Spelunking

You never did understand my love of spelunking, or ‘potholing’, as you insisted on calling it, in your oh-so-very-English English.
I asked you to come with me once, soon after we started dating, but you said you didn’t want to get too deep too soon. We laughed, but you never did come spelunking, though I invited you many times after that. I guess you were scared of the dark, the damp, or the deep.
You did take me to see the Luray caverns near Shenandoah national park. You thought I’d be impressed at the palatial size of the place, massive stalagmites and stalactites forming patterns too beautiful almost to describe, great chandeliers of crystallised rocks, colossal coalcite columns, frozen fountains of limestone, cathedral-sized caverns of natural wonder, the product of a million years of drip, drip, drip. The slow victories of gravity and water versus rock.
You took photos at every opportunity, you were impressed even by the tacky organ music produced using stalactites of different thickness, you were in wonderment at the scale of the caves, this, you thought, was spelunking. But you were wrong, so, so wrong.
Spelunking is the primal childish desire to crawl underground, to investigate darkness, the joy of being somewhere no human being has been before, even if it is a cramped crevice of dark nowhere. It is the touch of hand and body against damp rock, the rare joy of the sight of a bat, it is the need to explore, to push your body through gaps it hardly fits through, it is the urge to climb, to feel and to crawl. It is the adrenalin rush of being lost in a strange place where you could easily die, with no-one there even to find your body.
I kept spelunking most weekends, even though it was something I did without you, maybe because it was something I did without you. When we moved in together there were times it got claustrophobic, for both of us, used to living alone and finding ourselves in a shared flat, no space to ourselves. Spelunking gave me the chance to escape. Okay, I’d escaped to a series of the narrowest of tunnels, but even crawling through a rock-space smaller than my body would be if I breathed out, I felt I was running wild and free.
When I got back to the surface that day, that day of days, I felt refreshed, liberated by my intimate physicality with the cave, I was still sweating its vapours. I wanted to run back to you, back to your arms and get intimate with something that wasn‘t made of rock.
Then I saw what had happened to the world while I’d been underground, realised the full extent of the devastation. Realised that everyone, including you my love, was dead.
I thought for a long time about staying on the surface, dying with the rest of mankind. But even though I’d lost everything, everything bar the caves, I still wanted to live, so I crawled back down, into the world of the cold, the damp and the darkness.
I will be spelunking down here on my own until the end of time, becoming a creature of the dark. I wish you’d been down here with me, just as the mice became bats, we could have begun a new race of spelunkers, living off lichen and small mammalia, drinking the moisture of cave rock, seeing by instinct rather than light. We would have cast off our human baggage, just as man cast off the baggage of his Cro-Magnon predecessor.
But you’re not here with me, you never got down and dirty with me, well you did that, but you never got down wet and cold and muddy with me.
So now I’m left here, the last of the human race, left to spelunk alone to the end of time.

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