Chapter 5 wraps up our little hero’s first adventure. If you need to be brought up to speed, I encourage you to visit the previous chapters. If you truly like what you’ve read thus far, why not consider buying a copy of my book. It’s available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple. Thanks for sticking by me, friends.
5—Light In The Darkness
The dive helmet proved to be the coolest piece of equipment, of the entire suit. Once he slid the helmet over his head, the familiar computer voice spoke within the helmet’s audio system, as the device automatically ran through a series of diagnostic checks. Inside the bug-eye visors, a checklist scrolled down, accompanying the voice.
“OPTICS AT 100 PERCENT; AIR FLOW NOZZLES AT 100 PERCENT; SEALS ENGAGING.”
Tim’s ears popped as the helmet gently squeezed around his neck; and under his jaw.
“AIRTIGHT SEALS AT 100 PERCENT; READY FOR DIVING, MR. SMITH.”
Jonah’s voice filled the hidden speakers within the helmet.
“Let’s go. Time’s wasting. I’m setting the wet room to submerge in 20 seconds.”
Tim descended the ladder into the wet room. The inner floor hatch, with the peep hole in the center, slowly closed and sealed with an airtight woosh.
“Wet room submerging in 5, 4, 3, 2,” Jonah counted.
Oval slates along the smooth stainless steel walls opened, sending a flush of sea water into the tiny room. A flash of panic ran up Tim’s spine as the room quickly filled. He groped for something to hold on to, and braced for the cold shock of sea water.
“I never understood why this always frightened you, Tim.” Jonah said. “After dozens of missions, you’re still jumpy when the wet room fills.”
As the water rose over his waist, then his chest, and up to his helmet, Tim closed his eyes and held his breath, waiting for the helmet to spring a leak and fill with salt water. When he couldn’t hold out any longer, he inhaled deep, breathing in cool, clean air. He opened his eyes in time to see Jonah swimming out of the wet room, through the bottom hatch, into the darkness of the sea.
“The water’s not freezing,” he said.
“Of course it is. The suit’s regulating your temperature, you dope. C’mon, let’s go.”
As he followed Jonah through the open hatch, his fingers again performed a series of unknown, but familiar taps, pressing buttons on the left side of his belt. The hatch slowly swung shut locking them outside of the pod’s protective hull. At the same time, Tim’s helmet lit up a brilliant green inside. The shrouded darkness of the sea could now be seen in a green hue that showed everything within a radius of 200 feet, as clearly as daylight topside.
“I see you! I see the cave below. Wow!”
Tim stopped stroking and hovered in place. He spun from side to side, looking every-which-way possible, in awe of the sights to be seen in this strange new world. Everything was alive with activity. Deep sea sharks, 100 feet above the pod, swam around in their own patterns just as the fish at the Coney Island Aquarium had done when he’d gone to the park for his 6th birthday. The base of the mountain was out of sight, but he could still make out bubbles floating up from what must be its bottom. Jonah hovered a few yards out from Tim’s position, anxiously awaiting his partner.
“Tim, I’ll feel a lot better if you save the sightseeing for later. We’ve got to get the treasure back to the pod.”
“What’s the rush Jonah? I’m just getting used to this. Besides, it’s not going anywhere I don’t think.”
“I’m not worried about the treasure walking off without us, Tim. I’m worried that we’re not the only intelligent creatures alone down here anymore.”
The crocodile; how had he forgotten so soon? Terror settled over Tim again. He was aware of the vast emptiness surrounding them both. That creature could be watching them right this moment, just outside the range of their hyper vision goggles. Tim punched a sequence into his belt’s computer. The system responded.
“EMERGENCY THRUST PROPELLERS CUED; READY FOR ACTIVATION.”
Against his hips, two tiny triangular slots—like inverted pop tops he’d seen on the table salt canisters Mom bought from the grocery store—suddenly flipped open on the belt. Miniature ports drop down out of the slots. In the far corner of each bug-eye visor, an energy gauge displayed two vertical bars; one for each thrust propeller. Tim’s helmet hummed as the tiny engines prepared to fire.
