No Way Out

Ansley McAllister

© Copyright 2005 by Ansley McAllister


Photo of  cave entrance.

Their navy blue jeep pulled off to the side of the road. Hopping out of the car Jana looked up into the sun. It was a sweltering day and she couldn’t wait to get into the cool moist air of the cave. Nate began pulling his coveralls over his shorts and T-shirt; the heat made putting on long sleeves almost unbearable. While Jana finished lacing her boots up Nate got both their helmets and headlamps ready. Then he realized that Jana’s light was low, "you’ll need more batteries" he noticed handing her the helmet. It took her several minutes to locate the batteries (which were under the front seat next to Nate’s muddy flip flops!) she changed the batteries out and then tucked a few more into her pocket just in case. They were almost set. Buckling the straps underneath their chins Jana nodded, not wanting to speak because of the intense heat. Nate nodded back and they both made their way carefully down the slope. Jana breathed deeply; already she could feel the cool temperature of the cave overcoming them. It was going to be an awesome day!

Jana and Nate Havlick were brother and sister. Living in Chattanooga, TN they loved days like this when they could do really anything that interested them. Nate was a real daredevil and although Jana was not so brave as him, she wasn’t about to be outdone by her kid brother! So they sky dived, rock climbed, caved, repelled, and wilderness camped. Surprisingly though through all their narrow escapes Jana had never once been scared. Nate was extremely protective of her and was always there to help her out. Not only in their adventures together but also their normal every day lives. Jana worked at a real estate agency in Chattanooga while Nate was a construction worker for a local firm. One day Jana had come home from work exhausted, and worried about an upcoming event. She had wearily told Nate about her boss snapping at her in front of a large group, which of course was embarrassing. Right then and their Nate jumped up from his chair and said he was going to go talk to her old boss and explain some things to him. That he wasn’t allowed to treat Jana like that. It was all that she could do to keep him away from the door and try to relay her words in a way that made Nate understand. Yes, Jana knew she was safe as long as Nate was around.

They had been crawling, squeezing, and hoisting for about an hour when Jana remembered something. "Nate!" she exclaimed, "we never called anyone and told them we were going in!" When a caver goes into a cave he is always supposed to make a call and let someone know the time it is and the time they should expect the caver back and when to be worried. Somehow with the stifling heat and finding the batteries she had forgotten to call. "Should we go back?" Jana wondered. Nothing had ever happened to them before, why should this time be any different.

‘Na, we’ll be fine." Nate said trying to reassure her. "But just to be sure we don’t have to do any vertical climbing if you’ll feel better that way."

"Okay, whatever."

Without another word Jana took the lead and started her way through a "rolling hole" where you lie flat on your back with your arms behind your head and roll sideways for quite a ways. Going through one more foxhole they slithered out the other end and ended up in a huge cathedral room, the sight was almost breathtaking, all the beauty underneath our feet, so settled and calm. Jana sighed contentedly and took out her water bottle and took a drink of the cool water, Nate sat on a ledge near by and took out a peanut butter and chocolate chunk granola bar. They sat quietly for some time taking in what was around them and then suddenly CRASH! A huge ledge just over the opening to the room thundered to the ground. Jana screamed in surprise and Nate jumped up. They had heard of rocks and earth collapsing but had never seen one so big before. It was about 20 feet high and 10 feet round. But worst of all it was blocking their only way out, they were trapped in the cave!

"Nate! Nate!" Jana began to scream hysterically. "Wwwhat are we gonna do?


"Jana!" Nate’s voice was sharp, he knew what would happen if she acted like this, she could become chlostrophobic or pass out. "Jana!" He put both of his hands on her shaking shoulders. "Look at me!" He demanded. "Stop!" He said, calmly, it’s all right. We’re gonna be okay. Now do you trust me?" He stared her in the eyes, Jana had calmed down but she was still shaking and sobbing quietly. She nodded slightly. "Okay then, I’m gonna get you out of this, but you have to help me out, do you understand?" Again she nodded. Confident that she was under control Nate still did not let go of her but took her over to a rock and sat her down, taking her hand he began to think. What could he do? He didn’t have a shovel, or anything else to dig with. And worse no one would even be wondering where they were. Their parents knew they were going caving but they didn’t know which cave. Right now he needed to get Jana warm and moving, caves were extremely cold when you just sat there. And being scared didn’t help your body temperature any. Reaching into his pack he pulled out a small package of Oreo’s. They were mainly just crumbs but he handed them to Jana and she ate in silence taking a small sip of water. She was beginning to think as well and she realized how important it was to ration their water and food supply, he feet began to tingle and she realized that they better get up and walk around, so as not to grow too cold and lose circulation or feeling. Nate let go of her hand and went over to the huge mound of solid earth it was so large, so heavy, there was no way! But he mustn’t lose hope. Jana was counting on him. Somehow, someway, they would make it. Nate just knew it.

Meanwhile above ground the sun was just starting to set when Matt Jones one of Nate’s co-workers noticed Nate’s jeep parked by the side of the road. Thinking he might be in some car trouble Matt pulled over. Checking out the car and not seeing anyone he was preparing to leave when he noticed the cave quite a few yards down a steep embankment. Well, he thought I know Nate will never stay past dark in a cave, he has work tomorrow, I’ll just wait around a couple more minutes and say hi once he gets out. The minutes slowly ticked by for both people. Matt on top, and also Nate underneath. Jana has fallen asleep finally on his shoulder. They just waited. Finally Matt called Nate and Jana’s mom and asked if they had given her a time they’d come up. She said they hadn’t ever called. That she’d been gone all day shopping and they probably hadn’t reached her and had called someone else. Matt then tried one of Nate’s other good friends; again he said no one had called. Again and again Matt tried getting numbers to Jana and Nate’s aquintences, every time it was the same answer. Several of them came to the spot where the jeep was parked to wait with Matt. After waiting two more hours Matt finally said, "Okay that’s it, I’m not much of a caver but I’m going in there, is anyone else comin? Two other boys Jared and Josh, both big bulky men went in also. About two hours later the others outside had called the police and rescue workers and they were just about to go in when Matt, Josh, and Jared appeared dirty, sweaty, and worn out. Lying on his back and breathing heavily Matt gasped. "We found them!" He finally managed. "They’re trapped in one of the rooms, we need to go dig them out." He then explained "I shouted from the blocked entrance and I heard a voice shouting back. It’s them alright" Matt began to sit up "So lets go, we---" One of the police men put his hand on Matt’s shoulder and interrupted him. "Not we," he said. "You’re way too dead tired to go back in there. You wait here while we go, don’t worry we’ll bring them both back safely." Matt was too tired to resist, so he just laid back and prayed.

"What’s up man?" Matt walked into the hospital room that held Nate. "You recovering good?"

"I guess so," Nate’s voice was hard to make out. "Hey listen Matt, about this whole thing, you know man I owe my life and Jana’s to you. If you hadn’t decided to stop by that night, ----"

"Hey, someone else would have come by I’m sure----"

"No, wait Matt, what I want to say is, well, thanks. You really showed your friendship."

"It’s alright Nate, I just want to see you get better that’s all."

Just then Jana was wheeled into the room. "Hey guys, your looking well Nate, thanks again Matt."

"I just got over telling your brother your welcome. So I’ll say it again, you’re welcome."

"Hey Jana, by the way, once we get better, how ‘bout some sky divin’?"

"Nate!" Jana yelled!

"Just kidding," He smiled and gave his sister a hug.

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