This story is by James Johnson and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Jimmy Tyler stood at the entrance to the cave with some doubts in his mind. The rocky path trailed into the darkness beyond. He wondered. Was this a mistake? He grasped his stomach with one hand as if that was going to make the pain go away. The stomach cancer still bore its weight in his life. The Doctor said he had 3 months to live and that he needed to spend the rest of his days with family. Jimmy didn’t care about his family as he knew they didn’t care about him. It was fine. He was used to it as he was on his own since he was fifteen. But he listened to his doctor as he nodded. But even though he listened Jimmy didn’t want to hear that from his doctor because if he did then that would truly mean he was at his end. So he set out with just him and his backpack away from the big cities, running from the curse inside him, and ending up in a small town in the middle of nowhere.
The dark cave had a foul odor brewing from it. He feared what his instinct was trying to reveal. Something is waiting for you. It said with a whisper in his mind. Maybe it knows you’re coming, said the whisper. Maybe its lurking behind one of the walls, using the darkness to shield itself and when you get close enough… Jimmy closed his eyes tight. His mind was playing games with him. It was trying to make him turn around and walk away from this foolishness. Maybe get on with the rest of his life. Well, what life he had left to live, anyway. He continued to take in the scene in front of him as he took off his back pack.
He opened the bag without looking and pulled out the flash light.
“I didn’t come all this way just to look at the entrance.” Jimmy said to himself. It was a long hike through the forest before he ended up here, and just as he’d arrived the sun was setting. Soon it would be dark. And then who knows what will come out to reveal itself. “Stop it!”
Wasting no more time Jimmy grabbed his bag, flung it back over his shoulders and was off into the cave. The mouth of the cave had moss growing on walls and up around opening of its ceiling. Although he was exhausted from the long hike through the forest he pressed on, pushing himself to move forward. If the stranger was right then Jimmy would soon have his life back. He aimed his flash light in front of him as if it were a gun. He wished he had a gun.
What was it… that the stranger told him in the bar? This was the place he wanted to be. That the beer he drank was not the answer to his problems if he wanted his life to continue. He said if you’re serious about wanting to live then he can show you a way. It’s deep in the forest, and it’s about a five mile hike from here. But if you truly want to live, I don’t think you’ll have any problem with that.
“Come on! You’re telling me that there’s a cure for me. That all I have to do is walk through the forest by myself, walk into a mysterious cave, and I’ll find the remedy, this secret water as you say will cure my cancer.”
“Yes!” The stranger said with no hesitation.
Jimmy remembered laughing, he couldn’t believe this guy. Did he think he was that naïve? Jimmy knew that the second he went out on this hike that he would be robbed by this guy.
The stranger assured him he was only trying to help almost as if he could hear Jimmy’s doubts. “Forgive me, but I don’t see anyone else here helping your cause.” That’s when the stranger got up. “Best of luck to you, he said as he turned to walk away.”
“Wait.” Jimmy heard himself saying. The stranger stopped as he turned his head.
Certain sounds brought him back to his reality. The dripping of water worked on his nerves a bit as he fiddled with the flash light. The clicking sounds from up above made him walk faster as he knew that meant the bats were stirring. Looking back he could no longer see the entrance. It appeared that he fell deeper into the cave than he realized. It was now him against the dark. He sighed. It was the stranger that put him in this predicament feeding on his hope to begin with. He realized that. He also realized the water could save his life. He wasn’t sad about his decision to come here. But the fact that the flash light was his only source and the beam of light became dim started to irritate him. He started to wish he’d brought more batteries. The ground shifted downward to where he had to drop and bottom shuffle. However embarrassing this was he had no choice. It was either that or risk injuring himself. That wouldn’t be wise as nobody knew where he was. Well, no one but the stranger.
The ground finally leveled off giving him enough room as he stood up. He tried using the flash light, but that’s when it decided to die. Alone in the dark like a blind man without a guide dog he walked forward with caution. The dark never bothered him. Ever since he was little he wasn’t afraid of the dark. Still, he had a bad feeling brewing inside him. What had the stranger gotten him into? He thought about the stranger laughing at him. He was so frustrated at himself for agreeing to this, especially taking the journey by himself. But he figured that this was his only alternative. What else was there left to do? Die in bed…in the hospital. No! This was it!
” Come closer so I can get a better look on you. ” echoed a scratchy voice in the distance. ”
The voice shocked him out of his body as he expected to be alone. He hesitated before walking forward. Who would be crazy enough to be in the depths of a cave?
As he came closer to where the voice originated he squinted. He could make out a person standing and watching him. Probably taking in what he looked like, he suspected.
“You look like a good one.” said the voice.
A torch lit above the figure by itself and as it did he could see it floating in the air. The same familiar stench he smelled at the entrance of the cave was in the air here. His heart beat a little faster as he saw the figure. It stood in front of him looking at him with its large encircled eyes. Those sockets went inward until he could see a black dot in the middle of each of them.
And where there should have been a nose was replaced by a small slit. The mouth was just a small circle the size of one’s thumbnail.
“Who are you?” Jimmy found himself asking.
“Who I am is not important. Who you are is what matters most. For you are the one who lingers into one’s homes uninvited. ”
” I am Jimmy Tyler and I am not here uninvited as you say. I was sent by a stranger who told me to come here. He said this place had water that would cure my cancer. He didn’t say who was here. But I’m assuming it’s you that can shed some light on the subject. ”
“The stranger you speak of is no stranger to me. Charlie is an old friend that helps me with much of my cravings, in return I help him live as long as he desires. I have what you seek. It will take away your pain and will allow you to live…eternal.”
A rock the size of a baseball hovered through the air slow enough for Jimmy to catch it.
“Drink.” said the creature.
Jimmy drank what was in the stone hoping it would cure him.
Several torches lit throughout the walls in unison showing more light in the room. His gaze followed the torches around the room until he saw a woman sticking into the wall just like a fly to a web.
“I helped you… so it is time to help me with my cravings.”
The small mouth opened up larger to reveal a blue glow. Just as soon as he saw the light, it touched him, and when it touched him he felt an odd sensation like something was tearing up inside him. Panic set in throughout his body as Jimmy fell to the ground. And as the creature feasted on his soul he looked up to see the woman staring at him, crying. She was still alive!