Light seeps into the cave in thin streams, creating a zebra skin wall above Maya’s head as she sits furthest away from the slim opening with her knees bent, held against her pounding chest. The wind whistles and hisses, taunting wolves and other hunters of the night into action. Maya had never slept a night away from camp in all her fifteen years. The elders had instilled a deep fear of the mountains and what lurked amongst them from an early age. Neither particularly brave or adventurous, Maya had never held any ambition to leave the shelter of her community but fate had thrust the challenge upon her. A wolf howls in the distance, echoing through the cave a terrifying roar that to Maya sounded like a pack hunting in vicious unison. Rigid with fear, she sits with her heart pounding as the howls approach closer and closer.
The elders told tall tales of dragons and sasquatches that inhabit the mountains, but only a handful of people had ever ventured into them. Maya had believed every story, soaking in every word from the mouths of archaic men who created the laws of her world. She had never questioned them, she had no need. Like every other inhabitant of the nameless community, Maya had everything she ever needed and belonged to a community that supported and cared for each other. If the elders said the mountains were filled with unimaginable terrors, then they must do. She never feared the grand beasts the people discussed in hushed whispers. Monsters the size of trees would likely afford her a quick death. It was the smaller creatures that hid in plain sight by disguising themselves that worried her so; mostly snakes.
Maya had seen several snakes that strayed from the forests adjacent to the ploughing fields. Slithering, venomous little serpents that slid silently through the grass beneath your feet; ready to spring up and plunge two razor sharp fangs into your skin releasing a flurry of burning hot poison. Maya’s skin crawls as she looks nervously along the floor and walls to ensure she is alone. Her eyes fix on the same pile of rubble that had caught her attention several times already; she could not determine if something was hiding within it or if the horrors of her mind were playing tricks with her. She daren’t rustle the stones to find out. Her heart slows as the wolf howls stop, silence broken only by the winds melody. Maya runs her hands through her hair, inhaling a large lungful of air as she tries to calm herself enough to rest. Not sleep, that would be too dangerous, but to reserve her energy for the hard climb back down the mountain when day breaks.
The cave, long and thin, trapped Maya as much as it sheltered her. If a predator were to climb the steep, jagged rock edge of the mountain there would not be enough room for her to get past it and escape. She had not known that when she had climbed up to it several hours earlier. There was a second cave further up, but Maya knew she did not have enough energy to reach it. As she leans her head back in relief at the wolf having quietened down, a roar louder than anything she had ever heard shook the mountain. It reverberated inside the cave, shaking the very mountain it was housed in. Pieces of rock crumbled down upon her head, whatever made the deafening sound was above her. Maya’s heartrate doubled, her chest beating thunderously as her palms moistened and her eyes dilated. The roar ends, silence fills the cave as even the winds hush foreboding more horrors to come.
To be continued