I Fell Into the Cave

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A group of young warriors set out to find and kill a beast their elders warned them not to seek out. On their journey, they assign leaders that only speak around fires and in motivational speeches. The narrator, Meda, starts to doubt her allegiance with the warriors when they ridicule her friend from speaking her mind at one of the fires, but she is never given the chance to truly think for herself.

Finally, when she and her comrades face the beast, she is thrown into the beast's cave and given the chance to reflect on her situation.

Submitted: October 30, 2016

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Submitted: October 30, 2016

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A beast attacked our village long ago.

I was only a child, and my friends and I watched from the safety of our homes as our parents and grandparents left us to fight. They fought the beast for years and years until eventually, they managed to drive it out of our village. In response, the people of our village celebrated with festivals and holidays. We built statues of those warriors, and we were taught of their heroism daily in school.

But, time went by and we became older. Many of the warriors who had fought off the beast grew old and passed, keeping most of their wisdom to themselves. It was our turn to run the village on our own, and there were quite a few people who were more qualified than others.

One day, when the sunset burned hues of pink over the wheat fields, we uncovered some disturbing artifacts. There were parts of the beast scattered throughout the village. A friend of mine dug up a claw by the courthouse, and I noticed a trail of fur leading from our dwellings to the school.

Word of the discoveries spread quickly, and every villager on the street was talking about their own personal theories as to where the evidence came from. Some people claimed the artifacts were fake, but that theory was quickly dismissed by the evidence many scientists provided. Most people believed they were left by a new beast that had somehow managed to wander its way into town, lose a claw and some fur, and then leave without disturbing any sleeping villager. The rest of the village claimed that the artifacts were left over from the beast that had attacked years before, and there was no use making a fuss over it.

While many people were still stuck speculating over the claw and fur, my friends and I, who foolishly believed the beast had returned, joined in arms and decided to hunt the beast down. We thought about the years from the war to the present, concluding that the beast had never left, but instead had just become more elusive. We were told by our elders not to seek out the beast, but we did not listen. We wanted it to be our turn to fight for our people.

We assigned leaders and set out on a long journey. We were going to be climbing a mountain that reached the clouds, and the only pain we would experience on our journey would be from the weapons we bore on our shoulders. We found ourselves traveling through forests of spectacular beauty. Despite the miraculous scenery, we were told not to get distracted by it. We were climbing a mountain that had many paths, but our leaders forced us to take the one with less scenery. We were not allowed to slow down, and we certainly were not allowed to stop and take a look at the forest around us.

There were a few nights we were allowed to rest. We would spend most of our time setting up fires where we could speak freely on our thoughts about the beast. The bravest of our warriors spoke ill of the beast, providing exaggerations about their experiences as children. The more hesitant warriors would often believe their stories and give sympathy towards the brave. It was a great way to share our troubles, and it was a great way to plan battle strategies. Everyone, even the quietest of warriors, was given the rights to speak at those fires. But, if one was to question our motives for attacking the beast, they would be shot down immediately and mocked by our leaders.

I remember one instance when a friend of mine brought up a quote from one of our elders. She dissected it and provided factual evidence on why the elder said it. "Perhaps this means we should go back," she said. "What if there is no beast? What if the claw that we found was just a bad memory, left behind from the beast that attacked long ago? Is it truly wise for us to go looking for trouble?"

She was not able to speak any more that night because our leaders cut her off. "A beast! A beast!" they shouted. "How could you speak to us with such ill will? Only a beast would be against our crusade!"

Then more of our leaders stood up and spoke in voices louder than hers, prohibiting my friend from defending herself and telling everyone to, "Keep moving! The beast is still among us! If we do not attack it first, it will surely come back to attack us! We cannot move forward as a society until it is dead." Then most of the warriors cheered, but a small few clapped reluctantly.

As we traveled onward, we uncovered more remnants of the beast. There was a tooth lodged in a rock, there were claw marks on a tree, and there was a deer that appeared to have been attacked by something bigger than itself. It was when we found the deer that one of our leaders decided to speak for the first time outside of one of our fires. "This animal has suffered at the hands of our enemy!" She said. "If we refuse to press forward, we will have failed to avenge this poor creature, and we will have failed to protect our own children from living in a society free of fear."

From that point on, we spent most of our fires either talking about the horrible things the beast did, or we were discussing the elder warriors of our village. Throughout the years, our understanding of them matured. The men and women we respected before were getting painted in a new image. We had looked up to them as children because we could not see them as anything other than heroes. But, with the evolution of our minds, we grew to hate them for failing us. A popular opinion among our leaders was as follows: "They had failed to kill the beast, so it is their fault we are on this journey." 

The first time a leader said that, I saw my friend shift where she sat. I sat closer to her. "Is something wrong?" I asked.

She kept her voice low and quiet. "Nakoma is speaking ill of our elders..."

"So?" I asked. "I think she has a point. I, myself, do not have any thoughts I would like to contribute, but I cannot argue either."

She quivered in response. "Meda... my father was one of the warriors who protected our village, and he died in the process! I cannot sit here and listen to our leaders call him a beast!"

