This story is by John King and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
“Why can’t rich girls like you just go to the beach like normal people?” Jack groaned as the three explorers stood outside the dark cave.
“Beaches don’t have priceless artifacts,” Sapphire replied. She turned to Jack’s partner Sam. “Sam, do we have everything?”
“Yes ma’am,” Sam replied. He zipped up a pack and slid it onto his back. “Flashlights are fully charged, and the helicopters on standby if we need it.”
“Of course,” Jack muttered as they walked into shadow. “Can’t travel here in a van. No, you gotta have a helicopter.”
Sapphire glanced at him. “A helicopter will be more useful than a van if this place caves in.”
“Beaches don’t have cave-ins,” Jack replied.
“Will you shut up about the beaches, man?” Sam asked. “I know this is cutting into your vacation time…”
“I’m promising you both,” Sapphire said. “The riches in this cave will be worth it. You’ll both be able to afford anything you’ve ever wanted.”
“What about you?” Sam asked. “Don’t you want any of the riches?”
“Why would she?” Jack asked. “She’s got buckets of money.”
“Jack,” Sam scolded.
“No, he’s right,” Sapphire admitted. “I’m in this for the fame and fortune. Finding the treasure in this cave will just be just the start. Then we’ll find ancient artifacts, smuggle treasure… I’m telling you, we’ll be the next great adventurers for the ages. We’ll go down in history with Jones, Croft, and Drake.”
“That’s a lovely image,” Sam muttered, his voice echoing off the walls as they went deeper into the cave.
The two found a deep pit and made sure to scurry around it. The path diverged into two points. Drawing out a can of spray paint, Sapphire marked a glowing white arrow on the wall and moved down the left path.
“So, what’s so special down here to attract a budding explorer?” Jack asked.
“You remember that police raid a week ago?” Sapphire asked. “Those two criminals that got chased into here with a chest of gold.”
“Yeah, the police caught them and the gold,” Jack said.
“Half points,” Sapphire said. “They got the criminals, but not the gold.”
“Uh, the news reports showed them coming out with a chest of the stuff,” Sam said. “How’d they not get the gold?”
The three explorers reached a dead end. Sapphire dug at the dirt and came away with some stones that had a strange gleam to them.
“What do you see?” she asked them.
“Dirt,” Jack replied.
“Stones?” Sam asked.
“Pyrite,” Sapphire said with a grin. “Or fool’s gold. I’m betting the gold the police took was actually made of pyrite, and the real gold was hidden…”
She dug at a small spot, and the shine of gold became prominent in a small hole.
“Here,” Sapphire finished with a smile.
“I’ll be a dragon’s aunt,” Sam said. He knelt down next to her. “But how are we going to get it?”
“If that’s real gold, move your tails aside,” Jack said. He pulled out something round. “I got this.”
“Wait, what the heck is that?” Sam asked.
“A grenade,” Jack said simply as he pulled the pin.
“Jack, no!” Sapphire yelled. “A grenade down here? Do you have any idea…?”
“Oh, right,” Jack said. He then looked down, his green eyes wide. “Uh… problem?”
“I dropped the pin. This thing is primed.”
“Well, find it,” Sam growled, shining his flashlight on the ground. “If that thing goes off while we’re down here…”
Jack swore as he slipped on a loose bit of pyrite. The grenade slipped out of his hands and right into the hole.
“Oh…” whatever Sapphire was going to say went up in a cloud of ash.
“How about that beach idea, huh?” Jack asked, his tone high-pitched as he tried to shove the boulder off Sapphire’s leg. “No cave-ins, more than one pretty girl…”
“What kind of idiot are you to set off a grenade in a cave?” Sapphire tried to scream at him. However, the white-hot pain coursing through her nerves locked her jaw. All that came out was. “Augh!”
“Quit your joking and help me move this,” Sam said. “This mine is going to become a tomb in five minutes.”
A second stone slammed right next to Sapphire. She screamed, her leg feeling like it was about to pop right off.
Jack looked up as rocks fell around them, the smashing like bombs around them. Swearing, he picked up another boulder, about the size of a medicine ball. With a heave, he hefted it up at the shower of rocks. Swinging his rock, Jack bashed his rock right into a falling rock, knocking it into the stone trapping Sapphire.
With a shrieking slam and a deafening scream from Sapphire, the rock rolled off her leg. Jack dropped the rock, briefly clutched at a massive gash in his arm, and pulled Sapphire out.
“How did you know that would work?” Sam asked, awestruck.
Jack pulled her onto his shoulders as a rock slammed in front of him.
“I didn’t,” Jack said.
As Sapphire clung to Jack like a lifeline, Sam and Jack sprinted back the way they came. Through the sound of smashing rock and the cloud of ash, Sapphire nearly missed the sound of Sam talking into his radio.
“Chopper, this is Sam,” Sam said. “We got a cave-in.”
If there was a response, it was garbled by the sounds of the cave-in and static. Jack swore as Sapphire nearly slipped from his grip.
“Sorry,” Sapphire mumbled.
