The Cave Chapter 4
The Cave Chapter 4
Xu Hongqi had just seen the most beautiful woman in the world and immediately fell in love. She was absolutely gorgeous. He couldn’t help but to just look at her. Tiny, effeminate hands with nails that seemed, even from a distance, to be perfectly manicured, turned into beautiful and petite arms of the purest alabaster. Her face was simply something not of this world, exquisitely formed perfection inside the frame of her luxuriously shiny ebony hair, not a strand seemed out of place. Almond eyes that he felt he could stare at forever, the right shade of cherry red lipstick complimented her almost heart-shaped lips. Is this woman a goddess? She seemed not of this world.
When the earth started quaking he barely noticed, absolutely mesmerized by her beauty. He was only slightly aware that the other three people in the vicinity seemed to get alarmed. It was only when she seemed uncomfortable that he once again noticed his surroundings and reflexively steadied himself. Even so, he didn’t remove his gaze from her, and left the smile glued to his face.
He must have her. It felt right, like all the love poems he read, this was destiny to meet this woman in here, at this time. She must become his.
He was here with his parents. They seemed to be worried about him not doing well at university. He had fallen in love with a stupid whore, and when he couldn’t have her, had stopped attending his classes. He tried to show his love, tried to get her, but she tricked him into falling in love with him, just to tease him, to hurt him.
Meijiao had been nice to him at first, talking to him in their shared English class. She even tricked him into attending a training school with her to better their English ability. But soon, she changed. She started spending less time with him, and chose to spend time with other people!
He had gone over to her apartment once. She had her own apartment off campus, as it seemed her parents were wealthier than his. She had two friends there when he arrived. They were female, but he still felt the sting of jealousy. Why would Meijiao need to spend time with others? Why couldn’t he be enough?
The three girls seemed uncomfortable once he arrived. Meijiao tried to smile, and be friendly, but he was upset. He had come over unannounced, but that was his right. He was in love.
“Hongqi, we need to leave. We have plans to go to the cinema,” she had said.
“I love you, Meijiao.”
This caused the other two to giggle, only until he glared at them. Then they began to look uncomfortable again.
“We need to leave.”
“Fine, leave. I will wait for you here.”
“Why didn’t you invite me? Why go with these stupid whores?” It was unfair. Why did she not invite him? He was in love with her, couldn’t she see?
Ultimately one of the girls called the police, so Hongqi left. He waited outside for hours and hours, waited for Meijiao to return. Finally, he went home, but started to go to her apartment more frequently.
Soon, she stopped answering the door. So, he took to waiting out there at all hours of the night. Occasionally knocking on the door, but always waiting. He wanted to get in, force her to listen to him. If she listened to him, he felt sure that he could convince her that they should be together.
She had stopped attending the training school, but he knew that she still had more classes. He continued to lurk outside in her hallway. He had taken to sitting in the stairwell, only occasionally looking in the hallway or walking by her door. Finally, one night he was able to catch her coming home.
Unfortunately, she was too quick. She saw him and managed to unlock her door and get inside before he reached her. He was furious. Now she wouldn’t come out for who knew how long? He went back to the stairwell, to wait and brood.
He didn’t have long to wait. But it was not her who came. It was one of the foreign teachers who came to talk to him. It was the American, Tommy. Hongqi pretended to listen. He apologized, after being lectured by the laowai. Yes, he shouldn’t bother girls. Yes, he shouldn’t wait outside her apartment all night. Yes, he wouldn’t do it anymore. He was all agreement, polite, it was what always got older people to believe him.
When he knocked on Meijiao’s door the next night, it wasn’t her who answered. It wasn’t Tommy or one of the girls he had seen her with. It was a big guy. The man took him by his shirt and forcefully pushed him against the wall.
“You will not come here again! You will not bother Meijiao anymore! Understand?”
Hongqi confirmed that he understood and apologized. It didn’t seem to affect the man the way it affected others. Usually by acting meek and complacent, evoking sympathy, he could manipulate others. It wasn’t working with this man.
“If I hear that you have come here again, I will fucking kill you,” the man said. “Leave my cousin alone!”
Even though Hongqi was being pressed up against the wall and his chest was beginning to hurt, he was relieved that this man was not a boyfriend, but a relative. He was almost happy to hear that news. It meant that he could still find a way to get Meijiao to be his.
Hongqi didn’t return to Meijiao’s apartment. He had every intention of doing it, but he had to figure out a better way to approach the situation, to get her. He stopped attending school, both the university and the training school held no interest for him. He spent all his time thinking of Meijiao and how he could get her. Unfortunately, his parents came to pick him up when the university called them due to his long absence.
His parents seemed to think that he needed some family time, so they took him to the Disney World in Shanghai, then planned several excursions on the drive back to Wuhan, Taiji Cave being one of them.
He had thought of Meijiao a bit in the cave, but he was letting the experience get to him. It was beautiful, the cave, the lights, everything. It was enjoyable to spend some time with his parents. He had forgotten about his mother’s beautiful smile, his father’s strict, but loving demeanor. Maybe it was not so bad to spend a little time with his parents, before pursuing his love.
All thoughts of Meijiao seemed to evaporate when he saw the beautiful woman. And…she was extraordinarily beautiful. When the strange man spoke to her it was in Japanese. That was okay. He would learn Japanese to be with her. It mattered little.
However, something soon happened that upset Hongqi. When the earth shook a second time, she held onto the man a little tightly. Something about the way they looked at each other led him to believe that it was not her cousin, not her friend, not her brother. He knew that it was her lover.
A strong pang of jealousy hit Hongqi. Life was full of so many obstacles. The man was nothing more, just some thing in his way to perfect happiness.
