So, we’re on Part Eight of the Eric and Peter saga. If you want to catch up, you can start at the very beginning or find everything here under Fiction. But here’s a bit of what’s happened so far: Peter and Jen (Wong) are married with two kids and living in Reno. What Jen doesn’t know is that Peter had a brief love affair with Eric when they were in their 20’s and living on Kauai. Peter and Eric were planning on opening up a business, and Peter thought everything was fine and dandy, but it turns out Eric wanted to dump him. Unfortunately, Eric’s a big wuss and couldn’t do it on his own, so he did what any self-respecting coward would do — called Peter’s dad! Twenty years later, Eric is with Jason in Honolulu. And now Eric’s having a moral/midlife crisis over what he did 20 years ago.
After an hour of hard paddling, Eric was finally close enough to start seeing details in the island. More vertical than horizontal, it was just one of many giant rocks that stuck out of the ocean like the tips of some drowning giant’s fingers.
Eric rested his paddle on the front of his kayak and studied the looming tower in front of him. Lush, green foliage blanketed the top of the limestone rock. He could just make out a small opening on the left, hopefully big enough for him and his kayak to get through.
He closed his eyes and let the ocean waves rock him as he stretched his back. This was the most relaxed he’d felt since he’d come to Thailand three weeks ago. Bangkok’s temples and nightlife were usefully distracting, but once he stepped off the boat that brought him from Phuket to the tiny island of Ko Phi Phi, he knew he’d made the right decision. It was as if the sand shot energy straight through his feet the moment he set foot on it.
His arms burned as he pulled the paddle through the water. It felt good to work through a little pain again. By the time he reached the opening in the rock, he felt happily tired.
The local who pointed him toward this place was right. He steered his boat through the opening. On the other side, the cave opened up like a concert hall. He let the kayak drift until it finally ran aground. He jumped out, sloshed through shin-high water, and pulled the boat onto the smooth, rock platform.
He grabbed his water bottle out of the boat and looked around. It was light. Wait, it was light. Of course it was light. There were holes throughout the walls of the cave. Years of beating waves and harsh storms had molded and punched through these rocks, making them into giant pieces of Swiss cheese. Cave divers loved them. And they held hidden beaches. Secret passages. And even hidden treasure — if hunting and climbing for bird’s nests to sell for bird’s nest soup sounded like a good time.
Eric made his way up through the caverns. He ran his hands over the smooth limestone and looked up at the stalactites.
How strange that they didn’t seem dangerous even though they were so heavy and sharp. How beautiful. And yet they were pointed straight down at him…
By the time he noticed he was slipping, it was too late. His feet were over the edge of the rock wall, and his hands had no time to grab onto anything. He felt his feet break through water and then touch solid ground almost immediately. He fell back, drenching his whole body and skimming the back of his head on the wall opposite the one he’d fallen down.
His hands quickly felt around him, searching for something to hold onto so he could right himself. He caught the wall and stood up. He coughed, tried to catch his breath, and in one quick motion, surveyed the area around him.
Through an opening above him, the blue sky gleamed, showing him exactly how screwed he was. He was in a hole. Ten by ten. At least twelve feet deep. Smooth walls. Barely any handholds. But too wide to brace himself and climb out. And up to his waist in water.
Eric ran his hands through his hair and over his face. Felt the back of his head. A small cut left watered down blood on his fingers. He felt around his chest and shorts. Damn it. He hadn’t brought anything from the boat.
And nobody knew he was here.
He felt along the walls, so impressively smooth before his fall. Now they teased him as he searched for an imperfection. Somewhere. Anywhere.
Finally, a small ridge. Just about a foot above his head. He pressed into the crevice with the tips of his right hand and took a deep breath. The moment he pulled down, his fingers slipped from their perch, and he fell backward. He’d barely gotten a leg up out of the water.
Again. Left hand. Right hand. Search for a different hold one more time. This time it’ll work.
You’re frying your arms. You’re screwed.
Don’t say that.
This is never going to work. You can’t hold on. It’s too slippery.
Well what the hell do you want me to do? Just give up?
Yeah. Just give up. It’s what you’re good at.
Shut up. Shut up. I don’t always give up.
Really? Oh really? Name one thing you’ve finished. Name one thing you’ve done that means something.
I do this. I do this on my own.
What, kayaking? This is bullshit. You think this is brave? You think this takes some sort of depth of character. Hell, this is just one more example of what you do best.
It’s what you’ve always done best.
Shut up! Shut up, Shut up, Shut up!!!
Eric rested the top of his head on the wall. His palms pushed against it, willing it to move.
Sucks to not be able to run away. Doesn’t it.
He slammed his palms against the rock and screamed. The sound echoed through the cave. Eric stared down into the water. He could see the reflection of startled birds as they shot up into the sky.
“Hey, are you okay down there?”
Eric jerked his head up to see a man and woman in their 50s, standing at the edge of the hole.
“No! No! I’m trapped!”
“Well, don’t worry. We’ll get you out of there,” he said.
“It’s a good thing we decided to come out here today instead of tomorrow,” the man said as he helped pull Eric up and over the edge. Eric got to his feet and looked at them. His body began to shake uncontrollably and the stalactites swayed in front of his eyes.
“You’d better sit down, buddy” said the man. He brought Eric some water and a banana. The woman crouched down.
“It’s okay,” she said, looking into his eyes. “You’re out now. You’re safe. You’re not trapped anymore.” She put her hand on his arm. “Honey, you did everything you could. You did everything right.”
Eric reached out and clung to her. For a moment, she held her hands away from him. Then she let them rest on his back and held him while he cried.
Read Part 9: The Pickup
This week’s prompt: Stuck in a rut
March is greeen, but winter still comprises 2/3 of the month. Spring is not until the tail end. So this prompt ensures our character is stuck in a (metaphorical or literal, you decide) muddy rut: frozen in a place that despite all his/her inner urgings, s/he can’t move forward or look backward.
Why? Describe the inertia using dialog, imagery, whatever it takes.
And be sure to check out my fellow femmes: