This story is by E. M. Boom and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
DEAD MAN’S CAVE
Secret Archaeological Meeting, Washington, D.C.
A slim, middle-aged man enters the auditorium, flashes his ID at Security: Wade Rivers, Professor of Antiquities, Columbia University. He struts to the podium:
I want to introduce my partner in crime, Michael Pike, Professor of Archaeology at Cornell.
I’ve called this meeting to alert you about Dead Man’s Cave in Israel’s Judean Wilderness. Many of you are familiar with the site and have spelunked there. A year ago, the entrance stairway mysteriously collapsed. We received permission a few months ago to survey the Ancient cave site. The locals believe the Government is hiding something, and rumors of a haunted cave abound.
Our team, forensic expert Dr. Johnathan Smith, and two experienced spelunkers, immediately traveled to Israel. Professor Pike and I repelled down approximately 800 feet to what had once been the entrance. The static electricity in the area was so strong we could feel and almost taste it. Our simple plan was to yank twice on the cable if we found ourselves in trouble, and our team would lift us out.
We found skeletal remains at the cave bottom, which we sent up, and Dr. Smith started running tests immediately. The remains were of a woman, about 30. Dental records revealed her to be Linda Lucas, from Washington, D.C. Her family was saddened but relieved to have the mystery of her disappearance solved, and her remains returned. They said their daughter had always taken trips without telling anyone.
We also found Ms. Lucas’s taped recordings still intact. Sit back now, and listen as Linda tells her story.”
“April 7, I started my descent into Dead Man’s Cave. A convenient staircase reached into the darkness. Immediately I felt the presence of static electricity. It’s so strong I saw sparks and heard humming. I counted 780 steps when at last, my feet hit cave bottom. My flashlight shattered when I tripped over something and hit the cave floor. I would have been in complete darkness if not for the glowing minerals in the cave walls.
I must have been knocked unconscious, for when I revived, I realized my right foot was stuck between two stalagmites, or are they stalactites?
That’s when I heard a noise. It was a strange voice.”
“Hello?” I called tentatively.
I heard the noise again! Some creature was trying to communicate.
“Hi,” Ribbit, ribbit, croak.
“What. A talking frog? Well, hi, back at ya, Mr. Frog.”
“You can call me Freddy D., Freddy D. Frog.” Croak Croak.
“Well, Freddy D., looks like I got myself in a pickle.”
“Pickle, I love me some pickles!” came Freddy D.’s not so helpful reply.
“No, no, what I mean is while visiting this lovely dark, damp cave, I slipped on something nasty and slimy. Oh, was that you? Anyway, my right leg got stuck between these two stalagmites, or is it stalactites?”
“I know how to get you free! Just do what I do,” said my newfound reptilian friend.
I proceeded to watch the dim shadow of Freddy’s body on the cave wall. First, he laid flat on his belly, wiggled left, wiggled right, scratched behind his eye, stuck out his tongue to grab a passing bug, and said, “Ribbit.” I followed suit, though I did feel foolish scratching behind my eye with my free leg and catching a passing bug. Then Freddy D. leaped high into the air. For some reason, I believed the words of this green fellow and did the same. My foot became free as I sprung into the air. I think I have just experienced a modern-day miracle.
Suddenly I felt exhausted and closed my eyes. The soothing hum of static lulled me to sleep. I lost all track of time. How many hours or days have I been here? The granola bars and water I carried in my backpack were gone.
When I awoke, I heard Freddy squishing around in the mud. He proceeded to tell me an incredible story of how he got trapped in Dead Man’s Cave.
He was a slave in Egypt, and Frog Pharaoh was a hard taskmaster. Frog Pharaoh toad, I mean, told his servants, the swamp frog community, they had to sacrifice themselves at an upcoming celebration. Not too keen on that idea, they chose Freddy to lead them out of Egypt to Freedom. Freddy told how the Red Sea parted, and Frog Pharaoh and his hopping army chased the fleeing rebellious croakers into the dried-up sea bed. As soon as the immigrant frogs were safe on the other side, the Red Sea returned to its natural state. Frog Pharaoh and his warty army croaked.
Freddy was so excited to be in the Land of Israel; he leaped high and didn’t see the opening of the spiral staircase. Plunging headfirst down the dark void, he awoke with numerous more bumps on his head than before and not enough energy or memory to hop back to safety.
The frogs who Freddy had led out of Egypt had no idea what happened to their leader. They decided he must have been an angel frog sent by their God to save them and had returned to Swamp Heaven. So here Freddy has stayed for 3,000 years, waiting for someone he could trust, and who doesn’t like frog legs, to find the cave and carry him to safety.
“Must be something about the electrified air down here that has caused me to live so long,” reckoned Freddy.
“Freddy, I miss my family and want to go home. Can you help?”
Croak, ribbit. “Of course, under one condition. You must take me with you.”
I thought it a privilege to carry a 3,000-year-old talking frog up the steps to freedom. I put Freddy in my backpack and headed toward the entrance staircase.
I started the ascent, trying to ignore the increased humming in the atmosphere; on step 480, I lost footing and fell backward down, down, down. The staircase had given way. Maybe there was an earthquake since the cave seemed to be crumbling. I felt an electrical shock as if we were entering some force field.
I lay here wondering, will anyone find me? Freddy is by my side, unconscious or maybe dead. I have a broken leg and possible internal injuries. Freddy has just started moving; I’m happy he is alive, but now fear is strangling me. My heart is racing. Freddy said he had lived 3,000 years due to the static electricity in the cave. What if this isn’t the end for me but the beginning? What if I can never go home? What if I’m trapped here forever?”
“Folks, is that not a fantastic story? A talking frog. Was Ms. Lucas out of her mind?
Before we hear Professor Mike’s comments, I want to go back to the beginning; After we sent up Ms. Lucas’s remains, a strange thing happened. Both of us, still on the cave floor, heard a woman’s voice sobbing:
“Please don’t leave without me. My name is Linda Lucas, and my family must be so concerned. Please take me with you.”
“OK, Mike, would you like to comment?”
“Thanks, Wade. I swear to God we did not see anyone. We’re Professors and don’t believe in magic but have no explanation for what was happening. Our only scientific thought was Ms. Lucas got trapped in a time warp and is stuck somewhere in the cave.
We stared at each other wide-eyed when suddenly the hair on the back of our necks stood up. We felt an electrical force so strong it was pulling us inside the cave. We needed to get out Now. Then we heard Ms. Lucas sobbing again, but alongside her pleading for rescue was the plaintive ribbit of a frog. I swear I’ll put my hand on a Bible; we heard other voices; some children, men, and women begging us to free them. Then a man’s voice screamed, “Don’t let them leave without us.”
I felt restraints put around my arms. By now, Wade and I were frantic and yanked the cable twice. Within seconds we were safe above ground.
Wade, I’m sweated through reliving this event. Would you mind finishing?”
“Not at all, thanks, Mike. I’ve called you here to give you this grave warning. Do not, under any circumstance, travel to Dead Man’s Cave. Some of you will look at this as a challenge to do just that, but I’m firmly telling you do not go.
We were able to meet and share our experience with Israeli Prime Minister Goldberg before returning home. The PM’s final words to us were:”
“Be at peace. I’ve heard other unsettling stories. The cave site will be closed with No Trespassing and Do Not Enter signs posted. Guards will be on watch 24/7. Until our researchers uncover what is happening, nothing is going to get in Dead Man’s Cave or come out.”