Kyle swam back out through the opening of the cave, being careful to steer clear of the catfish. He didn’t quite have his bearings, so he decided to swim directly up to the surface and then across to where he had left the cooler—that way, he wouldn’t have to use as much oxygen.
He flipped off the flashlight, in case the helicopter was nearby, and swam upward. It only took him a couple of minutes to reach the surface. When his head emerged into the cool night air, he at once heard the sound of choppers. He saw nothing but darkness, however. He was disoriented for a moment, then realized he was facing the cliffs.
When he turned the other way, his heart sank.
A helicopter had landed on the shore, right in the spot where he had left the cooler. Beyond it, there were other lights, men, vehicles. He could hear dogs barking faintly.
They had found the jeep, too.
Now what? Kyle thought, his mind racing ahead. There was another helicopter to his left, this one shining its searchlight along the edge of the cliffs, and another about a half-mile away, also moving in his direction.
He dunked his head back under the water and descended again.
A few minutes later, Kyle made his way back into the cavern where Briana was, still wearing all the scuba gear, except for the fins. The mask was hanging around his neck.
Briana didn’t even notice him. She was standing waist-high in the pool, completely naked, her wounds now gone, spinning around in circles, her arms outstretched, eyes closed, singing softly to herself. He watched her for a few minutes, spellbound. He had never seen anything so beautiful.
She suddenly stopped, aware of his presence, and opened her eyes. When she saw him, she covered her breasts with her arms, looking self-conscious.
“Where’s the cooler?” she said.
“It’s...it’s in the other room,” Kyle said, motioning over his shoulder.
“Oh,” she said. She seemed to sense something was wrong, but this only lasted momentarily. She was soon lost in her euphoria again. She smiled and lowered her arms, then spun around and around, slinging glowing green droplets in every direction. “I feel wonderful!” she shrieked.
He watched her play for a few minutes, knowing that she was happier than he had ever seen her in his life. A lump formed in his throat.
“Brie?” he said softly.
She stopped splashing. “Yeah?”
“I love you.”
Her eyes, now green as emeralds, widened with surprise. “I know that!” She grinned, then spun around again, flinging one arm up towards the ceiling. A stream of the phosphorescent water streaked through the air like a green meteor. She started singing again, becoming completely engrossed in her euphoria.
He watched her play for a few more minutes, then slowly made his way back to the opening that led to the first room.
He took one last, long look at her, and he left.
Kyle swam out through the cave’s opening and set the flashlight on an algae-covered rock that was about twenty feet away. The catfish was still there, as if guarding the entrance. Kyle positioned the flashlight so that its beam shone back against the crevice. He spotted a tree branch that was stuck in the mud on the bottom, and swam down to pull it free. He glided back up to the opening and stuck the end of the branch underneath the boulder he had seen earlier.
He hesitated only for a moment, considering what he was about to do, then began to pull on the branch. At first, he thought the boulder wouldn’t budge, but after a few grunts and kicks, he managed to gain enough leverage with the branch to rock it back and forth a little bit. Tiny swirls of mud fell away from underneath it. He kept rocking it, driving himself against the tree branch with all his might in a steady, rhythmic motion.
All at once, there was a deep, cracking sound.
The boulder slid sideways a few inches, but stopped again. He started to give it another push, but it suddenly broke free and tumbled downward, as if in slow motion. Kyle scrambled to get out of its way. It slammed against the rock ledge that formed part of the cave opening, then rolled over again. There was a long, grinding rumble as it slid across the opening.
It finally came to a stop, completely sealing the crevice.
Kyle gazed at it for a moment, tears in his eyes, and then picked up the flashlight and swam towards the surface. He could see searchlights above him, crisscrossing the water. He turned and started to swim horizontally, following the edge of the cliffs, breathing slowly and steadily through the regulator. He would swim and swim and swim, as long as the oxygen would last, until he was far away from the searchlights and the helicopters and all the government men.
And then he would walk.
END OF BOOK 1
Special thanks goes to author Dax Tucker for his excellent proofreading of this book.
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