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Shacklady: The book

Chapter 13 Excerpt

She steeled herself and holding her breath, peered hopefully into the seemingly endless blackness. Nothing, no flickers of light away in the distance and not a single sound to encourage her.

‘Christ Nick, where the hell are you?’

She seemed to have been wandering for hours but her watch always said 11.23, the exact time that they’d crossed the light line. Wendy was getting scared. She took in a deep breath, expanded her chest to its maximum limits and launched a piercing cry, that was little more than an animalistic scream,


The whole workings felt as if they were trembling, as her voice effortlessly swept through them and disappeared into the endless gloom beyond. Staring into the void, she felt as if it was sucking her in, falling endlessly down, consumed by the blackness.

“Get a grip girl, It’s just the dark playing tricks with your senses, ignore it!” she whispered, then,

“Nick! Where.. are.. you?!” She screamed in a desperate Banshee like howl.

‘Hmmmm, no subtlety there then. And it would seem, no reply either,’ she mused, as her voice died away in repeating echo’s, giving the impression of a vast, warm cavernous space. It gave her a strong sense of unseen distances and reminded her of a school trip to North Africa, when she had been thirteen, or maybe it was fourteen and the feeling she had, when she had taken her first steps into the vastness of The Sahara Desert.

The Erg appeared to go on forever and the overwhelming sense of isolation, in a world of nearly eight billion souls, was almost tangible. She recalled that sensation as she peered into the void. It had been an almost forgotten memory, lingering in her mind, seemingly untouched and unaltered by the passage of time. Even after all these years, the feeling was still disturbing and she involuntarily shuddered, as an overwhelming sense of solitude bit deeper into her mind.

‘Perhaps, I’m the first person to walk this way, for over a century,’ she considered as she stepped forward, deeper into the shaft. With little, or nothing to visually distract her, a series of old memories, simply popped in and out of her mind unbidden and for many reasons, that made her smile.

“Wendy Finch, Woman of Tomorrow,” she declared and struck an heroic pose but she couldn’t hold it, as laughter overtook the statement and somehow, a ludicrous vision of Usain Bolt, got in on the action. That was followed by throat clearing and a self conscious cough, to restore her dignity. “Pull the other one Lass, you’re in your Forties and, ‘Woman of Yesterday’ would be more accurate,” she reasoned and this time, laughed resignedly into the gloom.

The lamp on her helmet, which Alan had thankfully pressed upon her earlier, was now coming into its own. As she ventured further underground, the roof dipped unevenly and the floor was strewn with fallen rocks of various sizes. The smaller of which, were the size of Cricket balls, ranging up to ones which resembled footballs.

The idiotic concept of kicking one of these rocks around a sports field, or God forbid, heading the damn thing as it rocketed towards the goal, engendered another stifled laugh from Wendy, as she picked her way carefully through the detritus.

Then, out of the corner of her eye, Wendy thought that she saw something ahead.

“Let’s see what we’ve got here then,” she muttered and turned her light towards what appeared to be a high alcove, dug into the side of the passageway. Taking care not to fall and break a leg on the rubble, she moved towards the strange recess. Her torch lit the outside adequately, then for some weird reason she felt she needed to touch and probe inside it.

‘Why would anybody stick an alcove half way down a tunnel and so high up?’ She mused as she reached above her head and her fingers explored the rough chiseled stone, before colliding with something firm but soft. Her fingers explored the shape. Remarkably, it appeared to be an old leather bound book, and Wendy’s delicate fingers took a tenuous grip on the hidden tract and withdrew it, slowly and gently.

“Come to Mama,” she whispered as the manuscript finally slipped from its long time resting place and fell easily into her hands.

Eager to read the obviously aged, leather bound document, she sought a spot to sit, deciding that she would read and wait for Nick to find her. This was more like it, ‘Slower, calmer and more relaxed,’ Wendy thought and she smiled ruefully at her impatient self, who constantly wished to go faster than was necessary and had landed her in this pickle. She began to wonder if Gerry had got lost in a similar fashion, then she recalled Nick had once told her, ‘Most tales don’t end happily ever after.’


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