Chapter 6 -- An Unexpected Discovery
Woods announcement struck the group like a kryptonic bomb. Jared Thompson dropped to his knees and began digging with a pocket knife to avoid damaging whatever it was that Woods had found. Within minutes they had extricated a plastic tub. The tub was white, roughly 8" tall and the lid was sealed on with duct tape.
"It's an Oz-vat!" cried Ozzie, who ought to have known.
Jared was using his knife to cut the tape off the lid of the tub. The rest of the long-time campers were looking at each other with a mixture of doubt and suspicion.
"When do you think Jeff put it there, " said the Beast, "and what do you think he's got in it?"
Everyone relaxed for a minute at the realization that the tub might not be from the future, that it might just be some prank on Jeff's part.
"Maybe Jeff didn't put it there at all," said Doug, "After all, several people were up here with all the right tools when you guys dug the cave."
Several members of the group nodded in affirmation, but Steve immediately discounted that. He had been present for most of the work on the cave, and he swore that none of the people he'd worked with had ever monkeyed with the time capsule. The rest of those who had worked on the cave agreed, although that certainly didn't rule out the possibility of someone having done it at some other time. After all, they'd had ten years to do it in.
Thompson had removed the tape and was about to open the lid when Ron called for silence.
"After all," he said, "it's not every day that you see proof of time travel." His joke was met with general laughter and then silence. Milon and Hunt leaned in with their six cell mag-lites as Jared removed the lid. Inside the vat was a sealed envelope addressed to "Participants: Winter Camp XXII, 1998". Nick "Sleeves" Polifroni used his pocket knife to open the envelope and then pulled out its contents. Pictures! An entire roll of pictures! Steve Donohue was looking over Nick's shoulder and nearly fainted.
"Triple bunk," he stammered, "there's a picture of the triple bunk."
With that, Ron and Doug craned in to look. The photos did, in fact, seem to be of Winter Camp I. There was a shot of the six campers on a hike, a picture of the triple bunk, and even a photo of the famed "Donohue Brother's Knife Fight". Everyone sat for a second trying to think of a good reason for these pictures to exist.
"They've got to be a fake" said Howey.
"Maybe," said Mark, "or maybe Jeff has always had these photos and planned this whole thing out as a prank, or maybe..."
Tommy Lee interrupted Mark's train of thought, "They can't be Jeff's, he's in some of them. In fact, all six of them are in some of them, right?"
"That's right" said Doug, "someone else must have taken them. But the only people I remember even seeing at Winter Camp I were some hicks in a pickup truck. They certainly weren't taking any photos."
"No", laughed the Beast, "they weren't. Anyhow, I'd like to take a look at these under better light, like back at the cabin where it's warm."
Everyone chuckled and agreed. Woods tucked the photos into the inside pocket of his coat. They started the trek back to the cabin and had gotten almost to the main trail when Sleeves remembered they needed some of the tools for the next day. He and Keith King headed back to grab the shovel and the pick ax. They looked at the hole, mesmerized for a second then picked up the tools to leave.
The sound wasn't unearthly or anything, but it didn't belong. They heard a drum, and perhaps a horn of some kind coming from below them, on the south side of the slope. Nothing was that way though; the trail and all the cabins were north of them. Sleeves peered over the side of the site and down the steep southern slope. The cave was down there, and he could see a faint glow coming from it. He set down his shovel and worked his way cautiously down the hill.
He moved close to the cave, thinking he'd find a tape player and a flashlight inside, or perhaps that someone else was in there. He peered into the mouth and was shocked. The cave wasn't a cave anymore, it was a tunnel. He couldn't see how deep it went, but it was much deeper than the hill they were on. It was also shored up every twenty or so feet with huge timbers. It looked more like a mine than anything else. The music and the light were coming from down the tunnel and they seemed to be getting closer.
He paused for a second, considering investigating the tunnel himself, but he thought better of it. He scrambled up the hill as fast as he could and yelled for Smith to follow him. They left the tools behind in their haste and when they paused to catch their breath Keith, who was usually referred to simply as "K2", scolded him "That was dumb Sleeves. Why'd we go all the way back there and then leave the stuff?"
"Some.. something coming," Nick huffed, trying hard to catch his breath. "C'mon, we gotta catch up to the others."
K2 looked at Polifroni and wondered what he was talking about. He decided it was probably another Winter Camp tradition he hadn't heard of; some sort of trick they played on first timers. "Oh well," he thought to himself, "I guess I'll play along". He followed Nick down the trail towards the rest of the campers.
Nick set a breakneck pace and they had caught up with the stragglers in a matter of minutes. "Stop," he cried, "the cave, there's something wrong with the cave."
"Calm down, take nice slow breaths" cautioned Lou. "Okay, now what did you see."
"Well, we went back for the shovels, and when we got there I heard a noise coming from the cave. I went and looked, and the cave was gone.."
"You mean it collapsed again," asked Steve, a little worried about all the work they'd done for nothing.
"No," said Nick, "it was there, but it wasn't. Instead of our nice cozy cave, there was a long tunnel, like a mine shaft maybe, and it went on forever. I could hear music coming from the end of it, like drums or something, and a weird chanting sound."
"That's okay Nick," said the Beast, "we'll go get the shovels tomorrow when it's not so dark out and you won't need a night light.." The four stragglers had a good laugh at Nick's expense and then moved on, making him take the lead. He complained for a while, then decided that being in front put him further from that weird tunnel anyway and led on.
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