Beneath our world lies another, one that many will never know and many will never see. Cloaked in its own eternal darkness a maze of hallways and chasms knotted together form a home for adventure that once, only the rivers travelled. Swallowed by the earth above it like a gaping maw a forgotten riverbed finds its final descent into the rock, a waypoint from a different time that is remembered only by its winding way. Cold air emanates from the darkness as a foreboding sign of what is to come.
Of the caves and caverns I have walked, each has had their own unique and endearing qualities that set them apart as their own fantastic adventure. Onesquethaw, hearted in the North East, is one of the lesser travelled of the NECC, but well worth the endeavour of finding it. Shortly before moving south, a few friends and I embarked for its lonely passage.
The first sight upon entering the cavern was a cleft in the rock, one running along my own height and another bisecting it to form a voided cross. Snaking this way and that it wound a course through the river's bed, strewn with debris washed down during a wetter season. On the top of the vertical crack lay the occasional pocket of space much like the horizontal, filled with charred wood and deadfall alike.
Farther down the cavern wound, sculpted by the hand of water rushing past for thousands of years beyond what my own life will see. As though flint knapped carefully by a hunter's hand, the surface was together smooth and pocked, forming the illusion of something seen beneath the lens of a microscope. For the irregularities were just similar enough, in size and nature, to be the perfection of randomness.
At times, the cave split off to the side or above or down, tunnelling into impossibly small voids that might well open to rooms of habitable size. Yet we shall never know, for in this life our kind was never meant to see all there is to see.
As with the Mountains, I have come to appreciate the scale of which our world is crafted. From the farthest sight our universe is a beautifully intricate, dynamic and unpredictable canvas and so too are the smallest foci when the eye is instead turned down to what awaits our notice in the smallest places. Singular drops of water cling to the rock, depositing the minerals they have taken in on their journey towards the end of the earth. Over the decades a shell forms native to the land and unique in their form. If not from sentience the earth is as a living thing, able to take its own form, to grow, to adapt as the times change the face around it.
Deeper into the dark places of the world the sinuous cavern's passage dropped farther and farther down towards some unknown end which, for no other purpose than to satisfy that insatiable curiosity in adventure, we followed the ever changing rock into the voids that lie beneath. Striped rock of yellow and black flashed in the solemn light of our lamps, glistening from the lingering moisture of a river swallowed by the descent.
Out of the abyss opened the first chamber, a great towering hall three stories tall. Lined with beautifully carved stone and pillars reaching up towards the ceiling, the space seemed to brighten into lively appreciation that its form could be seen by those who can remember it. In the far corners lay trailing passages leading to other, unknown ends, waiting to be explored.
Through one of the pathways the rock led onward, growing ever smaller until only the soles of the feet of the one in front of us were visible. No light could come from those behind or those before, trapped in that narrow column of space which we passed as our own.
Surprising in its length the first of the tunnels came to an end too narrow to cross, and so we returned to the central chamber to explore another.
Pools of water pure as unblemished crystal bore the ripples of the river's falling, scattering our light with false shadows and reflections of our curious passage. There is something to the tranquillity of rivers beneath the ground that, unsettled by wind or by the falling of the sun, remain resolute in the otherwise absolute silence that settles around them. Even too when all lights have gone out, its presence resides like a warden to the traveller telling that, however bitter and trying and laborious and striven the outside world, there will be a place of tranquillity that lies below.