I didn't even give myself time to think. I just took a deep breath and was back under the water before Riley even finished speaking. I didn't know what had happened, but if I wasted any time, it would be too late.
When I got back into the tunnel, I dimly saw Abigail's flashlight lying on the bottom. It only took me a few seconds to locate Abigail. She was floating up against the top of the passage, facedown. I had gone right under her when I had come through before.
She didn't move when I touched her. I grabbed her under the arms and kicked frantically for the opening.
Riley reached in and helped to pull her out, supporting her weight as I got out. Abigail's head was bleeding heavily just above her left eyebrow. "Help me get her to shore!"
Between the two of us we managed to fight our way to shore where we carefully laid Abigail on the sand.
"Ben, I don't think she's breathing," Riley said nervously.
"Try to stop the bleeding on her head," I directed, trying to stay calm. "I'm gonna give her mouth-to-mouth."
I gave her breath and pressed down on her chest several times until finally Abigail's eyes shot open and she began to cough violently. I helped her turn on her side.
"Come on Abigail, you're ok." Riley had taken off his t-shirt and was pressing it to her forehead.
She finally stopped coughing and lay back down with a shudder, looking up at us through cloudy eyes. "I'm all right…" She said shakily. "Are you both ok?"
I breathed a sigh of relief and hugged her. "Are you sure you're all right?"
"Yes, Ben, I'm all right." She rolled her eyes and kissed me. "I lost my hold on the rocks and the current pushed me to the top and I hit my head."
"Pretty sure I saw a big crack in the rock," Riley commented, "was that from your head?"
"Shut up, Riley," Abigail laughed. Then she winced and looked at the wrinkled, bloody t-shirt she had been pressing to her forehead. "I guess I owe you a shirt."
"Ah, don't mention it. I can probably afford another one."
I looked up at canyon walls, which cleverly disguised the cave we had been trapped in. I pointed up the river. "Mom and Dad should be that way."
I helped Abigail to her feet and we started walking. I kept a close eye on Abigail to make sure she was really all right. She kept Riley's t-shirt pressed to her head, but otherwise she seemed to be fine. That wasn't going to stop me from checking her into a hospital the first chance I got. Riley too, for that matter.
"You really think it'll be just your mom and dad over there?" Riley asked sceptically.
"No," I answered slowly. "We'll be lucky if they haven't called out the Marines."
Staying close to the river, we found the raft about two miles from where we had come out of the cave, and as we suspected, our raft had been joined by three others bearing the insignia of Search and Rescue.
We started up the trail just as we had the night before, and soon we approached the group of people digging into the collapsed shaft--looking for our bodies no doubt. I felt suddenly like Tom Sawyer spying on his own funeral.
Mom saw us first. "Ben!" she yelled, running toward me and wrapping me in a fierce hug. "Oh, Ben, thank God you're safe."
As soon as Dad took over hugging me, Mom moved on to Abigail and Riley. I smiled at the high-pitched protests of Riley as Mom hugged him. He liked it, I knew, but he would never admit it.
Everyone was talking at once, crying, asking questions, and fretting about injuries (that would be Mom), but all I could think about was that my family was safe and the sky looked beautiful after a night spent in a cave, not sure if I would live or die. All stories would be told in time.
Rather than letting a little thing like nearly dying in a malevolent cave get us down, we decided to finish up our trip. After all, if you're going to let near-death experiences stop you from having fun you might as well stay home, right?
Ben was reluctant at first, insisting that Abigail and I needed more medical attention than the S-and-R paramedics could provide (never mind his own injuries). But at the suggestion of going home early, Abigail fixed him with such a look that Ben shut up and began examining some interesting geological specimens near his feet. We would finish the trip, although after the paramedics got done with me, my arm (the shoulder of which was on the excruciating side of sore at this point) was put in a sling, no arguments on my side being heeded. No more swimming for me, but it did provide whining rights, and insurance against Patrick pushing me into the water again. Pretty good trade off if you ask me.
The rest of the trip went by without incident, except for all the stuff you would expect--like Abigail and Emily weighing down our raft with a bunch of pretty rocks they found. Oh, and they made Patrick pack them to the raft, which was funny, but only because Ben and I got out of it.
All the same, I was really happy to get home again at the end of the week. Sleeping in a bed is definitely not overrated, and the relaxing sound of sirens blaring was a nice change from the eerie night sounds one hears in a canyon. Yep, it was good to be home in good ol' crime-infested D.C.
Ben called two days after we got home.
"Hey Riley, we're planning a trip to Brazil, since we had so much fun on this one. Want to come?"
Oh brother. Apparently someone had too much time on his hands. I could tell by his voice that he was most definitely kidding. Like a jaunt through snake infested rain-forest was just what we needed now, right?
"Sorry," I said sarcastically. "Wrong number, dude." I hung up with a snort and went back to my game of solitaire. Brazil indeed.
AN/ Well, it didn't take me as long as I thought it would to finish it, but as a result, the ending was a bit more rushed than I would have liked; a lot shorter too. Apologies for that! Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed it. Thanks to all of you for sticking with me, and for all the lovely, encouraging reviews! They give me warm fuzzies all over! I love you guys!
So, anyone like Star Trek (the cheesy old originals)? Because believe it or not, that's what I'm working on next. Just goes to show you never know what crazy fandom you might fall into. Anyhoo, it is my first attempt at a humour fic, so we'll see what happens. If there seems to be some interest, and if I can get enough of it written to where I'm fairly certain of finishing, I'll start posting it pretty soon. So let me know if there's any Trekkies among this NT crowd!