Things had been calm since the last incident but we definitely weren’t. We anticipated a new crisis a any time, so much so that we arrived a day early at our destination. Hopping to outrun our faith maybe. There it was, the gaping hole in which I was about to pour my last hopes of success.
The fear in her eyes had diluted and she seemed curious, excited, slightly worried. There was no discussion about exploring the ruins overhanging the pit to our left although it was obvious she would have loved to roam through the outlandish structures. Even though there wasn’t much left for the eye the few walls and arches that had not plunged into the precipice were intact. The collapse had coated the entire area in a fine dust that settled quickly in the perfectly still air, never to be lifted again.
It was a relief to see my footsteps from the last attempt. Reassuring me that it wasn’t all a dream nor a distorted memory. They went down awn in a steep trail and onto a low outcrop from which the wall went down almost vertically. There, was a convenient crack that still had the anchor from my last decent wedged in it. The anchor had visibly moved from my fall, the sharp metal teeth leaving long parallel scratches in the deep black surfaces. Thankfully it held on. More surprisingly there was a piece of rope still attached to it. It ran straight on the floor up to the edge where it looked like it had been torn quite violently. As we sat against the wall for one last meal the questions started rising from the silence.
I liked the silence. There is a comforting numbness in the deliberate actions of a well planned expedition. But Vraenk was different and that rope was the grain of sand in my well oiled machine.
“So you fell in, right?” She asked. Yes, or at least this is what I had told her. “And how long was that rope?” My records said 115 meters although I never brought it back with me. I did not remember leaving it there either. I felt anguish rising in my stomach and a faint headache growing amongst my thoughts. I felt like I was lying to her yet I did not know what I was hiding. “What? How did you survive that?” Did my bag fall or just my harness? No I came back with those. What happened to this horrible piece of rope? It was torn and twisted like a limb ripped off an agonizing beast. It was ugly, painful. I hated it. I wanted to be gone. I wanted to be anywhere but there. With my hands untied and my head empty. I needed this to end one way or another. My legs were now shaking but shaking but I tried to get up. She held me down and I resisted. She covered my eyes and from there on I did not understand what was happening.
I gained consciousness suddenly. I knew where I was and I dreaded the thought of going back to the mission but now the curiosity was back. I felt better and despite the gag in my mouth I made a noise. She hesitated, understandably. Some time must have been since I blacked out. Maybe she had to hold me down for a while.
I got lost in the feeling of her hair on my face while she took the ropes off. Then the helmet came off and finally my blindfold and the piece of cloth that stopped me from biting myself. “Are you ok?” She didn’t ask if I still wanted to do this, thankfully. She knew what to expect, however scary it was and did her best to contain her fear. I was now focused and in an indeterminate amount of time everything was set up. I was harnessed and she took care of replacing the rope with the new 1000 meter tether. A compact manual winch would give her the mechanical advantage to bring down into the unknown and back up into the world’s bowels.