Joe had been lost in the blackness for so long.
It all started with a party in the woods. He had been looking forward to it after a stressful week of college. Amanda was organising it on her parents property, which was almost unimaginably large. The plan was simple, set up a few tents, start a fire, then get drunk. The plan was working pretty well too, People were having a good time, someone had brought speakers with them so they had some music. Joe moved away from the flickering fire light to go take a piss in the woods. It took him a minute to find a good spot, every time he thought he found one a gentle breeze would blow, shifting the branches or bushes, revealing the party. He knew he was getting turned around in the dark, after all he had walked away from the party to find somewhere to go. He wasn’t nervous about getting lost, after all he could still hear the music and people talking.
Finally he found a good spot, an outcropping of rocks, behind him someone yelled something, he felt his bladder tense. “C’mon. It’s fine. No one can see.” He released a breath slowly, but nothing was happening. He could feel his cheeks burning in the darkness. He moved around the rocks and saw a small opening. He smiled to himself, it was perfect. He slipped inside and got to work. Once he was finished he zipped up and turned around, the light was faint but he could just make out the crack of the entrance. He moved towards it but after a moment stopped. He had only gone a few feet into the cave, there was no way it would have taken this long to walk out. He turned, frowning. There was a faint light all around the cave.
He had walked for what felt like hours, hands on the walls, trying to find the opening. At some point the light had faded, then vanished. He had tried to find it again, but it was just gone. He didn’t know how long ago it was, it felt like hours, but it could have only been minutes. He stopped and sat down to rest for a moment, he was feeling quite thirsty, but there was no water. He had been slightly drunk before, but now he felt sober. He knew that in situations like this you were supposed to stay where you were until someone found you, but god only knew how far he had wandered, or how many tunnels and branches he had obliviously walked past.
Once he had calmed himself he stood, turned around and started walking. He had to get himself out of this, no one would find him here, they’d think he was lost in the woods, not some weird cave. He was pretty sure he was going in the right direction, after all he hadn’t gotten too mixed up, he had been walking with his hands on the wall of the caves for the most part.
It was maddening, moving so slowly in the dark, one had sliding along the rough, cold wall, the other waving blindly, sliding his feet along the ground so he wouldn’t trip. He started counting slowly in his head to help pass the time a little, and to track it. After about twenty minutes of walking he stopped again. There was still no light, what if he had gotten mixed up and started going the wrong way. He hadn’t gone that far in the total darkness, had he? He noticed how quiet the cave was. There was no sounds of water dripping, no animals scraping against the rocks, no bugs skittering from his feet. Just his breathing and his steady heartbeat. He strained to hear something else, but there was only silence.
Joe searched through his pockets again, looking for his phone. He knew it wasn’t there but he still had to look. It had probably fallen out of his pocket when he stood up from the campfire. He didn’t know if it would get signal in the caves, but at least he’d have a light to follow. He was starting to get panicky, he was lost in some caves, with no light, no food and no water. There wasn’t even a stream or puddles that he could drink from.
He took a deep, slow breath, waiting around wasn’t going to help, walking could make things worse, but then so could staying still. He sat down against the rock wall, this is what you were supposed to do. He’d sit and listen and if he heard people he’d start screaming. He felt around the ground for a rock, after a minute he found a sturdy one just larger than his fist. He banged it against the wall a few times, it made a good, loud sound.
Joe stood, he couldn’t sit any longer, he just couldn’t. He had been banging that damn rock against the ground every ten seconds for what felt like hours. He didn’t even know if the sound was carrying through the cave system. He had no idea what direction he had been walking in. He thought that he had come from the right, but he wasn’t sure. It was hard to tell in the darkness, and hard to remember if he had just sat against the wall or if he had moved around a little first. He could feel panic bubbling up in his chest, he tried to fight it down, he could do this. He would be fine. He had his hand on the wall when he sat down, he had been walking with his right hand against the wall, therefore if he put his right hand against the wall he would be going in the right direction. He smiled to himself, this was good, he knew what way he had been going, he just had to keep walking and he’d get out. No one talked about large cave systems in this area, he had probably just gotten himself all turned around.
Joe was tired, he didn’t know how long he had been in the place but he knew he couldn’t stop. Every time he paused for a rest he felt his head dipping and sleep edging ever closer. He knew he couldn’t sleep, if he did he could get all turned around again. He just had to keep going, that was all. Just a few more steps and he knew he’d see light soon. Just a few more steps.