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Crisscross Moon - 16. Chapter 16

16.

In the morning, Cory and I went back to the cave. In the late morning, almost afternoon. You don't stay up till after 4 and then get up at 8 to explore. And now that I knew what we were looking for, I took a couple of my most powerful flashlights and plenty of batteries. Cory took his jacket.

"It's not really cold down there, and it's not even damp. But the dark makes me feel cold."

"It's cold," I said. "Whenever we camp here overnight, I'm always glad to get out in the morning."

"I'd like to spend a night here."

"Why?"

"I don't know." He shrugged. "Just to see what it's like."

"To be sealed in?"

"A little."

"That's morbid."

He said nothing to that.

"We can try tonight if you really want."

` "You'd do that?"

"I'm not leaving you here alone."

"But if you hate it..."

"I don't hate it. I don't even seriously dislike it. And either way, it beats finding you dead in the morning."

"How would I die?"

I laughed. "If I could tell people that, I wouldn't be working in a gas station."

Cory grinned. "But how am I gonna die from sleeping in a cave overnight? 'Specially one you've slept in plenty of times."

"I told you... I don't know. But all kinds of things can happen. And I'm not gonna start killing off my sister's friends."

We laughed at that, too.

"That's fair," he said. Then we went on to explore.

We were looking for water - or some sign of it. That seemed more logical than looking for a magic stream. We'd talked about that over breakfast. Was the stream magic because it magically appeared? In that case, how could we find it? Or was it an ordinary stream that sometimes had magic powers? There the problem was how did we start them up? Since we didn't know, it seemed easier to look for water we could see and then figure out how it worked. Cory also thought there might once have been a stream that had dried up.

"Could be," I said. "There are lots of caves here that have water in them. Though some of it's just dripping."

"Are there caves that have running water?"

"Yeah."

"Are there caves that had streams but don't any longer?

"There're all kinds of possibilities."

"Why would water dry up in a cave?"

"Again, lots of reasons. The water level could've changed. Or people might've used it up."

"Do that many people visit the park?"

"Not enough to use up all the water. And you can't live very close to the park, either. It's huge. So that's not it."

"Could the cliff dwellers have used up the water?"

"Possibly. Maybe that's why they moved on."

"I like that explanation better."

"But miners could've cut off a stream. If it was interfering with their work."

"Are there mines near your family cave?"

"Not really. They're further away. But you never know where a stream wanders. It's like a river. You can dam one in Colorado and dry up all the water in Arizona."

"Has there ever been a stream in your family cave?"

"I don't know. Ever is a very long time."

Still, we figured we'd look for some sign of it there - for a stream that might have dried up. And we looked. A lot. And we looked methodically. We were two fairly bright, fairly observant guys. And we found nothing.

"Damn," Cory said.

"Is that a cleaned up damn? Are you really thinking something else?"

"No. I say damn a lot."

"Damn."

"Yeah."

"Now what?"

He didn't know. He shrugged at me. "You're the expert."

I looked at my watch. It was nearly 6 and warm outside. I wasn't hungry, but it was a good excuse to take a break.

"If we're gonna stay overnight," I said, "we should get food. And sleeping bags. And a lantern."

"Maybe firewood?"

"No."

"Why not? Rangers orders?"

"Not really."

"More 'Leave no signs?'"

"No. It's more that there's no ventilation down here... at least, not a lot. There is in other caves. But this one's fairly tight."

"How do you know?"

"Because if you light a fire, the place fills with smoke."

"Anyone ever die?"

"Not that I've been told. You'd have to be pretty dumb. You light a fire and the whole place fills with smoke, you don't stick around."

"What if you had to? What if you were hiding?"

"Then you wouldn't light a fire. You know not to."

He considered this. "You think they knew that a 1000 years ago?"

"I think that right after they had caves and fire, they knew the two didn't mix."

"Like drugs and alcohol?"

"Like drugs and having kids."

I don't know why I thought of that. But when you're sparring, you sometimes talk faster than makes sense.

"Drugs can lead to having children," Cory returned.

"So can alcohol. But not caves and fire."

"Why are we talking about this?" he asked.

"I have no idea. The last logical thing we said was 'We need food.'"

"And sleeping bags."

"Yeah."

"Then let's get out of here. No romantic fires tonight."

I hadn't exactly connected Cory and romance. I'd thought about sex. I'd seen enough of his body to want to know how it worked. But he didn't seem like the champagne and moonlight type.

(continued)

copyright 2018 by Richard Eisbrouch
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