As Desi fell into the unknown he thought to himself, “What was I thinking?”
He wasn’t known for being particularly adventurous, yet he simply couldn’t wait to see this hole in the ground, see what his man had uncovered. He was simply drawn to it, and he didn’t know why. As he lowered himself down the hole it slowly widened as he lowered himself, back against one wall, legs against the other. Out to his sides, though, the hole widened beyond his sight quickly, and he realized that this was more or a fissure than a hole. A crack-like air pocket just below the surface, which the mole machines or whatever the gnomes were bringing would have found it anyway. This was probably just a fault line or something.
But then Desi ran out of wall. He braced himself against the sides of the hole more securely and brought out his flashlight. The dirt and earth around him looked surprisingly loose. Below him he was the slack of his rope swaying back and forth over a sea of black. His flashlight wasn’t penetrating far enough to see the bottom. It seemed like Desi was looking down from the crack of a ceiling of a huge cavern.
His muscles were starting to ache from holding his position. He adjusted himself to put away the flashlight, and that was when he slipped.
He shouldn’t have fallen far, but the rope was longer than Desi had expected and the man above hadn’t secured the rope on anything to reduce the slack. Desi grabbed hold of the rope as he fell, and when the rope went taut it whipped out of his hands painfully, with a distressing pop from his right shoulder, but it probably saved him from the rope around his waist snapping his spine.
He hung there for a few moments, then started falling again for reasons he couldn’t begin to imagine. Surely the man hadn’t let him go intentionally, did he?
What was I thinking?
Falling into an abyss was more disorienting than it was horrifying. When you jump from a building you know what you’re getting yourself into. You see the ground rushing up to meet you, you see the sun watching you fall away, you catch glimpses of things through the windows as you pass by… Or at least that’s how Desi imagined it.
In the darkness the fall felt longer than it probably was. He had no idea what awaited him below. In fact, he wasn’t even certain which way was down anymore, though he didn’t think he was tumbling. It was just a silent existence in perfect darkness.
It was deep. He didn’t hit head-first, but close enough to send it ringing painfully. Somehow, between the darkness and his hurting head, Desi guess at “up” and swam, breaking the surface and taking a deep breath before he heard a second splash nearby, and suddenly the rope around his waist pulled him down again.
Desi fought his way up again for another breath before realizing that the second splash must have been the man that was holding his rope. He dove into the water again, swimming toward the sound of that splash, feeling for the rope that would guide him to the body. He found a part of the rope, pulled it, followed it, pulled it again. He found what felt like a body, with the rope around its waist. Desi positioned himself under it, held on, and kicked, propelling them upwards as best he could. A little more, he told himself. The surface is just a little further. A little further. A little further. Further. Too far. Too far. I won’t make it, I can’t save him, I’ll have to leave him, I won’t- and then he broke the surface, just as he was about to leave the man behind.
He didn’t know which way to head, but he didn’t think the man was breathing, so he picked a direction and swam, awkwardly trying to keep the man afloat alongside him. Eventually his feet touched bottom, and he followed the upward slope until he could lay the man down safely on the ground.
Desi quickly began to give the man the Breath of Life, feeding him air while trying to coerce the water out of his lungs.
And when the man started coughing up water and breathing on his own, Desi sat back and wondered once again, What was I thinking?