I awoke to the familiar smell of salt. The noise of a slow, gurgling tide gradually climbing its way towards me acted as my alarm clock. As much as I loved sleeping by the entrance, this would always put me off. I hauled myself up and rubbed my eyes. My body ached but this was not uncommon. It had been a long day. I walked over to the cave wall and cupped my hands against it. This wall cried cold, fresh spring water, and as a result, a thin blanked of moss had formed over the rock. My hand filled with tears. I splashed my face. Refreshing. Wiping the grit and salt from my eyes was like removing a veil. I could see better now.
As I jostled over the rocks at the back of the cave, I turned my head around to the entrance, which now seemed small and obscure. I could hear the fishermen shouting to each other. I turned my head and began manoeuvring over the rocks. This was the easy part, a short journey down the pinnacle of rocks that, to any outsider, appeared to be the end of the cave. Once at the bottom I clapped my hands together to wipe off the reminisce of slimy moss still clinging to my skin. It was pitch dark down here. I was always more comfortable when deprived of my senses – I’ve often wondered why this is. Perhaps it’s because this is what I’m used to. It felt natural. Primal.
I fumbled around by a wall for the torches I knew I’d left here the day before. I had propped them up against a small rock. I felt the drift-wood handle of my torch. It was empty and dead. Coated in a crusty layer of dried salt. I exhaled with relief. Digging around by the small rock I found my matches. Unwrapping the plastic bag was always nerve-wracking for me. How many matches were left? How long before I have to venture beyond the entrance? Without the incandescent light of my torch, my hands were responsible for vision. One, two, three, four. I felt the wood of each matchstick, then the soft, clay like substance that provided my ever essential fire. “Four matches.” I said to myself. I pulled one out and, holding my torch in one hand, I struck the matchstick against the side of it’s box. The sharp hissing sound of the match igniting brought the hairs up on my neck. I moved the small flame to the side of my torch and set it ablaze. Immediately, the cave lit up with a bright, orange hue. The crackle of dry material burning, and the smell of dead grass. Smokey.
I could see where I was going now. I continued down to the small hole. Getting on my knees and cautiously holding my torch in front of me I slid my way through. For the first few weeks this hole bothered me, it was tight and jagged. But like most things in your regular life, eventually, this task became routine; and now, I found comfort in this. The hole widened out at the end, and eventually I could stand. This section of the cave floods at night, so the ground was slippery. I waved my torch down by my feet to examine the ground. There was no moss here.
I didn’t like this part. This wasn’t comforting or natural. I knew, however, It had to be done. As I approached the other side, his breathing intensified. With each step I took closer and closer, his breathing became louder and more extreme. I could hear the phlegm stuck in his throat as he inhaled. I was scared. I was always scared. I stood at the other side. Looking up, my torch, casting orange light not far enough for me to even see him. This was my job. This is what I must do and it was, as of late, all I knew.