The Life of Henry Fuckit
5 The Ingachini cave
From the house a path followed a contour westward and then wound sharply down into the trees. The cave was at the base of the koppie, its entrance partly obscured by an old, lichen-covered sycamore fig. Above the mouth a rock face reached up vertically for some twenty feet before sloping back into the vegetation. This wall was permanently damp and mossy, and with the summer rains became a waterfall that fell in a curtain before the opening. The African people of the area, whose senses were better attuned to such things than were the blunted susceptibilities of the Europeans, knew that this was a special place and were fearful of it.
The interior of the cave was uniformly clean, bare and dry. Strangely, there were no signs that it had ever been frequented by man, and there were no droppings or other litter to indicate the comings and goings of bats or owls or other creatures. It was a deep funnel reaching some twenty or twenty-five paces into the hillside and ending, not in a cul-de-sac but a black orifice less than a foot in diameter.
Of course, the learned gentlemen were experts in speleology, all three of them, having specialised knowledge in a variety of disciplines which could be applied to the explanation of subterranean phenomena such as this cave - geochemistry, mineralogy, petrology, geophysics, volcanology, geomorphology, stratigraphy, hydrology, geochronology, archaeology, paleontology, biospeleology and anthropology. Many hours were spent discussing and arguing the exact nature and origin of the Ingachini Cave, with numerous disagreements on minor technical points. However, it was unanimously agreed that this cave was not of the solution variety caused by some form of erosion but rather it was without doubt the result of two combined geological occurrences: the volcanic vent and the lava tube.
Henry followed the scholarly analysis, conjecturing and hypothesising, and picked up a good deal of knowledge that might or might not prove to be of some use to him one day. He regularly visited the cave, sometimes to masturbate but mostly just to enjoy the coolness and the peaceful ambience. He had initially expected to smell a cold dankness there but had been surprised to note instead a faint scent that, far from being damp and unwholesome, was a gentle sweet-spiciness reminding him of the cool, dry air that wafted in through his window as a fine spring day was just breaking. He imagined that somewhere deep within the koppie lay a great cavern and a system of tunnels. He would let his mind enter this fantastic subterranean world and experience adventures that were more fanciful and bizarre than anything to be found in Tolkien or Verne.
It was also discovered by Henry, Frikkie and Albert that the walls of the cave were phosphorescent. They had gone there one night in order to disprove the legend that the place was frequented by demons. Old Shadrack, the shoe-boy, was also the local sangoma, and he had warned them of the danger of entering the cave, especially after nightfall. Accordingly, one night, their spirits fortified with a bottle of cooking sherry, and armed with a stout knobkierie apiece, they nervously made their way through the dark with the aid of flashlights. At the entrance to the cave they halted, turned off their lights, and listened. A soft breeze had sprung up and was stirring the leaves of the tree. It was when their eyes had adjusted to the moonless night about them that they simultaneously became aware of a glow from within. In alarm they huddled together, whispering hoarsely, wishing they hadn't been so brave. At first they thought there must be a fire burning within but the light was only a glow and did not have the characteristic flicker of firelight. Finally Frikkie groped about for a stone and hurled it into the dark interior. There was a clatter as it fell. No roar of rage ensued, so they switched on all three torches and directed the triple beam before them.
"Cease the soiling of thy linen, brethren." In Henry's voice there was no evidence of the relief he was feeling. "Cast thy gazes into every nook and cranny with fearless scientific curiosity. This cavern be devoid of any discernible presence." They walked in as far as it was possible to go whilst maintaining an upright stance. "We were well justified in scoffing at the craven superstitions of that dusky primitive, Shadrack the shoe-boy. Now let us investigate the strange luminosity. Snuff out thy lanterns."
The next day they had excitedly reported their discovery to the Ingachini Scientific Society. Where the walls of the cave funnelled back to the orifice there had been a distinct glow of a pale greenish hue. The further into the funnel, the more intense was the luminescence, and the orifice itself glowed strongly. It was as if the source of the light lay somewhere deep within the hillside and was seeping out into the cave.
"Zis is incredible! It is kvite clearly ze visible manifestation of electromagnetic forces at vork, zus producing ze phenomenon of phosphorescence."
"Quite so, Fritz old chap," Witherspoon concurred. "Must be phosphorescence. But I wonder what type of radiation is involved. And where is the source?"
"Zere could be strong deposits of uranium or plutonium right here under our bottoms vere ve are sittingk. Or ze possibility is existing zat zis is ancient phosphorescence remaining over for sousands of years in ze form of ze electron trap. To be sure, vot ve are needingk is und Geiger counter."
But they never gained access to such sophisticated equipment and no more precise an explanation was forthcoming.
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