“Easy on the throttle, Tim. We’ll need to save energy for the journey back up to the pod, while we carry the chest together. Use just enough boost for a quick start, okay?”
“How big is it, Jonah?”
“Well, let’s just say we’re both going to have a time dragging it out of the cave.”
Tim stretched out in a diving pose. He glanced at Jonah, giving him two thumbs-up.
“Thrusters fire,” he said.
The belt tightened against his waist as the thrusters exploded, propelling him through the water at a blinding speed. There was a sudden jerk on the top of his helmet, as the leather flap extended. Tim turned his head left, toward Jonah. His suit responded by changing his trajectory, speeding him toward his partner.
“Watch yourself, Tim!” Jonah yelled over the radio. “Get it together, bro. What’s gotten into you?”
Tim shifted again, turning his head in the direction of the cave below. It was hard to keep his limbs in line with the target at such speeds. Behind the visors, a number display read 70mph and continued climbing. The cave entrance, a distant speck a moment ago, now seemed as large as a Ferris wheel circle.
“Back off of the throttle Tim. We can swim the rest of the way into the cave.”
“Roger than, Jonah. Thrusters stop.”
The two explorers swam for the mountain cave, frequently watching over their shoulders for any signs of movement. Close to the entrance, a light-bulb fish appeared from behind a high crop of mountain rock, startling Tim.
“Stay sharp, Tim. I think this cave might be the beast’s lair. We’re in dangerous territory here, so let’s watch each other’s backs.”
As they swam up the hollowed shaft of the cave, the walls closed in. The ceiling and floor of the cave also condensed. The girth of the huge cave slowly diminished.
“Jonah, I don’t like it. We’ve got nowhere to run if he’s here.” Tim fought against the fear rising within his heart.
“I am still with you.”
“Who said that?” Tim shouted, as he stopped stroking and spun around.
“Who said what?” Jonah asked. “C’mon, stay with me here. It’s just the two of us.”
“Jonah, someone else has been speaking to me since…well since I woke up back at the control console.”
“I knew it!” Jonah yelled.
“Well who is it? Whoever he is, he’s beginning to creep me out.”
“I knew you fell asleep while I was down here alone! Tim, that crocodile could’ve eaten me alive while you were snoozing up there. You have to watch my back at all times.”
“Jonah, I’m telling you, someone’s been talking to me.”
“Okay, let’s pretend you really are hearing voices besides mine, thousands of feet under the ocean. What are they telling you while we’re busy swimming up an underwater tunnel, in search of lost treasure?”
Tim felt heat in his cheeks; anger rising. What was it that Dad said, back at home? Just then, an idea came to mind.
“That’s it. I’m dreaming. I must’ve gone to sleep at home. Yup that’s it, all right! I fell asleep in the box. None of this is real.”
Tim heard Jonah sigh over the radio.
“Now I’m your imaginary friend. That’s awesome. We’ll see how you feel once we’ve found the chest, Tim. When we return to the surface, you’re going to the doctor to get your brain examined.”
An alarm beeped inside his helmet, directing Tim’s attention toward a wire frame digital diagram showing the terrain of the cave, projected through his visors. The explorers were swimming toward a vertical wall at the back of the cave. As they approached, Tim saw jagged protrusions jutting from the vertical surface.
“Are those steps I see, Jonah?”
“It looks that way, yeah. I think, at one time, this area of the cave was a huge air pocket. You noticed we swam up through the tunnel, to get this far. Maybe, this wall wasn’t always underwater. Someone would have needed a way to get into the upper cave.”
“Upper cave; I thought this was it?”
“No, we’ve got to swim up a ways, before we find the air pocket.”
The vertical turn was easy enough to maneuver. Tim kicked while his padded fingers gripped each jagged step; 18 in all. Jonah reached the top first, climbing out of the water, onto a ledge.
“Watch your step up here,” Jonah said. “The deck is a bit slippery. You won’t need your helmet anymore. The air is a bit stale, but breathable.”
