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As we entered the cave it seemed almost impossibly dark. Our eyes still sought the bright summer sunlight that had guided us this far, but now we were on our own.

Head-torches were passed around and fitted over the helmets which had been such a source of  amusement  on  the  way  up  the  gorge.    In  spite  of  all the  headslapping  that  had  gone on  earlier  they  suddenly  seemed  like  a very good idea.  

We were  led  further  into  the  cave and,  slowly  our  eyes began  to  adjust, picking  out  strange  features in  the  rock  and,  mercifully,  guiding  our  hands to the rope fixed reassuringly firmly to the wall beside us.

As  the  darkness  of  the  cave drowned out  the  sun’s  rays  so  too  it  seemed to drown out  our  voices  and we walked  on  in near  silence.    Every  now  and again some  joker  would make  the  sound  of  a  ghost  or  clap  their  hands  to see  how  long  the  echoes  took  to  return.   

Always  a little  too  long  for comfort.  

Further  down,  further  in,  as the  earth  swallowed  us up  the  cold made fingers  numb,  ears  mute,  and our  feeble headlamps became a  lifeline  for our  senses.   

Eventually  the  cave opened  out  into  a cavern,  the  sound  of dripping  water  resounding off  the  walls  so that  it  was hard  to  distinguish the original drips from their echoes as they bounced around.   Our  torches  were  no  more than  cobwebs  threading their  way  across  the vast chasm, announcing our alien presence in this ancient wilderness.  

Then  came  the  command,  “turn  the  lights  off”.    We looked  at  one  another in surprise  –  is  she  for  real?!  “turn  the  lights  off”,  she  said again.  So,  one by  one,  we did.    The  first  few  showing  typical  teenage  bravado,  but  it  was the last light to go out that took real courage.

As  we stood  there  in a darkness  that  was so  all-encompassing  you  could feel  it, the sound of dripping water was replaced by thumping  hearts  and shallow  breaths  then  swoosh,  a  match  was struck  and  the  flame  flickered into  life,  sending  the  darkness  scuttling  off  into  the  distant  corners  of  the cavern  and revealing  once more  the  figures  huddled  just  a  little closer together.

Before  the  match  could  go  out  torches  were  flicked back  on  and  relief  gave way  to bluster  as  we each tried  to  convince  ourselves that  we hadn’t  been just a little scared of the dark.

As  we left  the  cave  the  summer  sun  seemed  almost  impossibly  bright  and the  torches  which just  moments  before  had been  a lifeline  now  seemed  so pointless.    So we tossed  them  back into  the  bag and  headed  down the gorge, quickly taking the light for granted just as we always had.

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