Suggested Audio Candy:
David Julyan “The Descent”
Over ten years I’ve been down here. That’s quite a stretch without company. I guess I should start by explaining how I got here in the first place, seeing as you’re the first person I’ve opened up to in a long time. Make yourself at home and pull up some rubble, allow me to explain. Sorry I can’t offer much in the way of refreshments or comfort but, as you can see, the cleaners don’t get here much and it’s hardly what you would call a comfort zone. It all started in 2004 when on an expedition to Râșnov, Romania with a group of friends. We decided to do a spot of spelunking and it seemed like a great idea at the time. However, one of us never made it out.
This whole cave is a mind-boggling sprawling network of passageways and tunnels and easy to lose your bearings within. Indeed, it has taken me the best part of a decade to become au fait with my surroundings and, even now, I still get lost on occasion. There were five of us in total and the other four made it out intact although not without a titanic struggle. At one point it appeared we’d all be trapped down here but our expedition leader was something of a dab hand at orienteering and managed to locate the exit after three days without food or hydration. They reported me as missing and the emergency services were called to attempt to find me but to no avail. After three days the search was called off and I was considered dead.
I lived in constant hope of being rescued for what seemed like months but eventually accepted that nobody else was coming for me. Since then I have made the best of a bad situation and made this place my home. It’s nothing fancy, sure there are some attractive stalagmites and it’s fairly spacious when you traverse into the sub-levels, but it’s hardly the Hilton either. My stay was far from comfortable in that time and I had to re-evaluate my goals and focus solely on survival as opposed to ever seeing the light of day again. I’ve learned the lay of the ground down here but, even now, have no idea how to make it back to the surface. Loneliness has become my friend in that time and my own company has kept me sane, albeit tentatively.
Once I realized that escape was not a probable option I began to grow accustomed to these dank surroundings and the first on my list of priorities was to nourish myself so as not to waste away. Nowadays there’s a McDonald’s in virtually every major town in the free world but they are yet to erect those arches down here. Truth be known, I’ve watched Super Size Me, and I’m assured that I would have lasted no longer than six weeks on a staple diet of Quarter Pounders and McFlurries. So I guess I did the right thing by hunting for my own food. The Chiroptera species are also residents so I began feasting on their excrement to tide myself over. I fast learned that the term “bat shit crazy” was more than just hollow words as the tiny pellets of dung discarded by my winged friends acted as a hallucinogen of sorts. It was fun at first, all effervescent colors and contorted perception, but then my tummy began to growl its discord.
I would have chewed off my right arm, had it been holding a london broil seasoned with black peppercorn sauce accompanied by a smattering of seasoned fries but, alas, my menu was a lot more limited down here. It became time to learn of the food chain and my place within it and, mercifully, I found myself in the upper echelons of the pecking order. All manner of grotesque creatures scuttle about this place and once you size your quarry up sufficiently, catching them isn’t too hard. Eating them raw, however, ain’t like any picnic I’ve ever been invited to. They mostly taste like shit, marinated with piss, then sprinkled with dandruff. Not ideal right? That may be, but when it’s do or die, you do or…well you die basically.
It took a while and a margin of trial and error to work out which agreed with me most. There are strange yellow-bellied critters down here, usually not far from moisture and in packs of a dozen or so, that didn’t agree with me and a month of dysentery followed after chowing down on those particular grubs. Bright colors were evidently a no-no so I hunted down the most bland looking cretins I could get my grubby paws on and they became hors d’oeuvre. I’d love to tell you their name but, alas, your guess would be as good as mine. There are no labels in the deepest caverns of human existence, evolution rears its own breeds and many of them would be unrecognizable to even the most decorated archeologists. I call the ugly little bastards Worzels.
Despite looking somewhat gnarly, Worzels taste comparatively sumptuous. When I say comparatively, bear in mind the competition. Bugs and lice just weren’t cutting it and I desperately required something with a little more meat on the bones so to speak. It just so happens that Worzels are known, here at least, for their child-bearing hips and often become lodged in small crawlspaces, making it effortless picking them off. I would wait until lunchtime before consuming one such prey as the successful snagging of a Worzel is something to be savored. Numbers have depleted massively over the past year which has meant cutting back on these tasty treats while replenishment occurs. Thankfully, they haven’t been the only food source; more on that later.
Anyhoots, enough talk of hunger and woe. Tell me, and please be honest, what do you think of my wings? Evolution waits for no man and, considering the only narcotic I can get my hands on down here is shat forth from bats, I often go the whole hog and grab a plumped one from the belfry. Within a year or so I began to notice excess skin beneath my armpits and, at first, I figured middle-aged spread was just doing its thing. The lower they hung, the more they began to resemble my very own flying gear. They’re neat right? Actually they blow balls as I’m just as pathetic as an emu. I cannot fly a lick, every failed attempt has ended in tears and a face full of Debook droppings. Debooks, by the way, are gastropods, a little like the common slug. There was no way a Debook was ever going to pass my lips so I befriended one and called him Cornelius.
It was all going swimmingly until I proposed we took our relationship to the next stage and suggested that Cornelius bunk in with me one particularly chilly dusk. Spooning was fun, God knows I missed it, but it all turned awry when I rolled over in my sleep and took the little fella out of the game. I was mightily fond of Cornelius, thus he received an authentic hero’s burial over by the rock cluster to your right. I miss his wit, it was the only thing about Cornelius that was dry, but we spent many a night laughing at the Worzels expense. “Oh look Cornelius. Looky fast. Another one got stuck. I think it’s Terence. It is. Terence has bitten off more than he can chew. Shall I help free the little blighter or are you feeling peckish? Fine, sorry Terence.” That kind of spiel you know?
Constant craving was still of tantamount concern as I was shedding pounds like a hopeful prior to a beauty pageant. That’s where the stragglers come in handy you see? From time to time somebody has the cojones to make the trip down here, most recently two Hungarian backpackers by the names György and Erzsébet. They were somewhat stunned to learn that they were not alone and it took a while before they calmed down enough for me to explain my plight. I offered them currency to assist me in getting back to terra firma but language restrictions blighted my cause. Eventually I tired of trying to reason with them and decided to use the international language of terror to make my point. I clubbed them to death, not proud of it but neither am I ashamed, and they supplied me over a week’s finger foods before ultimately perishing.
Let’s get to the heart of the matter shall we as it would appear you are beginning to grow restless. I know I have a tendency to rattle on but it just gets so bitterly lonely down here without natural light source or human interaction. We speak in the same tongue which is a distinct plus, had that not been the case, then I have to come clean that you’d currently be somewhere around mid-digestion. However, I’m afraid I have some potentially upsetting news. I could ask for a foot-up back topside but I just don’t know if I could handle another rejection right now. Plus, I haven’t caught a solitary sniff of a fresh meal in days. You look a little stringy if truth be known; I’d have prefered my meal ticket to be a little more robust, but beggars can’t be choosers I suppose. You’ll do just fine, I can still get some decent tenderloin from that rump so long as I limit myself to three strips daily. I apologize unreservedly in advance of you meeting your unceremonious fate so unexpectedly but think it all a part of your adventure. Okay then, ready for your tenderizing?