Bodie scrambled through the low, narrow cave. The rock around him looked solid—surely it would hold. He hadn’t felt a tremor for several minutes and hoped the quake was over.
He rounded another turn as a pair of dusty boots disappeared into the darkness ahead. Bodie stopped and waited for the judge, who was now breathing heavily.
This old fart is slowing me down, thought Bodie. Maybe I’ll just leave him behind. He hesitated, then rolled onto his side and looked back. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” said the judge, between wheezes. “A little break would be nice, though.”
“No problem.” The guy means well, thought Bodie, even if it is his fault I’m down here. After resting a minute, Bodie turned to Judge Barnes. “Ready?”
The man nodded. Bodie adjusted his pack, tightened the chinstrap of his helmet, then resumed crawling as fast as he could.
The cave rumbled, and the rock floor surged. Bodie sprawled flat, his chin ramming into stone. Chips of rock fell, then bigger chunks. Dust filled the cave. Bodie blinked grit from watering eyes and coughed as he hurried toward another turn in the twisted tunnel.
The earth shook again, slamming Bodie to his side. His helmet pounded into stone. As he lay on his back, the contents of his pack pressed through his shirt.
The judge coughed and grabbed Bodie’s ankle. “Are you all right?”
Before Bodie could answer, the earth shook again. The rock under him groaned and popped. Above him, a crack etched across the ceiling, then opened to an inch-wide gash. Water trickled through the hole, then quickly increased to a gushing flow. Bodie gasped as freezing water drenched him. The earth rumbled, and water cascaded into the passage.
“Go! Go! Go!” screamed the judge, already crowding forward.
Bodie rolled onto his belly, then raced ahead. Freezing water sloshed to his chest. The cave rumbled and shook. He slammed into the wall as the rushing current swept past him down the passage.
He glanced back toward the judge, their headlamps blinding each other for a moment. A wall of roaring water surged behind them. The torrent slammed the judge into Bodie, and hurled them down the passage. Bodie gasped for air just before the passage filled to the ceiling.
The current tumbled him end over end. He careened around a bend, and his hip slammed into rock. Bodie thrashed, trying to stabilize himself, his headlamp casting a glare in the murky water.
His lungs began to burn. He clawed the rock as he tried to grab a handhold and force himself to the surface. As he sped downstream, his helmet scraped the rock ceiling. His lungs felt as if they would burst, and the need for breath became overpowering. He knew he didn’t have much longer.
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