They got up and started slowly towards what looked like the entrance to the cave. Kgatwe was now safely back in Lesedi’s pocket. It was eerily quiet with not the faintest sound of life. No insects, no flies, no birds. As they got closer to the entrance they could see two enormous figures that seemed to be standing on either side guarding it.
Lesedi stopped, eyes wide. “Scorpions!” he whispered. He was very nervous of scorpions, having once been stung by one, and these were ginormous.
Lorato looked hard at the figures. “They’re made of stone!” he said at last.
Lesedi was starting to get a strong sense of evil. It was emanating from the cave and he did not want to go in there. He knew, however, that that was where they had to go because that was where the ivory palm nut was, or was it the stone? He hadn’t got around to that question and now obviously wasn’t the time. They approached cautiously. Nothing moved. Stopping at the entrance the scorpion tails loomed above them. Lesedi got this creepy feeling down his back; he could swear they were watching them. Slowly they moved inside. The ground underfoot was like fine talcum powder and puffed up as they walked, making them want to cough and sneeze. As they moved into the cave it became darker and darker. Lorato was eventually forced to pull out a candle and light it, sending their shadows dancing eerily around them.
Lesedi looked up. “There’s no ceiling!” he said. Then they both stopped, listening. “What’s that?”
“Sounds like a strong wind coming towards us,” said Lorato, ears straining. Suddenly he grabbed Lesedi and pulled him down into the dust. “Bats!” he shouted. “Put your head down!” As he said this the candle blew out and fell to the floor. It was now pitch dark and they could hear the bats flapping and whirling around them. Lesedi wasn’t normally scared of bats—there were lots at home and sometimes they slept in his room during the day. The girls were all terrified though and used to shriek when they flew around the room, hiding their heads underneath the blankets. He would have great fun catching a bat in a net and then chasing them around with it. But with all these hundreds of bats flying around him, he felt a bit like the girls—he would very much like to shriek. There were far too many of them. They were bumping into him and some even landed on him and then took off again. He kept his head well down, terrified they would get caught in his hair. After what seemed like ages, but was actually only a couple of minutes, the whirling and flapping stopped and there was silence once more. Lorato sat up slowly.
“Well, they didn’t seem to take too much notice of us,” he said. “Hopefully they’re not part of Bosula’s spy network.”
“This might also just be a bat cave and not go anywhere,” said Lesedi, trying to brush the dust off himself.
“Well, we’ll just have to see,” said Lorato. “Now, where is that candle?” The two of them started feeling around, puffing up more dust, which made them cough. Lesedi stood up to get some air and stepping forward he stepped straight out into space! There was absolutely nothing solid underneath him and he felt himself fall.
“Aaaaaah…” was all that came out of his mouth and then “Uuuuugh!” as he hit the bottom, knocking the breath out of himself. He sat there for a moment trying to get his breath back and then tried to peer around. It seemed even blacker than it had before. He put his hand in front of his face but couldn’t see it at all. Far above him he could hear Lorato’s anxious voice.
“Lesedi, Lesedi! Are you all right?”
“I think so,” he shouted back as his breath returned. He stood up, feeling himself all over—nothing broken, he just felt a bit bruised. Kgatwe, who had woken up, stuck his head out of Lesedi’s pocket.
“Put the light on,” he muttered, still half asleep.
“What light?” said Lesedi irritably, feeling around on the floor. Suddenly his hand closed around something cold and familiar.
“Lorato!” he called up excitedly. “I have the candle!”
“Well, that’s something,” said Lorato, sounding slightly relieved. “I’ll throw the matches down.” They landed right in Lesedi’s lap and he carefully took one out and lit the candle. It flickered into life and he looked around. He seemed to have fallen into a deep hole; looking up, he could just see Lorato’s anxious face peering down at him. The sides of the hole were sheer with not a foot- or handhold anywhere. How was he going to get out? Suddenly Kgatwe, who was now wide awake, jumped out of his pocket and ran over to the side of the hole.
“I’ll climb up this wall,” he said chirpily. “That’s not a problem for geckos.”
“What about me?” said Lesedi, suddenly feeling vulnerable. Kgatwe was at the side of the hole trying to scramble up. But it didn’t work. He’d get up a few centimeters and then slide back down again. There was just too much soft sand for his gecko feet to get a grip.
“That’s the first time I haven’t been able to climb up something!” he said dejectedly, running back to Lesedi and jumping into his pocket. “Now I’m depressed!”
“That’s a lot of help!” said Lesedi, walking around the hole, trying to find some way out. Kgatwe had a habit of giving up a bit too easily when things got tough, so that meant Lesedi was in charge.
“I’ll go back to the entrance and see if I can get a signal to Mary and James,” Lorato called down. “I’ve got plenty of equipment in the cart, so we should be able to get you out.”
“But they might be seen,” said Lesedi nervously, not wanting Lorato to leave them there by themselves.
“I think we’ll have to take that chance,” said Lorato. “Besides, without us in the cart they can go into overdrive, which makes them a lot less easy to detect… Unless of course you have eagle eyes!” He said this as an afterthought to himself as he made his way back to the entrance.
“Great!” muttered Lesedi, looking around him at the sheer walls of the hole. He pushed against them. There didn’t seem to be anything solid underneath, just more soft sand. How on earth were they ever going to get out of here even with “equipment”? He sat down dejectedly on the floor. He made a little mound of sand so that the candle could stand by itself and then sat there staring at it. The silence was intense. He tried to pretend that the candle was a huge fire and he was sitting around it at home with all the others, listening to Lorato telling them a magical story, one with a happy ending so the little ones didn’t go to bed and have nightmares. He wondered if this real-life story would have a happy ending so that he could be the one to tell the tale by the fire, everyone watching him with wide eyes.
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