It sure as hell didn’t help that the batteries in the flashlight started going bad at that moment. I cursed a blue streak and kept moving in the direction I’d come but once again the cave divided and I had to choose a direction. I stopped and listened real hard and I could hear a faint moan off to my left.
As the last of the light faded I felt my along the wall and after a few minutes I heard Ronnie cry out.
“Carl, where the fuck are you man? Help me.”
I was close, so I kept feeling my way along and I let him know I was on my way.
“I’m coming Ronnie. It’s goddamn dark man.”
I found him at last. Well, that is, I tripped over him and that was unfortunate because I twisted my ankle bad when I went down. As bad as the pain was I was distracted from it by the hissing sound not far from my left ear.
“Shit man, what the hell was that?”
“We’re fucked Carl. There’s rattlesnakes in here.”
I sat bolt upright and pulled my legs in next to my body. A wave of pain through my ankle that just about caused me to pass out.
“Damn it Ronnie, why didn’t you warn me before I got here.”
I hadn’t bothered to ask him what was wrong and now I could tell he was hurting bad. I reached out in the dark and found his leg. He screamed when I touched it.
“What’s wrong Ronnie? What happened?
“I been bit, Carl. Damn rattlesnake got me. I couldn’t see it, you know? It was too late by the time I heard it rattle and hiss. I didn’t know which way to jump.”
“You’re bit? Goddamn Ronnie! Shit man, what can I do?”
“Fuck, I don’t know. I ain’t never been snake bit before. I feel like shit Carl.”
I was listening to Ronnie but I had one ear tuned for snakes. I kept as still as I could hoping they wouldn’t strike if they didn’t think I was a threat. I thought about what I could say. The truth was if he’d been bitten by a rattlesnake he wasn’t going to make it.
“This ain’t good Ronnie. I ain’t gonna lie to you.”
He moaned softly in the darkness and I felt bad. I decided I’d have to try to get him out of there an at least try to get him to a doctor even if it meant we ended up in jail. Ronnie was my best friend. I owed it to him.
“Where’d you get bit Ronnie?”
“My right thigh Carl. It hurts…I feel so weak…”
“Look Ronnie, we gotta get you to a doctor. I’m sorry, it’s going to hurt but I have to get you on your feet.”
I stood up slowly gritting my teeth against the pain in my ankle and listening for any telltale signs and then reached down and found Ronnie’s arms and pulled him upright. He screamed and I had to shush him and wait for his pain to subside before we started moving.
It was a nightmare. I couldn’t see a damn thing and I kept banging Ronnie into the walls as I inched us forward. After awhile we came into the open from the passage we’d been in. There was some faint light and I made out that there two ways to go. I couldn’t remember which way I had come from.
I stood there sweating with the effort of getting the short distance we’d come and the horror of it all washed over me. We were lost. If I chose the wrong passageway we’d be even more lost. Part of me just wanted to lay down and die.
Part 3 Tomorrow