This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Start writing here…It was my first visit to Jenolan caves, the magnificent collection of limestone caves to the west of Sydney, and my second outing with Liam. He was very tall, which was great as I am almost six feet and gangly with it! My eyes are grey and I have straight, fair hair; not exactly the star of any man’s fantasy. That being so, I was pleasantly surprised when Liam, who has kind brown eyes and a really nice smile, had begun to talk to me in the bookshop where I worked. He asked me out for coffee. We sat in the cafe next to the shop and he told me he worked in the offices next door. We talked, at least I did, (it’s an awful habit I have when I’m nervous,) but he didn’t seem to mind. A few days later he suggested that we should visit the caves that weekend.
In the 1960s the caves were not brightly lit as they are now; no coloured lights enhancing the formations, just a guide with a torch and some rather dim general lighting in the actual caves. The guide used his torch to show us the way through the tunnels and to highlight the most interesting formations. These limestone caves, he told us, were the oldest in the world and were a closely guarded secret for many years.
The stalagmites and stalactites were amazing, some incredibly huge, others very tiny. There was a huge white column which had formed when a stalagmite and stalactite had joined. The guide called it Lot’s wife. It did resemble a pillar of salt. Other formations, as the stalactites grew down close together from the roof of a cave, looked like organ pipes, and there was one amazing formation that hung down in folds like an angel’s wing. This was translucent when the guide shone his torch over it. The guide said that the angel guarded the cave. He told us of bushrangers hiding out in here during the early colonial days, and also frightening tales of people finding the caves accidentally, and getting lost in the complex, never to be seen again. It was all quite spooky.
It was damp and cold and I was glad of my thick jacket. Liam was wrapped up warm too, with a woollen scarf and warm fleecy coat. Except when holding a railing for safety, I kept my hands in my pockets. I had rather hoped Liam might put his arm around me to keep me warmer, but he obviously felt shy. This was only our first real date after all.
We were in a very large cave and standing close to the wall. I spotted a hole in the rock beside me and turned to examine it. Deep inside, tiny stalagmites grew upward, looking like groups of little people gossiping together. Just above them, small stalactites hung, most with a tiny drop of limestone rich water at the tip. The guide had explained that the tiny drops fell every now and again, landing on the point of the stalagmite, solidifying and increasing its height. Eventually the two would join forming a pillar. The guide was talking, but I was so engrossed, that I only heard him say something about standing very still and telling the children, ‘No talking. Hold hands.’ He then said, ‘When I switch off, you will experience absolute blackness.’ I stood up, and the light went out.
Blackness was exactly what it was; a deep, dense, suffocating darkness. It felt sinister, soulless, as if something primeval was out there watching, waiting in the unearthly silence. Isolated, shaking and terrified, I reached out for Liam and stretched up to where his ear should be. Despite the ‘No talking’ rule, I whispered, ‘I’m scared.’ He wrapped his arms around me and stroked my hair. I raised my face and felt his warm breath. He put his hand under my chin and kissed me gently. It was so beautiful and comforting. I relaxed against his chest. Enfolded in his protective embrace, feeling the warmth of him, my fears vanished. I thought, I could truly love this man.
At the sound of the guide’s voice we sprang apart.
‘Alright,’ he said, ‘awesome isn’t it?’ And the light went on. I felt an inexplicable sadness.
It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the brightness. I stared. Liam was directly in front of me, smiling over the heads of two children. He walked around them saying. ‘Well that was something, eh?’ I nodded. I stood stunned. Involuntarily I turned. An elderly woman was standing beside me, with a much younger girl who was wearing a hooded parka. I looked around the rest of the group. He had been tall like Liam. No-one in the group was as tall as Liam.
When the tour was over, we sat having a much needed, hot coffee in the cafe, close to the entrance to the caves. I tried to make sense of it. ‘Liam,’ I asked. ‘Were you beside me when the light went out?’ He looked surprised.
‘No,’ he said. ‘I had just walked across to look at some red pillars and you were crouched down looking at something in the wall. The guide said not to talk, and switched the light off before I knew it. I couldn’t move about in that darkness. You were okay though, weren’t you?’
I was speechless. Who was the man? Where was he?
Was he even there?
Val McMurray© 2016
Jessie: I wrote a review on fanfiction but I thought it would be fitting to write on on here too :) This story was honestly stunning. I am a budding writer myself and to read this- to FEEL this- reminded me of why I am honoured to have this passion and drive for a craft that is just so raw and beautiful.
Tanya Daigle Rusheon: This book is a long and twisty tale full of sweet romance, adorable fluff, anxiousness, trust issues, mind games, things that don't make sense until suddenly they do, heartache and reconciliation just when you need it the most. If that all sounds a bit vague, it's because I really don't want to s...
ianwatson: The comedy is original and genuinely funny, I have laughed out loud many times reading this book. But the story and the plot are also really engaging. The opening two or three chapters seem quite character-dense but they all soon come to life and there is no padding, filling or wasted time readin...
ernbelle: When I first started this story I was a little unsettled by all of the information that appears in the prologue, and wasn't sure if I would continue. However, I am very glad I did. The plot was very well thought out and really interesting. There were not any page breaks or markers to acknowledge ...
Jevron Macalino: You started the story after Chuck Vs. the Fake Name happened and I like your version more than I like the original one. The five or so episodes after the fake name should not have happened that is why I like your version better. I hope you will continue writing Chuck & Sarah's story from where y...
Lea Sutherland-Doane: I love this story and it hurts me that it is on a cliff hanger. Please write the next story fast so I can enjoy more of your wonderful writing skills. Your writing skills are amazing and I cannot wait to read the sequel, I promise that this is the best book I have ever read and I love it will al...
Kastril Nomenclature: What a fascinating work: a photo that seems to reveal a strange figure in the window of an old hotel leads to a mystery about a missing page of Queen Victoria's diary! This is a mystery in the best sense, with small clues leading to bigger ones, all of them building one upon the other to the quie...
JanThompson: This book gives a beautiful description of a country which one rarely gets to see. The contrast between rich and poor is very evident too.The storyline actually sheds a compelling light on why women in certain countries sell themselves just to help their families or even to survive themselves. I ...
Carolyn Hahn-Re: I really liked this story! The writing was well done, and the plot was suspenseful. I couldn't stop reading chapter after chapter, on the edge of my seat! The characters were well developed, and true to form. Thank you so much for this wonderful read.
FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"
Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."