28th April, 1976
Tongaat, Republic of South Africa
There was a dim light beyond the corner at the end of the tunnel. Although still swinging, it lit the cave wall better and better.
“That damn puncture!” a dull voice said. “It’s gotten dark in the time we took getting here…”
“As if there was ever daylight in a cave!” laughed another. “Oh well, at least the locals don't ask questions.”
The lights of the three helmet lamps flashed one by one from beyond the corner and cut into the darkness of the cave like sharp blades.
The leader, a man of around fifty held a map to the light.
“Is this the tunnel, Pete?” he pointed at the paper.
“Yes, professor. ‘Isihogo umgede’, Tunnel of Hell, the locals call it. Dead end.”
“OK!” the professor nodded. “Let's see it then!”
As they penetrated deeper and deeper into the cave, the man called Pete and the third one suddenly staggered after a turn and made a grab at their foreheads.
“Ouch, here it comes!” Pete cried out.
The professor turned back.
“Yes!” he hissed. “The locals said so! This must be some sort of radiation!”
“But I don't have a headache… Go back, I'll take a look on my own.”
Holding their heads with one hand and feeling the way with the other, they started to walk back.
Suddenly they both straightened their backs.
“What happened?” said their leader turning back, having taken a few steps ahead.
“It's gone!” said the third.
“The pain was suddenly gone, like magic!” Pete added.
The professor returned to them.
“This is quite a radiation… Now let's go, boys!”
After a few meters, the tunnel widened.
“Yes, it's a dead end.” remarked Pete. “And now?”
The professor stared ahead, motionless.
“Professor…? Professor Lance!”
The old man was staring fixedly at a point in the rock wall at the end of the tunnel. He was mesmerized by a protrusion in the rock.
He suddenly glanced back at Pete. “Yes…?”
„Are you okay, David?”
The professor nodded, humming. He was looking at the rock wall ahead with his helmet lamp.
“Help me!” and he dug his pickaxe in the wall.
“Don't ask, just do it!” said the professor without stopping. “Jason, move back!”
The rock pieces, each the size of a man’s head, fell off one by one, then a cambered metal surface appeared from within the depth of the rock.
“More, from the edge, there!” the professor instructed him.
As soon as the hole was wide enough, he waved at him to stop.
“Professor, what is this?”
The third man stepped up behind them, too.
“And how did it get into the rock?” he asked the obvious question.
“I don't know.” Lance panted.
He took his gloves off and carefully pulled the sphere out of its place. Reaching out with his fingers, Pete felt the mirror-smooth hemispherical imprint the object left in the rock, then he began to examine the sphere itself.
The professor was turning it around in his hand.
“Erm, there is a hand-shaped impression on it, right here.” he stated. “And another one here in front.”
He took the sphere in his hands, holding it by the recesses.
The professor's face was flooded by a growing light.
A pattern began to shine on the object, enchaining his attention completely.
“Oh, my god, what the hell is that?!” Pete cried out, white as a sheet.
Frightened, they moved back. Jason threw his spade to the ground, and they both fled out of the tunnel.
They ran to their Jeep like crazy, the beams of their helmet lamps dancing in the moonlight. They leaned against the side of the car, panting for a moment, then Jason sat behind the wheel.
“Where's the key, give me the key, Pete!”
“No!” his partner shouted at him. “The professor is still in there!” he pointed at the direction of the cave.
“But this is …! It's a …!”
“Stop it! You're acting like a child!”
“Give me the key, Pete!” the man was raging. He got out of the car. “Give me the key!” he yelled.
Pete reached into his pocket.
“Here! Take it and run!” and he threw it at him. “I'm not leaving the professor behind!”
Jason clawed the key from the dust and drove off with spinning wheels.
The thirty-something Pete was walking to and fro nervously, trying to overcome his fear. He knew he had to go back for the professor.
“Oh, this can't be happening to me!” he cursed and walked briskly back to the mouth of the cave, which was hidden by the bottom of the cliff towering overhead, shrouded in the darkness of the trees.
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