"Maybe you could tell her that. She, Imala, and the other leaders might cease their discussions if they know it offends you."

She shook her head. "You know I can't do that. After what happened last time? They'd just call me a beast again."

"Nata, Meda," our leader Nakoma barked in our direction.

"Y-yes?" I asked.

"You two are discussing something in secret. This is a safe fire. You can tell us anything here. So, what were you two talking about?"

Nata looked to the ground and drew shapes in the dirt with a stick. Without thinking properly, I told our leaders, "We were saying we felt our elders betrayed us." I noticed Nata stop drawing. "They -uh- deceived us and made us believe they were heroes while we were growing up!"

"Exactly!" Nakoma shouted. "They were not heroes! They were beasts!"

From then on, I would never speak honestly in those discussions, because I knew I would be ridiculed and called a beast, myself. Truthfully, I saw our elders as neither heroes nor beasts. I saw them as ordinary humans.

We knew we were closest to the beast when we found more bones lying beneath the trees. My heart broke at the sight of them, but I didn't have the chance to think for myself. Every time we came across one of the poor creatures, our leaders would stand up and preach the same message again and again about how we must stop the beast. "This is what happens!' they would say. "This is what happens when we let our beast live! This is what happens when the generation of so-called heroes fail to bring true justice to our village!" Their speeches were beginning to become annoying and redundant, but I could not complain. I knew speaking out would change nothing.

I was starting to doubt there even was a beast, until we reached our twenty-eighth day of searching, and we found our beast lurking in front of its cave. It was as ugly as we remembered. It was humungous, terrifying, and hideous, bearing a large belly, bloodied fur, and sharp fangs. We drew our weapons and prepared for battle.

Our leaders gave the commands, "Don't hold anything back!" and we charged at the beast, and I found my adrenaline leading me to the very front of the crowd. When I looked into the beady, red eyes of the beast, I had lost all sense of doubt. I knew I was facing a beast that needed to be taken down. With my sword in hand, I plunged toward the beast and struck its paw. It let out a shriek before throwing me into the air. As I descended, I managed to land on its back, and I held onto its fur. I looked behind me and saw the darkness of the cave the beast had emerged from. It was pitch black, and I could not make out any shapes or tell how deep the cave was. I had dropped my sword, so I could not stab the beast myself. All I could do was hold on and hope my friends would come to my aid.

I waited for a while, but nothing happened. I could hear our leaders barking at each other, often disagreeing with the original battle tactics we had come up with at the fires. I had no idea what they were planning on doing, so I held on tighter.

Eventually, I heard one of the leaders shout "FIRE!" and the beast was struck with a thousand arrows. It fell backward, taking me down with it.

I fell into the cave. It was not as deep as I feared, but it was still a long way down. I hit the bottom with great force, but I was not knocked unconscious. The beast's corpse had broken my fall. I looked up to see a light peaking out from the entrance of the cave, and I strained my eyes to see if I could find any of my friends waving at me from up there. I heard faint rejoicing, but I could not see any of them from where I sat. Before I could stand up to get a better view, another beast came rushing past me. I looked onto it with fear, but it gave me no attention. It headed straight for the light and began fighting the remaining warriors. Confused, I waited a few minutes until that beast was killed as well. Cheering erupted from the outside, but it was quickly silenced by the presence of yet another beast. That beast, like the two before it, was struck down and thrown back into the cave where I sat. Because I finally had the chance to sit alone and think for myself, I was able to notice a pattern. After one beast was killed, another would run by and attack the warriors. Then, the cycle would repeat.

Finally, after the seventh beast had been killed, I stood up and brushed myself off. I wanted to find a way to leave the cave, and then leave the mountains. I figured it would not be worth my time to fight. The cave stretched for miles, so I knew there would be no end to the beasts. Instead, I waited for the warriors to kill another one. As soon as they did, I hitched a ride with the next beast that emerged. I hopped off its back and landed in the grass. None of the other warriors seemed to notice I had been gone. None of them except Nata, who had refrained from speaking to me after I lied about my views on our elders. Even though I had hurt her, she approached me as soon as I landed; her hands were trembling as she gripped her bow. "Where were you?" she asked me.

"The cave," I responded.

"You fell down there?!" she couldn't help but stammer. "D-did you see any of-of the b-beasts?"

"I did," I said with a sigh. "You know, I don't think we should be fighting these things anymore."

She looked surprised. "You don't? B-but, everyone else is! Is it not right to fight this battle?"

I shook my head. "We cannot fight these beasts, Nata. Every time we defeat one, another crawls out of the cave to attack us. You don't need to fall into a cave to see that! If we tried to kill all of them, we would be stuck on this mountain fighting forever. To tell you the truth, I would never want to fight alongside these people anyway. Fighting a beast that will never die with people that will never notice that is not how I'd like to spend my eternity. These beasts stopped attacking our village long ago. We don't need to fight them anymore, we just need to clean up their fur."

Nata stopped shaking, and she smiled softly. "That's what I was thinking..."

I returned her smile. "Then let's head back to the village. We were never welcome among these fighters anyway."

My friend and I left our weapons by the warriors' sides, and we returned to the village. We never saw the beasts again.


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