18 May 2005

Good morning all,

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine in Hawaii and I were trading emails about another, ongoing story I've been working on, "Two Lives - Two Loves".  During the course of the emails, I, half jesting - half serious, offered to write her a bedtime story...sort of as a segue into getting my head back into writing the story and breaking up the writer's block and depression.  She accepted my offer and I wrote her the story.   This is that story, except modified to a gay perspective.

"The Cavern" is a short story in three parts.  It is set in the future during wartime.  I'll give you, the reader, the same warning that I gave her.  Some, well, most of the background against which the story is set flowed onto the keyboard a little too easily....Those of you who've read or been reading "Two Lives" or "Light from Darkness" will have some idea of what I'm referring to.  When that happens, I tend to pay attention to it.  You can divine your own meanings from that.

Anyway, I hope you like this new offering.  I welcome any helpful comments, so please feel free to write if you feel so inclined.

Thank you for your attention,

Michael Garrison

This story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.  This story also deals with love and consensual sexual activities between men.  If you are not of legal age, reside in an area where viewing such material is illegal, or are offended by such themes, do not read further and leave this site now. The author retains all rights to this story.  Reproductions or links to other sites are not allowed without the permission of the author.

The  Cavern

A Short Story by Michael Garrison

Part One

The morning sun was an hour or so away.  The night air coming through the window felt good against his body as Greg Kashihara stared at his monitor, perusing his emails, going through his morning wake-up ritual.
He sipped at what passed for coffee these days and clicked through his bookmarks to find his favorite news sites.  He hated going there lately, none of the news was good on any front, but he had to know what was going on, he had to stay abreast of current events so that he could give his clients reasonable financial advice. 
“Reasonable, hmmmph, that’s a laugh,” he muttered to himself.  “The whole planet’s gone insane,” he thought, reading as the Honolulu Star-Bulletin came up.
Greg liked checking out his local news first before switching to the financial websites, but the web was ponderously slow this morning.  Since the war had escalated, the government and the Internet companies could not add bandwidth fast enough and limited private usage.  He got a break because of his job but he still got up early, hoping the web would move faster.  It didn’t.
The markets had closed heavily down on Friday afternoon on the bittersweet news of the Taiwan excursion.  Greg almost had to force himself to read how the military had stemmed the invasion.  Further advances were turned back but it cost them dearly, particularly the Navy, which lost two supercarriers to some new weapon that survivors claimed traveled like a bullet underwater.
The news cycle was now twenty-four hours old and he still couldn’t find any solid reference as to why the Chinese had stopped.  There was only a small mention of a short meeting that the Vice-President had had with the Chinese Ambassador.  All hostilities had ceased within two hours of that meeting.  Anyone who knew what was said at that meeting wasn’t talking.
He sighed as he clicked over to the Wall Street Journal site, going to get more coffee while it loaded.  Greg feared what was going to happen this weekend.  He’d seen it too many times before, but usually over smaller issues.  The markets would stew about it all weekend, trying to divine and second-guess what would happen next.  Everybody feared what had been hinted at by the media and public servants for months and that a general conscription would be reinstituted after decades of non-use, and he agreed, shaking his head as he shook a bit of cinnamon in his coffee to help cheer himself up, and to cut the bitterness.
He didn’t see any way they could avoid it, and CHINY, the hastily formed Chicago-New York exchange, would not react well.  The markets were treacherous enough these days, but a draft would shake it like a dog’s bone.  Scores of thousands of troops needed to reinforce Taiwan, scores of thousands more needed to bolster flagging commitments world-wide, particularly in the Gulf Sector, as they called it now.  The country had over-extended itself but the government refused to admit it, afraid to speak openly about that third rail of military politics.  They had leaked it through very low level staffers to the printed media, giving out information a little here, a little there, as if, over time, it would cushion the inevitable impact.  That aside, Greg knew, and feared, what would happen.  Who did they really think they were kidding?
He couldn’t stand to read any more and closed his browser.  He took another sip of coffee, trembling so from the thought of things to come that he needed both hands.
Greg looked out at the Eastern sky, showing the first strands of red against dark clouds filling the horizon.  There was a storm coming and he wanted to get in some diving before the weather ruined his last remaining pleasure in life.  Being underwater always made him feel good, it allowed him to forget about everything in the outside world that would turn his black hair prematurely gray if he couldn’t relieve stress somehow.  Diving was his relief valve and he wanted to visit his favorite, secret place and spend time with his journal for awhile and think about nothing.


