The Deadland cave system was one of Lorelei’s favorites. She’d road-tripped to it about a half-dozen times over sophomore and junior years. It wasn’t the closest cavern system to the State Uni, but it was the most interesting to explore. Her first college boyfriend had given her the spelunking bug – the only good and lasting thing that came out of that relationship – but to Lore it had been well worth it in the end. Caving was a grand adventure, and she’d gone farther and deeper into Deadland than any other system.
During this spring break, she and some Caving Club friends had decided to check out a side-spur of Route C, which badly needed naming. The spur branched from the deep cavern called St. Mortimer’s Cathedral. It was going to be a roughly five day trek – one and a half days both in and out, with the middle two days looking into the new stuff, charting new passages, and maybe finding some new chambers. Lorelei already had a small room with some smoothed out flowstones resembling the rounded ‘futuristic’ 1960’s furniture off Route A2 dubbed Lorelei’s Lounge.
The drive out with the expedition group was easy enough. The spring weather was pleasant and finally getting warm.
“The way in always freaks me out,” said Colin, a lanky sandy haired blond sitting next to Lorelei in the back seat. All the green just stops dead right here.”
He was right. Outside the car, just now mixed farms and woodlands of the country roads petered out quite rapidly into the barren, almost badlands, terrain that surrounded the cave system for a dozen or so miles in every direction. The satellite map of the area looked like a bulls-eye of blighted brown and tan surrounded by green.
“That’s why they call it the Deadlands, dude,” said Dave from the driver’s seat, “Nothing’s grown here since before the natives left. That’s why they left, the historians think. Not even modern farming methods can get this place to be productive. It’s just…”
“Dead,” said Theresa. “Yeah, but I think it has a kind of beauty of its own, don’t you?”
“Don’t go all Goth on us before we get underground, ‘Resa,” quipped Chris, “Plenty of time for ‘Beauty in the Gloom’ there.”
“I saved my darkest eye-shadow for St. Mortimer, you know.”
Lorelei grinned. It was going to be a fun trip.
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