Tim reached up, penetrating the water’s surface for the first time in weeks, his memory told him. Jonah gave a hand, pulling him out of the depths, into a cavernous hollow. Large stalactites and stalagmites of differing shades and colors were everywhere. Off to the far right of the hollow, Tim saw a bright glow emitted behind a large rock wall. Judging by the pathway of trampled and crushed dripstone, Jonah had previously walked in that direction. But the pathway of destruction of the natural formations was far too wide to have been caused by Jonah alone. Tim deactivated the helmet’s hyper vision.
“Yeah, you see it don’t you? That crocodile’s been in here. I didn’t have to disturb any of the dripstone formations to get to the chest behind that crusted wall. The creature’s been guarding it. Looks like it hasn’t returned, so let’s get what we came for.”
“Roger that,” Tim said. The duo walked further into the cavern, toward the far rock wall. “Sure is spooky in here.”
“Hey, God did not commit to us the spirit of fear,” Jonah recited. Tim smiled wide behind his helmet.
“But of power, love, and sound mind. Thanks, Jonah.”
“Momma’s bible study, every Sunday evening for as long as I can remember. She made me memorize 2 Timothy 1:7, knowing I would someday be an explorer.”
“Dad likes that one, too. He makes us say it every night before bed.”
Tim suddenly missed home. He missed his siblings and his parents. He remembered this was all just a dream, and soon he would wake up. As they approached the wall, he squinted. The golden light on the other side was so bright!
“Jonah, did you leave the box opened when you left the cave?”
“No! I shut the lid; made sure of it, because I had to figure out how we were going to move the whole thing through the water without losing a single piece. I latched the clasp and shoved a small piece of dripstone through the lock hole, to keep the lid shut. As soon as I closed it, the light was locked away inside the chest.”
Tim ran for the wall, with Jonah quick at his heels. The duo rounded the edge of the wall. Standing before them was a large wooden box trimmed in tarnished golden ribbing. Its ancient hinges were rusted from ages of sitting in the damp air. Its wood had taken on a soggy and splintery texture. Barnacles encrusted the bottom of the chest, onto the floor of the cave. Behind the chest, golden light flooded the tiny chamber formed by several close cropped walls and a low ceiling. Tim’s eyes were fixed on the chest, unable to look away.
“It looks just like my toy chest back home, except for the gold stuff along the edges and the old wood. It’s the same.”
Tim brushed a gloved hand over the lid of the chest. A fresh wave of sadness washed over him as he pictured home in his mind.
“Tim, take a look at this.” Jonah stood ten feet behind the chest, hands on hips, gazing at the cave floor. “I promise you, this was not here before. I don’t know where it came from. I’m not even sure of what it is.”
The urgency in Jonah’s voice broke the allure of the chest. Tim slowly walked toward the back of the cave shielding his eyes from the onslaught of brilliant light pulsing from what looked to be a large oval of light in the floor.
“Jonah, what in the world?”
“I just said I don’t know what it is, Tim! It wasn’t here before.”
“Whatever it is,” Tim started, “I feel like I’m supposed to…”
“I am with you,”
“What?” Jonah asked. “Tim, you’re supposed to what?”
“I don’t know. Feels like it’s calling me, somewhere deep down inside.”
Jonah turned away, walking back toward the chest. Tim heard the latch squeak and the hinges creak in protest; metal on metal grinding. The cave, already alight by the hole in the ground, now blazed a magnificent golden yellow, as Jonah pushed the lid back. There was a loud thunk, as the lid collided with the back of the chest. It was filled to the brim with golden nuggets resembling peanuts, cashews and walnuts.
Tim walked to the chest and scooped a handful of the little nuggets. The duo glanced at one another, before exploding in laughter. Tim stuffed a handful of nuggets into the hidden pockets of his suit, laughing hysterically.
“I can’t believe we found this! We did it, Jonah! We actually found the lost treasure of the pirates of Camoon! Now we have to figure out how—”
A great splash and enormous thump ricocheted off the walls of the cavern, shaking the nuggets within the chest. Tim crouched while Jonah reached for a small stick strapped to his right leg.
