“Did you ever take anyone else to see the cave where the Murklor lived?”
That one simple sentence was like opening a floodgate. Dr. McGrath posed it and then just sat back and waited while I reeled from the bombardment of childhood memories that swarmed through my brain.
We waited till after lunch to meet up at the edge of the woods on the trail. Our parents wouldn’t expect us home until dinner time so that gave us a good five hours to make it to the cave and back. I was the one who discovered the cave; Eric and Nate hadn’t been there yet. I had actually been to the cave several times. I didn’t tell them about the Murklor. The Murklor had told me that he wanted to introduce himself in his own way. Left to his own devices, Eric would have never gone for this excursion. The only reason he was going was because Nate and I had insisted. He had voiced all manner of reservations and reasons why it was a bad idea, but, in the end, we drug him along. Nate, on the other hand, was all in. He was the most rebellious one of us and when I had brought it up, he was ready to leave immediately. I was the one who had to convince him that we should wait till after lunch so that our parents wouldn’t get suspicious.
Eric, always the thinker, had brought a backpack with a bottle of water and some snacks. He acted as if we were going on a two-day journey. The only thing Nate brought was a small radio. He was the music lover of the group and liked to have his rock ‘n roll wherever he went. I brought a hatchet and a flashlight. The two looked at the hatchet questioningly as I met them at the trail head. “The cave isn’t on any trail,” I explained. “The woods get pretty thick leading to it and we’ll need to clear a path.”
“Then how did you find it?” Eric asked.
“I was lost. I was trying to get up the rocks to get a better view of the park so I could find the trail again when I stumbled across it,” I lied, but it sounded good enough to keep them from prying further.
“Well, then, let’s get going,” Nate said turning on his radio.
We walked and talked and joked and sang and the afternoon was warm and pleasant. When we got to the place where we left the trail I deliberately took a path I hadn’t taken before so I could keep up the ruse of using the hatchet to clear limbs from our path. As we got close to the cave there was a change in the atmosphere. Suddenly the aura became somber. A shadow passed over the forest and things felt chillier and the trees pressed upon us more. The strains of Pink Floyd’s Careful with that Axe Eugene filled the air giving the scene a surreal vibe.
We stood before the cave opening and the Murklor hissed. I sensed Eric’s unease but Nate kept up a show of bravado. The Murklor stirred its appendages and a sticky, slithering sound escaped the darkness. I think Eric would have run at that point but I stood behind him urging him forward. Banded together, our fears were harder to act upon. It’s odd how the company of others will do that. Our trio edged into the cave mouth with the flashlight thrust before us like a mighty sword. The Murklor was not the least bit intimidated by us. If anything, he found us amusing.
A low, rumbling chuckle flowed down the passageway as the Murklor came to greet its new guests.