A flash fiction story by Pamela Eason
Photo of Skala is in the Public Domain
After the coffee and the baklavas at the Harbor Café in the port city of Skala on Patmos, my grandson Garrett and I walked uphill along the Old Path. Each step we took on the sand-packed trail took us past shrubs, olive trees, and mimosa trees with pink blossoms and further above Skala’s white shops and homes and the blue waters of the Aegean Sea. After about a mile, we arrived at the Cave of the Apocalypse.
“Do you have money with you? The admission is more than I thought,” I said to Garrett. This was his senior trip. Greece was his choice, but this excursion was mine. I felt myself getting old, and I was beginning to feel anxious, even desperate, about finding the portal to Heaven. I had a sense I was missing something important. I wanted … No! I needed some kind of a revelation before I died.
We paid all that we had and entered a section of the cave filled with glittering trinkets.
“Want to see what this is?” Garrett asked, indicating the free gift coupon that came with the ticket stub.
“It’s probably some kind of gimmick,” I said, stuffing the coupon and stub in my pocket. He shrugged and did the same.
“I think that’s our tour,” I said. We moved toward a small group gathered around a priest holding a Tour Begins Here in 5 Minutes sign.
“The voice of God came to the Apostle John through these three cracks that you see here in the cleft of this rock,” the priest said, pointing.
“You would think the portal would be near here,” I whispered to Garrett.
We hung back from the group, concentrating on the long vertical cracks in the cleft. Garrett elbowed me. “Look,” he said, indicating a door that appeared almost translucent between two of the cracks. We crept close enough to make out the words, I Am the Door.
We knocked gently. The door opened slightly. We looked around. The priest was pointing out another feature of the cave, and no one was paying attention to us, so we quickly slid behind the door. It shut. We were surrounded by darkness. Garrett pulled out his pocket flashlight. Its beam revealed a low-ceilinged, earthen tunnel.
“Listen,” I said. Faint, distant snatches of a rich and soulful melody reached our ears. “What do you think? Wanna go for it?”
“Sure. Why not? I don’t think we have much of a choice anyways,” he said, pointing towards a solid wall of dirt where the door had been.
We ducked down and shuffled forward. After several steps, the passageway began to shrink. We hunched our shoulders down, bent our backs forward, and kept going. Further in, it became so low at points that we had to crawl on our bellies. It was so tight in others that we had to lay on our side and push and pull ourselves through.
“Maybe this was a very bad idea,” I said as we were sweating our way through one particularly tight squeeze. “We probably look like earthworms squeezing through the eye of a needle.”
“Well. It’s too late now,” Garrett said. “Even if the door was still there, there’s no room to turn around. We shouldn’t have eaten the baklavas.”
“Probably not,” I laughed, glad that he still had his sense of humor. “I sure wish we still had that harbor breeze right now though.”
The further along we went, the air got even stuffier and staler. Dirt crusted under our nails, in our noses and the corners of our eyes and gritted between our teeth, but the music got louder and kept us from despairing.
At one particularly tight spot, I kicked against the side of the tunnel wall to push forward. Part of the wall gave way, and my foot got stuck in a toothy crevice. It scraped at my ankle. Garrett jokingly said, “We may have to cut it off.”
“Ha ha ha,” I said finally wriggling it free. I laid there feeling blood trickle down my ankle, thinking I couldn’t push myself another inch, and wondering, even if we got to the portal, if any revelation would be worth this. Then, a whiff of fresh air brushed my face.
“Did you feel that?” I asked.
“Yes. Fresh air. Thank God.”
The air revived me enough to get started again. I pushed and pulled myself further along the passage, and with each forward move, the air became a little fresher and a little cooler. The tunnel also seemed to be expanding again. There was enough room now for us to get onto our hands and knees. We crawled along like babies for a few minutes.
“I don’t think it’s much further,” I said, my excitement over a revelation growing.
Garrett said, “I hope there’s an exit door. I don’t think I can do this again.”
My heart bumped and fell in my chest. What was I thinking dragging him down here? What if we couldn’t get back? But it was too late to think about that now. We could only move forward.
“This has to be it,” I panted, emerging head first into a cathedral-like room. I turned to see Garrett’s blond curls appearing behind me.
We stood, dusted off our clothes, stretched out our arms and legs, spit dirt from our mouths, and used our sleeves to wipe it from our noses. The music, loud and vibrant now, bounced off the circular wall. Every color of light beamed in from a round overhead opening that was as big as a wagon wheel.
We stepped beneath the light and looked up, not sure what to expect.
The music stopped. The cavern became as quiet as a tomb. A trumpeting voice from somewhere above asked, “Did you bring your free gift?”
“I don’t think it was a gimmick,” Garrett said, pulling the coupon from his pocket.