“Stay put, Tim. It’s here. I’m going to draw its attention away from the chest, while you make a run for the water. Get to the pod as soon as possible! Do you understand?”
“Jonah, I’m not leaving you behind. We figure out how to go together.”
Jonah thrust the stick out. Two thin shiny blades popped out of both ends of the handle. Inside the visor-goggles of Jonah’s helmet, Tim watched the hyper vision light activate, then turn a shade of red, as Jonah took up an attack stance.
“Seriously Jonah, you’re going to charge that thing! Are you insane? There has to be another way out of this cave without facing it.”
“There isn’t, so wait for my signal. When I yell, go for the water. Trust me, if you’ve got a better idea, I’m all ears.”
A guttural roar alerted them to the creature closing in on their position. Jonah sprinted for the edge of the wall, screaming like a warrior; the double edge spear lifted high above his head. Another monstrous roar resonated through the cave, and Tim heard Jonah screaming in fear as he tore up the opposite end of the cavern. Stalactite and stalagmites crushed into powder under the creature’s advance.
“Now, Tim! I’ll see you on the other side!” Jonah yelled.
There was a sound like metal reflecting off stone. Jonah fought the beast somewhere within the cave! Tim was petrified, once again unable to move. Somehow he mustered the courage to take a shaky step toward the edge of the wall separating the chest’s hiding place from the main cavern. One step became two. Two steps became a slow trot. The trot gained momentum until he was running around the wall straight for the entrance pool.
“Come to me, Timothy. I’m still with you.”
“No, not again!” Tim yelled. His small hands went to the helmet, trying to cover his ears. “Who are you? Why are you doing this to me?”
“Come to me, Timothy.”
Tim looked over the devastation of dripstone debris leading toward the darkened end of the cavern. Deep within that darkness arose the sounds of battle and destruction. Tim whispered.
“COMBAT VISION ACTIVATED.” The computer responded.
The helmet’s hyper vision lit the visors a brilliant red hue, illuminating the cavern before him. There was Jonah, racing back toward Tim. His broken spear dangled in his right hand, a crack in one of his visor-goggles, a tear in his suit along the left arm. He’d never be able to make the swim back to the pod with a ruptured suit and busted helmet! The freezing water would kill him within minutes. Behind Jonah the crocodile beast slithered snake-like with incredible speed, gaining on him. Shiny blue scales and massive sharp yellow glowing teeth bore down on Jonah.
“I thought I told you to swim! What are you waiting for? Go now!”
“Lord, I don’t know what to do,” Tim screamed, as he looked toward the entrance pool a few yards away. Even if they made the water, the creature would have them captured in the tunnel.
“Come to me, Timothy.”
Beyond the fear that gripped his heart, Tim found a quiet, peace rising within his spirit. Suddenly, he knew where to go. It made no sense, but he knew it was the right thing to do.
“I told you what to do, Tim,” Jonah barked. “Run for the—”
Tim darted back toward the chest hiding behind the far wall. His heart pounded, His mind couldn’t focus as he ran. He knew he needed to get back to that little hiding place.
“Don’t stop, Jonah! Follow me,” he yelled.
Jonah couldn’t believe what he was seeing, as he banked left to follow his partner back toward the treasure chest. They were going to die down here. He was sure of it. Tim had lost his nerve and his senses. Jonah’s last idea was to make a final stand in the back of the small hiding hollow. He ran with all his might. When he rounded the wall, the beast was so close, Jonah could feel the breeze from its chomping bites push against his back. Tim was airborne, head first, diving.
Tim, rounded the wall, still following the direction of the voice.
“That’s it. Come to me, Timothy. I’m still with you.”
Without so much as a second thought, he threw himself into an awkward headfirst dive over the opened chest, sailing straight for the pulsing yellow hole in the ground, behind the treasure. Screaming through the air, Tim shut his eyes just as he connected with the light of the hole. Somewhere close behind, echoed the screams of Jonah and the enraged roar of the beast.
So faithful fans, now you have a feel for Timothy and his amazing adventure thus far. What happens next? You’ll have to read the book!