Everything was ready; Greg had double-checked.
He’d double bagged his fruit and his journal in ziplocked pouches so they wouldn’t get wet and his small, yellow-cased camera had a fresh roll of film, in case he saw some coral formation he liked.  His tank and gear rested securely in the trunk of his car as he crawled towards the marina where his small motorboat was docked.   He fumed at the new, artificially low, speed limits.  The limits on every road in the islands had been dropped by ten miles per hour, except for those already at twenty-five, to help conserve gasoline.  Sometimes he felt like he was backing up from moving so slowly.  The fifteen minute trip to the marina now felt like it took an hour but he finally made it and transferred all of his gear to his boat.
Greg motored around to the harbor master’s pier to top off his tank.  Always wanting to do his part to help conserve resources, he had traded in the two big Evinrude outboard engines for a single smaller one.  He didn’t like it nearly as much, it took longer to get to his favorite cove now, but it was easier on gas and his wallet.
He chatted with Mr. Yamana, the harbor master’s assistant, about nothing in particular as he pumped out five gallons for him, all that was allowed for sport boating, for now.  It wasn’t much, but it would get his where he needed to go.  He liked Yamana.  He was a nice older man who had retired and worked here just to keep busy.  He always took an interest in people and never failed to give Greg a polite tongue-lashing about always diving alone.  He smiled and patted his shoulder, as was their routine, and promised he’d be careful.
He cleared the point on the marina and turned south.  The sun was peaking out above the horizon now, partially hidden by the gray storm clouds, as he opened the engine up halfway.  Greg wanted to get to his cove as fast as he could but full throttle burned too much fuel too fast.  Patience was not his strong suit but he had to live with an assortment of new facts of life.
After not quite thirty minutes, he spied the familiar break in the rocks where the land met the water and he cut his power to glide slowly between the two outcroppings that rose almost thirty feet above his head.  He loved this little cove.  It reminded him of a small Japanese fountain his mother had when he was a little boy with patches of emerald greenery sprouting from wherever it could take hold.
The rocks gave it protection from the ocean waves; it was always quiet.  It wasn’t large enough to really attract a following among divers but it had one feature that only a couple of people knew about.
A little over a year ago, his friend Eric had shown him a narrow, submerged tunnel on the far side of the cove.  He had no eye for distance but it felt to him like it went on for a hundred yards, more or less.  However long it really was, it always felt like it took him halfway to the mainland.  It had taken Eric a couple of weeks to talk him into going through the tunnel.  He was claustrophobic and the tunnel could get tight in places but Greg was glad he finally gave in and followed him all the way through into a small, tall cavern with an opening at the top that allowed daylight to find its way in.  It felt beautiful and serene to him.
He guessed it was partially formed by volcanic activity.  Greg was no geologist but he recognized the black and red lava rock that formed one whole side of the cavern.  There was a wide ledge on one side where one could sit or stretch out and watch the world go by through the hole above, or listen to the meditative sound of droplets hitting the surface of the water.  Eric smiled broadly when he saw his reaction to it for the first time.  He knew he’d fall in love with it and he did.  On first sight.
Greg couldn’t understand how anyone had found this place.  He explained that a friend of his had shown him and now he was showing Greg, like a family jewel that was passed from one generation to the next.  To his knowledge, no one else knew about it except for his friend who had enlisted the Navy after the nearly disastrous suicide bombing of the Chicago Stock Exchange the year before.
Now, Greg was alone with their cavern.  Eric had sensed what was coming in the wind and decided to choose his path before it chose him, enlisting in the Air Force instead of being made into a foot soldier.  He emailed him from training now and then, letting him know that everything was fine but that the food was lousy, et cetera, et cetera and how he missed diving.  He didn’t mention whether he’d found a new boyfriend but he didn’t ask in case his emails were monitored.
Greg sighed with satisfaction.  He killed his engine and dropped anchor, looking around what he now thought of as his cove.  Here he could find peace and quiet, nothing could bother him. 
A glint of sunlight caught his eye as he stripped off his clothes and quickly pulled on his diveskin.  He loved the feel of the sheer fabric against his body and it gave just enough warmth and protection for tropical waters.  He always thought his dive gear was cumbersome, though, and somewhat overpowering on his small frame.  There was nothing he could do about it, so he just lived with it.  With his dive bag clipped to his waist, Greg rolled forward into the dark blue water and listened, smiling at the sound of his own bubbles rushing from his regulator.

