The Terrible Cave (continued)
Finally, I came to my senses. Shouting ‘Ramhari, follow me!’, I too, ran ahead as fast as I could.
On reaching the spot I saw the mouth of a cave in the hillside. Leaping up immediately to enter, my ears were assaulted by a terrible scream and just after that, another loud scream, in Bimal’s voice this time. Then, all was silent.
My heart shuddered with an unknown fear as I ran inside. When I entered it, I found no one there. Nonplussed, I stood still. Ramhari entered the next minute and said, ‘Who shouted out like that? Why, where’s Khokababu?’
‘I don’t know, Ramhari, I heard Bimal scream out from inside the cave and rushed in. But now I can’t see anyone anywhere.’
One side of the cave was shrouded in misty darkness. Ramhari ran towards it and said, ‘Here! There seems to be a path going in!’
Running to the spot, I saw that he was right. A narrow path snaked its way into the cave, but it was all very dark, I could see nothing more.
I said, ‘Ramhari, take the electric torch out quick, and pass me my gun!’
Ramhari handed me the gun, then took the torch out and entered the path gingerly. I held my gun at the ready and entered with him, casting a cautious eye on our surroundings. Above us, below, on either side was solid stone, walking through this reminded me of the tunnel where the yaksha’s treasure was. Suddenly, Ramhari halted in front of me and said, ‘Disaster!’
I asked, ‘What’s the matter?’
Ramhari replied, ‘There’s a huge hole right in front.’
In the bright light of the electric torch, I saw that the path disappeared right under Ramhari’s feet and just after that an enormous, dark emptiness opened its cavernous mouth, waiting to swallow us up! Had Bimal fallen into that?
I shouted out as loud as I could, ‘Bimal, Bimal, Bimal!’
From the belly of the earth came a feeble, pathetic reply, ‘Kumar, Kumar – help – save me!’
Stretching out at the mouth of that hole, I flashed the torchlight into it. The circumference of the hole was a good fifty to sixty feet. Looking down with the help of the torch, I saw something gleaming roughly thirty feet under. On careful inspection, it turned out to be water.
I shouted out again, ‘Bimal, where are you?’
From the depths it seemed, Bimal’s voice replied, ‘Here, in the water. Pull me up quickly, Kumar – my arms and legs are cramped, I’m very close to drowning.’
‘Ramhari, Ramhari! Quick, take out the bundle of rope from the bag!’
Ramhari sat and opened the knapsack on his back. I flashed the torch downwards and saw Bimal, still swimming in the black waters.
We quickly lowered the rope, Bimal swam across and gripped it with both hands. I shouted again, ‘Bimal, don’t try to pull yourself up by using the rock face for leverage, we’ll pull you up!’
But he replied, ‘No – I think I can manage.’
Ramhari and I held tight on to the rope, Bimal climbed up a little later straight into our arms and fainted from exhaustion.
Ramhari and I carried him out into the fresh air.