Hongqi stopped smiling but did not take his eyes off the girl.
Tommy and Shawn might not have made it to the bottom of the stairs if the earth and rocks hadn’t compacted so tightly behind the boulder. The large boulder had cracked and the pieces had come tumbling down after them. When they realized that they wouldn’t make it, they stopped at the benches that marked the halfway point. There was slightly more room there, behind the benches on either side of the tunnel. Almost instinctively, without speaking to each other they both took a side and prepared for impact, trying to push themselves into their individual concaved, cavernous compartments as much as flesh and stone would allow.
Shawn was luckily left completely unscathed. The largest piece of the boulder crushed the stone bench on Tommy’s side, sending up a shard of stone that tore open Tommy’s cheek. He didn’t dare to put his hand to his cheek for several moments, leaving his arms plastered to the side of the cave.
It wasn’t so bad after that. The rest of the rubble had compacted enough behind the stone that very little of it came following the remnants of the boulder.
“You all right?” Asked Shawn.
Tommy nodded and then put his hand to his cheek. “How does it look?”
Shawn got in closer. “Not so bad, you may need a few stitches though. You’re still ugly as all hell.”He then smiled, feeling almost giddy for having survived yet another close call. “I’m surprised I haven’t shit my pants yet,” he said.
“Don’t be. The day ain’t over yet.”
They continued down the stairs until they came to what was left of the largest piece of rock. It had wedged itself again in a narrow part of the tunnel. However, it was less than a third of the size of the last time it stuck and they were both easily able to climb up over it.
After a few more minutes they arrived at the bottom of the stairs and the cave opened up significantly into a large area.
Guo was beginning to be able to breathe well again. The second rumbling of the earth seemed less damaging than the first. It didn’t affect him or the tour guide at all, enclosed in their minimal area. Guo had a cellular phone, but he had left it on the bus, along with most of his stuff.
The tour guide pulled out her phone to use the torch feature. A large stone was directly in front of them, with smaller rocks and rubble surrounding it, and imprisoning them. They really only had six or seven cubic meters of space in there.
His son, his daughter-in-law, his grandson, his grandson’s girlfriend, the little boy who cried and yelled for the entire bus journey, the kind woman who smiled at him, the other older gentleman who had sat next to him on the bus, the overweight bald man who had taken up two seats, and maybe twenty or so more people were all dead, buried under the rubble that he was looking at from the light of the woman’s phone. Even if he could physically dig through the debris to get out, he wondered if he could do it emotionally. He had seen too much death in his lifespan, and he didn’t want to see any more.
He thought of his granddaughter, always happy, never negative. He wondered if her personality would change when she heard what happened to the rest of her family. He hoped not. He and her father had done their best to give her a happy life. Now, it all seemed for naught.
“Do you have a signal on your phone?” the woman asked him.
Guo realized that she had been talking for a few moments and only caught the last question as it ripped him out of his thoughts. “It’s on the bus.”
“Do you think we could dig out of here?”
“I don’t think that’s a possibility. I believe that we have at least several meters of that in front of us. For all we know, the entire cave has collapsed.”
The woman looked to be on the verge of tears. “What can we do?”
Guo sighed, slowly got down on his hands and knees and started attempting to remove the rubble. It seemed futile. Even if they could get through, and it was only a few meters, they would have to displace it repeatedly, there was only so much room to put it. They would have to fill up the empty space with rocks, then do it over and over. Guo had lived a long life through several bad events and he hadn’t quit. It didn’t seem like he should go ahead and quit now just because he was old and sad.
“You need to stop doing that.”The woman seemed quite serious now, her self pity all but gone, replaced by a stern look.
“It’s probably impossible, but we won’t know until we try. We shouldn’t give up on ourselves so easily. Don’t you want to get out of here?
“I want very much to get out of here, but that’s not the reason you should stop. I am not quitting on life, I am trying to preserve it.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are breathing heavier when you exert yourself.”
“Yes,”Guo said, confused. He began to think the woman was thinking he was too old and frail to help, too old to work, too old to breathe heavily. “I won’t overburden myself. Besides, if I die, at least I will die attempting to live.”
“I’m sorry, but you are missing the point. If you breathe heavily you use more oxygen. We already have a limited supply. Every time we exhale, we are poisoning our own breathable air.”
That thought hadn’t occurred to him. He had survived many situations in the past and suddenly realized that he wouldn’t survive this one. He slowly returned to his feet, bones creaking, muscles aching. “You are right. I didn’t think of that.”
He began looking around the cave for something...anything that he could use. He found an old Coke can. It wasn’t perfect, but it would have to do.
“You had better save your battery. You may need it later.” Guo said, as he bent down to pick up the can.
The woman continued to look at him.
“Turn off the light.”
A coldness started to creep over Phil, invading his body slowly, first with a slight chill, then getting progressively colder. He tried to remember what the temperature outside was, but couldn’t, leading him to the conclusion that it was quite average and not at all extreme and the same was his memory of his brief time in the cave before the collapse.
Phil knew enough about biology to know what was happening to his body. In a normal, healthy mammal, the immune system worked to regulate body temperature. However, with an ill or injured animal, the immune system became busy dealing with the illness or injury, basically disregarding the normal task of regulating body temperature.
The pain in his arm was excruciating, barely allowing him to think about anything else. His thoughts were strung together raggedly in between involuntarily concentrating on the pain for several moments at a time. The fact that he could even feel that his body temperature was lowering, despite the pain, didn’t bode well for the extent of his injuries.
“Hello?” he tried again, the volume of his voice lower than before, weaker, as though he was already submitting to death.
Trying to be positive, Phil thought, at least my head and neck aren’t hurting yet.