As much as he loved the cove and the cavern, he hated traversing that tunnel between them.  It was like a black hole that light never penetrated, and it was tight.  No matter how many times he’d picked his way through it, Greg always had to fight back a knot in his stomach that only dissipated when he got through to the other side.  He tolerated it, though; the solitude was worth that much to him.
He’d put a fresh battery in his light last week.  It wasn’t penetrating very far, though, maybe a couple of feet in front of him, and he had almost no warning of the cloud of sediment that seemed to rush up, quickly enshrouding him.
In an instant, his visibility was gone, his light was useless.  Greg could only see inches now into the brown blur that undulated in front of his face mask and he felt the knot in his stomach twist his insides as if turned by a clenched fist.  He felt his heart pounding faster, almost leaping into his throat and cutting off his air.  He was completely disoriented and felt the familiar panic of claustrophobia welling up, chilling him to the bone.  He wanted to get out, now. 
His panic approached hysteria and he tried to turn around to go back, but felt himself pushing against the side walls, making his movement difficult.  He was unsure now which way was back or which was forward.  Greg cried out in his regulator, almost dropping it from his mouth.  He struggled to turn around, to go anywhere and then felt something brush and then bump into him.
Greg thought it was a fish at first, one that felt bigger than he wanted to deal with in these tight quarters.  His ears picked up the sound of metal hitting rock, it was the hollow sound of something hitting an air tank and he knew it was another diver.  His fear did not subside.  He was still stuck and he still couldn’t see.
He caught a glimpse of movement and turned his head, seeing a facemask flash inches from his own for a second, lighted by another flashlight from below his range of vision.  It disappeared and he felt hands pulling at him, trying to right him.
Greg was completely blocking the tunnel.  If this other diver was going to get out, he was going to have to get him out of the way first.  He felt hands grip his arms.  It had to be a man, judging from its strength.  He pulled at him several times but he wasn’t budging.  He tried jerking his own body in his direction, his neck and back screamed at him in pain from being wedged into a ball, but felt himself give only fractions of inches.  His assistance wasn’t working and he knew he was going to drown.  Wedged in this tunnel, he knew he was taking another diver with him; there would be no climbing out of the cavern for the guy and no one would hear him yelling for help if he couldn’t get past.
Greg felt the diver let him go.  He could almost feel the tension in the water and then he stopped.  Nothing happened for more anxious seconds than he wanted to count.  It was as if the other diver had disappeared or, himself, drowned after running out of air.  He couldn’t see him or hear his breathing, but then he felt his hand again, his palm running over his body.  Were he not stuck, Greg would have punched him for trying to get a cheap thrill at his expense but then realized he was not groping him.  He was looking for something.  Then it hit him.
How could he be so stupid?  Their hands met at the buckle of his weight belt and flipped it open.  He heard his weights hit the muddy bottom of the tunnel and he searched for the snap for his air tank but his rescuer found if first.  Greg felt the tank being pulled free of his body. He could move again and followed his regulator hose as it pulled him along.  He stretched his arms forward, feeling around for anything that might tell him how to get out and found a muscular arm and a firm, waiting hand that gripped him tightly.  It pulled him along and he heard his tank scrape along the side walls as he took it, his only air, in tow.
Greg realized now that he had only been less than ten feet or so from the end of the tunnel.  He could hear the change in sounds around him as it widened and opened into the water filling the base of the cavern.  He looked around and saw the blurred light coming through the oculus in the top and kicked his legs hard for it, dropping his regulator and leaving his tank behind.
The cool air inside the cavern felt good on his face and Greg gasped as he broke the surface, taking in a large gulp of air, of freedom from being trapped.  His claustrophobia had taken its toll and he was a trembling mass.  His legs felt like jelly, but he kicked his fins as hard as he could to get to the rock ledge.  He thought his foot hit something when he kicked off and heard a muffled grunt but he paid no attention.  He was scared out of his mind and wanted to be out of the water.
Greg pulled himself up onto the ledge and lay back on the smooth rock.  His chest heaved as if he was just finishing a marathon, and he closed his eyes to rest.
“Thank you, thank you, thank y…,” he chanted to himself.
Gradually, his mind cleared.  Greg felt his pulse speed up and turned his head back to the water.  He realized the other diver hadn’t surfaced.
“Oh, God; Oh, God,” he thought.  “No, no, no….This is not happening to me!”
He remembered his foot hitting something as he raced for the ledge.  Visions flashed through his mind of knocking the other diver cold, of finding him lying on the bottom.  Despite his own fatigue, Greg jumped to his feet, held his face mask back in place and dove back into the dark water.
