever find you; heck, no-one will ever know you even existed.

Wait! Wasn't there a light over to the left? You can't afford to ignore yet another mirage, so you change directions... only to plunge into an ice-cold puddle. Brrr...., now you're soaked up to the waist. You didn't expect it any other way, did you?

Against popular belief, caverns are not quiet places. Sure, their silence can be deafening. But the more you walk or stumble inside, the louder it gets. Uncounted drops falling from nowhere, dripping their way in yet more deepness. Drop, drop, drop... like chinese torture, they keep you awake, when you most desperately need some rest. They won't give. Remember: the Land of the Huns is unforgiving, pitiless, damp and wet!

You know that sleep deprivation can play tricks on your mind. You've been there, POW/MIA in a brainwashing camp. You were trained before to survive this; yet it was a horrible experience nonetheless. Now, you feel the all too familiar symptoms creeping back to you again: you often watch over your shoulder, and instead of a monster, all you see is deep black nothing. Yet, you feel chilly and would like to run, hide, run, ...get out of here!... Quick, two steps forward, and you inevitably bang your forehead again.

Deep inside, fear screams silently and then you realize that you were screeching aloud. No echo in this hellish cavern but your own primal panic. Then you feel guilty and ashamed. What was that? How could you be afraid of your own fears (you ask yourself)? This is just an empty, wet, dripping, traitorous cavern, nothing more!

Nothing more? You know it, monsters don't exist. Not really. But your subconscious is stronger than you; it knows better: One million years evolution can't dismiss our origin as small little prey.

Were there hidden cameras in this traitorous cavern, outside watchers would have been amused by your panic tantrums. You look funny indeed, stumbling against walls, banging your forehead against stalactites, falling into puddles or even small lakes whose deepness far exceeds your own fear. But no-one is watching; no director will call "Cut" after the stunt. This is for real and you're stuck, deep, deep down, where nobody will ever find you. You can't even see your own hand; how can you expect others to save your soul?

You must have fallen asleep, despite the pitiless cold shiver, the drops, the mind monsters and your aching back. A small smile shows up on your face, for nobody to see. You're back at the surface, in the warm light of a setting, big red sun. Sitting in a wheelchair (yes, you've grown very old and tired in all those years), you have the immeasurable pleasure to chat with your friend of yold, a friend you've fought so hard to win back. Her hairs turned grey long ago; her voice is but a faint whisper of earlier days, yet what she says is still as caring and friendly, that your heart leaps with joy at every so simple word...

At that moment, a sharp granite block broke from the ceiling and fell right over and into your left leg. The agony, the white blazing light of pain flashed even in your dream; the big red sun exploded into a supernova. You feel so much pain that you can't even scream. Muscle tissue irreparably torn apart, you have the strange sensation of both feeling your leg and not feeling anything anymore. Shock sets in, you begin to drowse in a half state of sleep. You're losing blood, just a little, but continuously. But worst of all, you can't move away: The sharp block that punctured your leg won't give even a little. You are practically nailed to the floor, slowly dying away...

The dream died as you were hit. You were not given any mercy, to die away peacefully. It had to be cruel, in the unforgiving land of the Huns. Your pursuit of happiness has come to an end, deep down in the Cavernous Mountains of Death.

R.I.P. (Rest in Pieces).

Story written 12/20/2002.
Submitted by the Author 12/20/2003.

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