They were all alone, stranded in a cave, with a sick boy, no phone, no boat, and no medicine
rembling, Danny followed the sound of the water. The cave narrowed into a tunnel, dark and low, and soon he was crawling on his hands and knees, his clothes catching against the jagged rocks. The further in he went, the colder and damper it became.
And then, blinding him with its suddenness, at the end of the darkness came the light! A light so brilliant, so golden, and so sweet that it seemed to greet him like an exotic bird, its shimmering feathers spread out wide in an open embrace.
He stood upright, took a few steps forward. There before him was a spring, its waters tinkling lightly, and beside it grew flowers, so beautiful that for some reason he wanted to cry. And as he stood there, at the open mouth of the cave, he felt a whisper of prayer, “Koli shamata al taalem aznecha l’ravchasi leshaavasi.”
“Danny?” It was Yitz standing behind him.
“You heard it?” said Danny.
“No — what?” said Yitz. “It’s Zvi. He’s really bad. What should we do?”
“The water,” said Danny. “Give him some to drink.”
“How? We have no cup. We can’t drag him through the tunnel to drink here.”
“Make a compress for his forehead with your sleeve and use this as well,” said Danny, ripping a sleeve off his own shirt. “He can suck the water from it.”
“That won’t be enough, Danny.”
“Do it, Yitz,” said Danny. “I’ll see what I can find.”
Obediently, Yitz dipped the lengths of material into the spring and disappeared back into the tunnel. Strange, thought Danny. Yitz was listening to him as if he trusted him. It was like a kind of role reversal.
But as he contemplated the thought, he could feel panic rising within him. They were all alone, stranded in a cave, with a sick boy, no phone, no boat, and no medicine.
A chattering noise caught his attention. He turned. The monkey! Swaggering out of the cave as if it had been there all the time. It jumped right onto Danny’s shoulder and put its arms round his neck.
“Get off!” said Danny, but the monkey was not so easily discouraged.
“What do you want?” asked Danny. The monkey leapt down from his shoulder and began jumping up and down, waving an arm in the direction of the cave.
“You want me to go back in the cave?”
“Well, okay, but I have a sick boy to take care of.”
The monkey bared his teeth, raced into the tunnel, and disappeared.
“Hello-o?” shouted Danny.
Danny heard a chattering noise. The monkey’s head popped out from a small opening within the tunnel, so well hidden that you would never know it was there. If he followed the animal, would he ever come out? As if to allay his fears, the monkey emerged screeching from his hideout, jumping right back onto Danny’s shoulder.
Danny took a deep breath. “Gam ki eileich b’gei tzalmaves lo ira ra ki atah imadi…” then he made his way forward.
There seemed to be a warren of tunnels, crisscrossing one another, and sloping downward. The monkey lolloped along, never seeming to tire, but for Danny it was an exhausting journey, made more difficult by the damp and the darkness and the sense that all he was doing was following a dumb animal on a fruitless journey deep under the sea.
At some point, the cave seemed to widen. Somewhere above him he could hear the wild cries of men fighting and the incessant rushing of waves. And somewhere, too, a new sound — the echo of a woman’s voice, whimpering and crying.
The monkey jumped down from his shoulder. In a moment it had disappeared. Panicking, Danny turned round helplessly, trying to find his bearings. He was utterly lost. Why had he followed that stupid monkey?
He tried to feel for the walls about him but the cave now appeared vast. Wherever he turned he was overwhelmed by a sense of its immensity. This was a new kind of terror. He feared this was the end. He would die in this cave. Yitz would be left to take care of Zvi until they, too, died alone. No one would know where they were. No one would find them.
This thought was so terrible that he cried out, “P’nei eilay vechaneini ki yachid ve’ani ani.” With his hands outstretched, he walked forward like a blind man. His foot knocked against something hard and furry. He stumbled and fell.
An excited jabbering greeted him. The monkey!
“Get lost, you brute. I should never have followed you.”
Babbling and screeching the monkey jumped up and down, almost furiously it seemed. Eventually it appeared to lose patience. Jumping down from its perch, it swiped Danny across the face.
Something inside Danny finally snapped. He lunged at the monkey, but it dodged away, and Danny’s fist smashed against something hard and hollow and made of wood. There was a moment of silence as Danny nursed his hand. Then the monkey began chattering away again.
He looked up to where his hand had made contact and saw that it was a box sticking out of the wall of the cave. “You knew about this?” asked Danny. It sounded ridiculous; he’d heard of intelligent monkeys but still….
It must have been about twenty three centimetres in width and the same in height. It had a rusted metal lock, and there was something rattling inside.
He looked at the monkey and the monkey looked at him. Would he or wouldn’t he?
“You hungry?” asked Danny.
Obligingly, the monkey jumped over to Danny, snatched the box from his hands, and wrenched the clasp open with his teeth. Then it pulled a face as if to say, “Ugh!”
The lid was stiff. It splintered as Danny opened it. Inside was a layer of something stiff and paper-like, and underneath that, a goblet.
Danny stared, then he looked at the monkey.
“Did you know about this?” he asked again.
The monkey bared its teeth at him and then began to run around in circles, screeching.
“What are you trying to tell me?” said Danny.
There was a whirring sound coming from nearby. They must be only a few meters away from another opening, Danny thought.
“A helicopter!” said Danny. “They’re searching for us.” He followed the monkey outside and ran frantically up and down the small patch of sand, shouting and waving. But it was too late. The helicopter, chopping and chugging, disappeared into the distance.
“It’s gone, it’s gone!” shouted Danny. Throwing himself onto the sand, he began to sob. He felt utterly alone.
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 952)
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