SNARE by Calhoun Crimin (Lucent Dreaming Issue 13)


The body of Theo Wood was located earlier today, having been removed from the fatal tunnel. He had been pushed into what appeared to have been a crystalline grotto, now shattered and crushed by falling rocks. According to eyewitness reports, a hand was visible. It is still unknown whether the body remained whole as mud and rock continued to obscure the view. Brother, Henry Wood was distraught at this discovery, and is reported to have attempted to climb inside the unstable cavern. Luckily, he was caught and restrained by locals at the scene.


It is quiet. Silent, actually, and the front of the cave is marked up with lines of Henry’s blood, and quite possibly bits of his fingers. The man himself is nowhere to be seen. A local speaks in his stead: “The decision to leave Theo entombed in the cave is a difficult one, but we see no other way forward. The cave is hugging that poor man tight. It is as if the earth itself is baiting us, using his corpse to crush anyone who might enter. The cave has won… The cave has won.”


The miner, Casey, shudders and sips at a warm drink, a haunted look in his eyes. He flinches whenever Henry screams, spilling coffee on his hands. Behind him, Henry claws at the blocked entrance until his fingers bleed. “That’s my brother! That’s my brother in there!” he shouts, eyes wide and teeth bared at anyone who gets too close. Two people stepped up to restrain him, and the last one was bitten so hard he cried out for his mother. “Theo! THEO! Can you hear me, Theo!?” For every rock he moves, two fall in its place.


The canteen slips from bloody fingers, landing with a clatter on the rocks. Casey whips around and claws his way back into the tunnel. “Don’t leave me,” Theo begs, even as gravel begins to shift and fill the passage. “Please, God, don’t leave me.” Casey shoves his way into the tunnel and finds he can barely move. He’s forced to drag himself forward by his fingertips. The soft light from the lamp dims behind him, and then winks out as the tunnel collapses. Through the loose rock comes the sound of terrified, muffled sobbing.


The rocks rumble and slide around him, and Casey feels woozy. The ceiling is starting to droop, there are noticeable cracks in the tunnel. It’s going to collapse; Casey is sure he’s going to die, but he can’t leave this man to die of thirst. He can’t. So, he wriggles his way through, drops into the chimney and hurriedly pulls out his canteen. But Theo won’t drink. He won’t drink – there’s a guilty, piteous look in his eyes.


It’s raining, and water is leaking into the cave. For most caves, this is no issue. Slick working conditions are dangerous, but nothing new. This cave is not like most caves. This cave is made up of loose gravel and limestone and mud, and the water is causing it to crumble. The mud holding all the rocks together now slicks the stones, causing loose chunks to tumble from the ceiling. The whole thing is going to collapse sooner rather than later, and Henry can only hope it won’t all come down on Theo’s head.


The crowd is like a flock of hungry birds, waiting to see Theo plucked from the earth like a worm. Henry doubts it matters to them whether his brother is dragged out dead or alive, as long as they’re all around to see it. Useless, the lot of them, except Casey and his ilk. The miners are the only ones brave enough to venture into the cave besides him, and frankly, Henry needs all the help he can get. He can’t pry his brother out on his own, and the cave won’t free Theo without a fight.


There is water, hot coffee, and light. Blessed light. Theo finally comes to, only to find himself in the midst of inhaling a chicken sandwich. “Alright there?” A familiar voice asks, and Theo could sob. His brother, his baby brother Henry, is here. Theo’s eyes feel hot, and his vision blurs. He wants this to be real as much as he wishes the opposite. Henry shouldn’t be down here with him, he’s supposed to protect Henry, not drag him to hell alongside him.
“We’re gonna get you outta here,” Henry says.


It is dark. It is so dark, and the cave is holding him tight in the coldest and most crushing embrace he has ever experienced. Freezing water drips and drips and drips and pools near his head, there is nothing but the sound of it and his own screams. Drip. Drip. Scream. Drip. Drip. Scream. He has been here for hours. He has been here for years. He is trapped and alone and the only peace he finds is when he screams so hard, he passes out.


The most difficult part of the cave requires a literal leap of faith. There is a chasm about ten feet long, with a tiny passage at the bottom, big enough for him to push his feet into. His lantern reflects onto the grotto on the other side, sending prisms of light all the way through. He wriggles into the tunnel, feet first. His ankles vanish into the rock, then his knees, then his hips. When he is chest-deep, he is finally far enough along to start widening the gap. Then a rock drops onto his knee.


It is not abnormal to spend whole days at the cave, emerging for only food and water. There is at least half a ton of loose rock between him and the grotto that he must move by hand. Theo shuffles into the cavern, squeezing his way through to the first tunnel. He must squirm like a snake, headfirst with arms trapped at his sides to make it through. But he has made this trip many times before, and he keeps calm, paddling his feet even as the rocks compress his chest and force the air out.


The morning is bright, the breeze crisp, and Theo is feeling energized. It is an excellent day to go caving. Perhaps today is the day he will reach the grotto. He saw a glimpse of it once, all the glimmering crystals catching the light of his

Calhoun Crimin holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Portland State University. They live and work in Beaverton, OR, often haunting their local library. They are rarely seen without their steadfast dog, Luka.

T: @CalhounCrimin | I: @calhouncrimin

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