His dive was cut short. 
He hit what felt like a brick wall and heard an agonized grunt.  He turned and got closer and saw the other diver doubled up in pain where his shoulder had caught him in the stomach.  Greg silently muttered a thousand apologies and shoved the diver’s regulator back in his mouth.  Threading his arm through his, he guided him to the surface.  His head almost bumped his own air tank and he realized he’d gone to retrieve it, floating it up along with his dive bag. 
He felt like a complete fool.
“I am SO sorry!” he began as they broke the surface, punctuating each word as he patted the other diver’s shoulder.  “I didn’t mean…I was just….”  Greg couldn’t find the words, he was frustrated and afraid.  Wanting very much to help make things right, he lightly touched the rising knot he saw on the side of the young man’s head.
“AAHH!” he cried out, quickly knocking Greg’s hand from where he’d accidentally kicked him. “CHRIST, mister!” the man said, spitting out his regulator.  “You tryin’ to kill us both?!”  He yelled, pushing him away.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered again, not knowing what else to say.
Greg tried to put his arms under his shoulder and help him to the ledge but the diver was having none of it.  He watched as the man took off his gear, pushed it up onto the ledge and then pulled himself out and sat, catching his breath from having the wind knocked out of him.  He pulled off his face mask, tossing it aside and Greg finally got his first good look at his rescuer.
He was long and lean with a boyishly handsome face capped by short blond hair, mussed and matted to his head.  He couldn’t take his eyes off of the ice blue eyes that both twinkled and glared at him at the same time.
“You coming up or are you just gonna sit there treading water?” he finally asked, his tone softer.  “I promise I won’t bite,” he said, extending his hand.
Greg retrieved his tank and bag and pushed it up for him to grab.  He tossed his mask and fins up on the rock and started to pull himself out of the water, feeling the young man’s hands under his shoulder, helping him.
“I am SO sorry,” Greg repeated as he shook the water from his hands and arms.  “I didn’t mean to hurt…”
“You don’t have to keep apologizing, sir,” he said, almost spitting the words out before calming himself.  “I know you didn’t mean it.  Hell, if I was wedged in like that, I’d probably freak, too.”
Greg cut him a slight scowl.  “Mister?  Sir?  How old do you think I am?” he asked, studying his new object of interest.
The young man sighed, not really interested in this line of conversation.  “Hey, I was just being polite, okay” he fenced.  “I didn’t mean any…”
“I’m probably not much older than you,” Greg said.  “What’re you, like twenty-six?  Seven?”
“Four,” he corrected, “You?” he asked, a smile finally beginning to crack through his guarded veneer.
Greg couldn’t restrain a slight smile at the corner of his mouth.  “Yeah, something like that.”
“Yeah, okay,” he smiled back, knowing enough not to press certain issues like age and weight.  He didn’t see such problems in either category, though, as he studied him, trying not to be obvious, glancing quickly away when he thought he’d been noticed.
Handsome and maybe a little bashful.  Greg was becoming taken with this young man despite the rough start.
“I’m Greg Kashihara,” he said, extending his hand.
“Bryan Gobell,” he said, taking his hand in return.  “Nice to meet you…sir,” he winked, pushing a newly found button.
The name sounded familiar for some reason. 
“Wait a minute,” he said, his eyes widening.  “You’re not Eric Nisi’s friend are you?”
“Yeah, I know Eric,” he said, puzzled.  “You know him, too?”
“He’s the one who showed me this cave,” Greg said, twirling his finger around.
“Well, fuck me!  OOOOh!”  Bryan said, slapping a hand to his mouth.  “Sorry; pardon my French!” he whispered.  He raised an eyebrow at him and laughing.  “I’m the one who showed Eric this place!  You’ve gotta be the one he wrote me about while I was in training!”
You’re the guy who’s in the Navy?”
“Yep,” Bryan said proudly, “I’m a SEAL, now.  I like to come back here when I’m on leave.  Helps clear out the cobwebs, you know?  I wasn’t expecting company, though.”
“Neither was I,” Greg said, also trying not to be obvious about studying the contours of Bryan’s black diveskin.  “I do want to thank you again for pulling me out of there,” Greg said, changing the subject, brushing Bryan’s knee as he leaned back on one arm,.  “That cloud just came up out of nowhere.  If you hadn’t…”
“Yeah, well, I’m afraid that’s my doing,” Bryan said, nodding.  “I should’ve just pulled myself through instead of using my fins so much; the silt’ll take hours to resettle.  I was just on my way out when I run into you.  My bad…sorry….Ooh,” he said, putting a hand to his side where his shoulder had hit him.
“Here,” he said, “Let me.”
Greg slid around behind him and started a slow massage of his tight neck and shoulders.
“Hey, look, uh,” Bryan stammered, jerking away slightly before finally settling back.  “That’s not where it hurts,” he grinned.
“Is that a complaint I hear?” Greg asked.
“NO, not at all; it’s just……oooo… oh, a little lower,” Bryan said, reaching around to point to a spot with his thumb.  “Oh, God; now that’s what I’m talkin’ about,” he sighed.

To Be Continued