The Cottage – Part Thirteen – (Short Story)

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Part One | Part Two |Part Three |  Part Four |Part Five |  Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine | Part Ten | Part Eleven | Part Twelve

Pain, fatigue, and cold screamed through every sinew. He raised himself by the elbow wincing at the sensation of rough stone on that tender joint. It was absolutely pitch black.

If he were any less than completely exhausted, he would have panicked.

Holding his hand mere inches from his eyes, he saw nothing. He fumbled through his jeans. And he praised God for his addiction. For there in his right pocket was the more than half spent pack of Pall Mall’s and within the comforting smoothness of metal.

The Zippo was a small comfort. But it was comfort enough.

The dimensions of where-ever the hell he was were impressive. He walked forward cross stony dust littered ground and found no wall. He walked backward and got the same result.

His feet screamed.

‘Where the hell are my shoes…’

He slumped down and laughed as a sharp pain shot through his ass.

He brought the Zippo down. It was a stalagmite.

“Great. I’m lost in a fucking cave in Frog Balls, Kentucky.”

There had to have been something more than whiskey in those bottles.

‘Probably all part of their little plan. Clever fucks.’

Jim was never one to feel sorry for himself. He’d done too much sinning for self-pity.

‘Well, I got in here somehow. So, I’ll get out of here somehow.’

He tried to recall how he’d gotten here. But to no avail. It was that same chasm of ignorance that always followed a night of getting black-out drunk.

He absent-mindedly picked up a stone and chucked it into the yawning depths that drowned him.

To his great surprise he heard it splash.

Slowly, painfully, he rose to his raw-worn feet and advanced in the direction of the invisible oasis. Though he heard no stream, where there was a pond, there was a chance of one.

He walked forward for what seemed like eternity. It was good that he was a stubborn proud son of a bitch. Because a meeker man may well have wasted precious time repenting for ending up in hell.

“Oh, fuck yea.” He said dipping his feet into cold water. The smooth silt was such welcome relief from the rough and recent passage to this haven.  He lingered there for a bit at the shore of some great subterranean indoor pool.

‘Might as well head left.’ He gambled and began to trace the shoreline with his feet as he ambled awkwardly along.

Tracking time was impossible, so he tracked footfalls. Though this too proved futile after the first few hundred. So, he walked, and he walked.

At first, he thought he was hallucinating.

“What in the fuck is that…”

Far from the shore where the depths of the lake should be, he perceived a strange blue shimmer.

Yes. It was unmistakable. There in the path of his current direction and outward past the shore was a light that grew brighter as he advanced.

He stopped when the brightness reached what he guessed was peak luminescence. After taking a few moments to ponder he said, “Fuck it.”

Jim waded till the water reached his waist and began to swim. Stopping just above the brightest shimmer he could see clear down to the bottom. Though the source itself was nowhere to be seen.

Curiosity overtook him and Jim dove.

He opened his eyes and thanked God that the liquid didn’t sting them The water was clear so very clear. It was uncanny. It stirred some vague memory.

And slowly he recollected the contents of that recent dream. Though he couldn’t breathe the water, everything else, was the same. There were the myriad submerged islands bearing stones with strange reliefs.

He surfaced and rested.

‘Well, I guess swimming is easier than walking.’ And he continued his leftward course.

After some time, he began to hear a gurgle. A sound for which he was grateful because the light had dissipated long ago. He swam towards it blindly.

It grew louder.

‘Fuck. Which way is the shore?’

He guessed and swam. But it was too long.

‘Fuck.’

He was beginning to feel the first stages of panic.

He had no clue which direction to take. He was surrounded on all sides by pitch black water. The strange blue light was long gone, and he was utterly alone without a thing to guide him.

‘Well, I can sit here like a bitch and drown, or I can drown trying to get to a tumbler of whiskey.’

He chose the latter.

And after three unsuccessful forays he finally reached the shore. Plodding along where the water met silt, he advanced towards the gurgling sound.

When it was as loud as daytime TV he inclined towards the sound with his Zippo.

Sure enough there was a small brisk stream flowing into the lake.

Jim followed it up a gradual incline.

Hope began its cautious return. And its return wasn’t in vain.

Because soon he beheld a greying in the blackness.

And then something far more beautiful than anything he had ever beheld.

There just a few hundred yards ahead was an aperture. Bright daylight revealed the verdant Kentucky green just beyond the man-sized opening through which the streamlet flowed.

Jim howled in glee.


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