Sunday, 21 October 2012

Come In Alone

(Come In Alone - My Bloody Valentine)

John wouldn’t have gone into the cave if you’d paid him a thousand pounds, but at the age of ten shame was more powerful than money, so into the cave he went. The others said that they had all done it, and he didn’t know whether he believed them or not, but he couldn’t be in with them if he didn’t do it too.

There were stories about the place. It was haunted. There was a demon there. A boy had died there and then he came back and took anyone he caught in his cave. A witch, a monster, a smuggler who starved to death and afterwards fed on the living: different characters but the same moral: don’t go in the cave.

So he went with them down to the beach when the tide was out, because you couldn’t get to the cave when the tide was in, and the others all stood at the bottom of the cliffs. He hesitated for a moment, looking at the climb up, and then Davey made a chicken noise and John knew that he had to move before the others joined in. If he didn't do this now, he would stay a little kid for years, not fit to hang out with the older ones. He scrambled up the slippery stone, towards the dark shadow twenty foot up the cliff face, nearly slipped, clung hard against damp rock and hoped the others were too far down to see his tears.

The entrance was low, and he had to duck his head to get in. It opened up past that, the others said. He had to go in, because there was something written on the back wall, and that was the test. If he didn’t tell them what it said, they knew he hadn’t gone right in, and the humiliation would be worse than death. John fished in his pocket, pulled out the torch that Davey had insisted he use. It gave out a weak, dying yellow light that didn't chase the shadows far.

John walked into the cave. He could hear his own breath, hear his own heart. The passage led him further into the rock, and he walked in and realised that he couldn’t see the sea any more, or hear the waves. The cave opened up, a big chamber around him that his torch could not fill. He walked towards the back wall, breathed deep, tasted wet stone. It didn’t matter any more. He had done it. He had shown them, would find the message written in faded marker pen, go back down and be one of them. He grinned, and the fear left him. His footsteps echoed back at him.

“Hello,” he shouted at the top of his voice, and the echo shouted back, "Hello."

“Echo,” he shouted again, and the echo shouted back, "Echo."

“John,” he shouted, and the echo shouted back, "John."

“Is anyone here,” he shouted, and the echo whispered back, "Yes."

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