“No, I’m the one that should be sorry,” Jack said, holding her up. “Why’d I let go of that grenade?”
“Don’t mope,” Sam shouted. “We’re getting out of here.”
He was right. There was the light at the end of the tunnel. Jack gritted his teeth and sprinted full out for the light, almost running level with Sam.
Sapphire wanted to help. She wanted to be the one running with them. But her leg was still screaming in pain, and even with the burst of adrenaline keeping her awake, she wasn’t sure if she could put weight on it without endangering them. It was a miracle they were avoiding the crushing rocks that fell around them.
The light at the end of the tunnel vanished as rocks tumbled down onto it.
“Okay, our path is blocked,” Jackknife muttered.
Sam took a breath and turned back. “Okay, don’t panic,” Sam said.” There’s gotta be another way out.”
The three looked around, but with the deafening sound of the cave-in, Sapphire couldn’t focus.
“Is this how I’m going to die?” Sapphire asked herself. “Buried in a mine and forgotten? I really should have just gone to the beach.”
“No,” another part of her yelled. “You’re going to be the next great explorer. They got out of worse than this, and so will you! Now find an exit.”
Yanking on the zipper and practically tearing open Jack’s pack, Sapphire snatched his flashlight up and clicked it on. Sapphire shone the light through the smoke and debris. Then she saw the pit they passed earlier. It was still open to them, and the fall didn’t look too steep.
“Into the pit,” Sapphire said. “It has to be better than up here.”
“What if it’s some sort of trap?” Sam asked. “Or just leads to a dead end.”
“I’ll dig us out of here if I have to,” Jack roared. He leaped into the pit.
Sapphire wanted to shut her eyes, but she kept them open and kept shining the light around as they fell. Jack hit the floor with a cry of pain, and she rolled right off of his back. She tumbled down, bouncing off rough, sharp rocks. Then with a splash, she fell into a pool of water.
“My old friend, water!” Jack cheered. A rock smashed right next to him, drenching him in water. “Or not.”
Sam plummeted down next to them. “W-Where are we?” he stammered.
“Underground lake,” Sapphire said, trying to keep herself afloat. But her leg wasn’t responding.
Jack swore again and yanked her head above the water.
“Land, over there!” Sam shouted.
With her injured leg dead to her, Jack and Sam pulled her out of the water. The cloud of ash and dust was replacing the oxygen in the air. All three explorers started to cough and wheeze.
But like the gates of heaven shining out to them, they saw another beam of light in front of a narrow tunnel the river carved through.
“There,” Sam said, coughing. “Come on.”
The three sprinted down the corridor towards the exit, their boots splashing water everywhere. The sound of the cave-in right behind them, and the rocks slipping out from their feet.
If Jack hadn’t been by her side, Sapphire would’ve fallen and been lost to the darkness by now. With Sam leading the way, the beam of light grew larger and brighter.
The ground suddenly nearly fell out from under Jack. He swore as they started to fall into darkness. But then Sam caught them.
“You’re not dying on me yet,” Sam said, pulling them up and towards the light.
But as the three explorers tried to step out of the cave, they saw it. A straight drop to a rocky bottom. No place for them to run out of the mines.
“Well, great,” Jack muttered.
“Chopper, we had to take a side exit,” Sam yelled.
“Hold on,” Sapphire said. She could see the helicopter struggling to get airborne as the earth shook beneath it. She still had the flashlight clenched in her hands. She started flashing Morse code for HELP!
Like the buzzing of a giant bee, the helicopter zoomed right by them, steadying before coming to rest in front of them. The side doors were wide open, and the pilot, Chopper, was waving at them.
“Thank Jupiter,” Sam muttered before turning to the others. “We gotta jump for it.”
“Jack, can you…?” Sapphire asked.
“You kidding me?” Jack asked. “I jump rooftops back in New York and call it fun.”
“Alright, on three,” Sam said, positioning himself.
Jack grinned at Sapphire and she tried to grin back.
“One,” Sam said.
“Two,” Sapphire said.
“Just jump for it,” Jack yelled.
The three leaped for the helicopter as the mine collapsed behind them.
Sapphire hit the brim of the helicopter. Her leg exploded in pain. She let out a gasp and her grip on Jack slipped. She tumbled into the open air and closed her eyes.
She felt hands grab her wrist. She opened her eyes. Jack had grabbed her and grinned.
“Gotcha,” he said.
Sam leaned down and grabbed Jack. With a pained growl, he pulled them both back into the helicopter.
As the helicopter moved away from the collapsing mine, Sapphire put weight on her leg. Instantly, it flared in white hot pain and she collapsed with a pained gasp.
Sam yanked a med kit out from under one of the seats and began looking over her leg.
“Shame about that gold, huh?” Sam asked.
Sapphire gave a tired sigh. Maybe she wasn’t fit to be the next Croft and Drake. She glanced at Jack, who was sitting back with his eyes closed, taking deep breaths.
“You know what?” Sapphire asked.
“Yeah?” Jack replied.
“I’m just going to the beach next time.”