The day had not begun with an expectation of the adventures which unfolded at every turn. Events which, at long last, led them to the desired destination of caves depicted as beautiful, intriguing, and filled with colourful stalactites and stalagmites. Continuing on to the goal, even after a few hiccups, there was the anticipation of stunning sites and a unique way to spend a day in Hungary.

Heading into the lower areas of the cave, a guide provided narration and explanation of what surrounded them, taking advantage of the cave’s lighting system which had been installed, removing the necessity of individual flashlights or headlamps.

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Everyone entering the cave relied on the wisdom of the guide. Everyone depended on his instruction. Everyone leaned on his experience. Everyone trusted him to be prepared. Everyone had confidence in his assistance if troubles were to arise.

Suddenly, damp darkness besieged all those deep in Budapest’s longest cave. Screams and squeals came from every direction down below as each person sought to grasp the hand of someone near them, simply an attempt at ascertaining some security they were not alone. That is, all those not clutching the cool, slippery metal rungs of the ladder leading straight up from the bottom of the depths of the central cavern. There were no hands to grab, no arms to reach out towards. And water began to drip even steadier from the top of the cave, distracting and catching the ladder climbers off guard each time.

Voices began calling out. One, in particular, conveyed an air of authority and direction. Screams quieted as people strained to hear what was being said. Worried chatter began again. Most of the listeners were able to understand what had been said, what message was passed in an attempt to provide calm and guidance. Except for two. The language being spoken was foreign to them. Hungarian bearing little resemblance to any of the handful of other languages they could have understood. Besides, they weren’t even in easy earshot of one another to try to decipher it between themselves, as one was a few rungs ahead of the other on the ladder and the acoustics of the cave did not make conversation easy with such a dynamic and other voices swirling around.

After hoping for light and remaining still for five or ten minutes, with darkness pressing in on every side, and no understanding of the message passed on from below, the only thing for the two clutching the slippery ladder to do was to continued onward. The ladder seemed to extend for thousands of steps. The darkness made the temperature seem to drop dramatically.

Each stretch of the arm was with a prayer that the distance of the rungs above them remained the same. Every placement of the foot was with the confidence that their leg would hit the rung and remain secure, having a spot dried off for it when their hand reached upwards.

In many ways, the situation had not changed from ten minutes earlier. They were placing their faith in the same things – that their gait would remain steady even if they stumbled slightly, that the guide knew what was best even if they didn’t know what was ahead, and that they would reach their goal in the end.

The only real difference now was that they were encompassed by darkness. Although it only took away their sight, that human strength had previously prevented them from truly having to put their faith in their gait, the guide, and the goal.

 (To be continued in part two of “J” tomorrow morning)

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