There is a cave-in at Misty Depths Catacombs, Wyoming and Renee Bonnet finds herself stranded with a broken ankle and two strangers, Lem, a business man and a runaway teenager, Courtney. The cave is the catalyst but the events depend on the new catalyst, Renee, who finds herself drawn into the lives of her companions
Catalyst is a gripping action story of three people trapped in a cave together. They learn to trust and depend on each other not knowing whether they will survive the ordeal or not. It is a romantic drama that combines the sheer force of nature with the frailty of human emotions, greed, jealousy, passion, companionship and love.
This is a rescue story that does not stop when the victims are rescued but continues, as real life does, to mould new lives for the lonely characters.
When the earth shook, Renee gave an involuntary shudder and glanced up from the book she was reading. What began as a slight shaking of their overhead light was within seconds a rolling tremor. Seconds later the area jolted violently and was accompanied by a rumbling like thunder during a summer’s storm.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Trouble!” Lem yelled.
Courtney screamed when the light went out and the trio were plunged in darkness, a total blackout. This lasted mere seconds.
“Oh, my God,” Renee hissed.
The whole area to their east lit up in a bright flash, so strong she had to shade her eyes.
“Lightning,” screamed Courtney. “But how, down here?”
The whole cavern was lit by a pulsing red and yellow glow. The rumbling continued, accompanied by sudden movement of air. A gust that sucked towards the light turned to a gale, which buffeted Renee’s face. Words were torn from her mouth, hair flung into her eyes and the book pages flapped.
Choking dust twirled, stung her eyes and entered her nose. She could not breath. It was blocking everything. Where were her crutches? They’d been blown aside. Magazines, plastic bags and other light objects flew through the air and the tent flapped. Only heavy restraining pegs held it secure.
She sputtered a rasping cough to clear her throat and sucked in dust-laden air, only to find herself choking again. Her eyes could barely function as tears tried to flush them clean. Her lungs protested. She heaved and gasped like an asthmatic. The more she tried to breathe, the worse it became.
She forced her stinging eyes open. Everything was lit up, so every stalactite and stalagmite stood out like a monstrous Greek temple. Desperate, Renee attempted to stand but her broken ankle would not support her weight and she was pitched sideways onto the ground.
Panic set in.
But help was at hand. A muscular arm grabbed her and she was half carried and half dragged into the flapping tent. Lem shouted something in her ear.
“Oxygen,” he yelled. “Put on the mask.”
She felt his hand place a small plastic mask over her face. There was a faint hiss inside her head and cool fresh air entered her raw throat. She could breath!
“Take it slowly.” Lem’s muffled voice punctured her senses. “The air is being sucked away.”
Renee opened her eyes, rubbed the stinging tears aside and glanced around. Orange canvas flapped above the dark blue floor. Courtney was coughing beside her but had managed to pull the tent door zipper down.
She breathed that fresh, delicious oxygen into her lungs and squeezed Lem’s hand. “Thank you.”
But there was no time to say more. Another gigantic rumble made her jump in terror and the world blacked out. Total blackness surrounded her as if someone had punched out her eyes but all other senses were on overdrive. She felt dust even inside the tent. The taste of grit filled her mouth, her eyes smarted and she could smell scorched milk.
Scorched milk, how could that be? It wasn’t, of course but there was a distinct aroma of burnt objects.
A light came on, a local friendly light. Lem had turned on his helmet flashlight.
“The tent!” Courtney screamed.
Renee frowned before she understood. The flapping stopped. Everything became quiet but this was only momentary. When the flapping began again it was less powerful and only buffeted the canvas gently but while the air was still dust-laden, it felt different.
Lem removed his mask and a pale smile came to his lips. “We have air. I think we can breathe without the masks.”
Renee removed her mask and took several tentative breaths. The air appeared fresh. The wind slowed to a breeze and finally nothing. Lem looked as if he’d grown a ginger-beard and Courtney was wide- eyed and open-mouthed.
“What was it?” the youngster gasped.
“An explosion followed by a cave-in, I think,” Lem answered. “It sucked our air away and the following landslide collapsed the cave to our east and sealed us in.”
“But we can breathe,” Courtney argued.
“There must be an entrance somewhere in the direction where we fell in. Perhaps the earthquake made a hole.”
Renee replied, “New air from the upper cave rushed into the vacuum. That was the changed wind direction.”
“I’d say so,” Lem concluded.
Renee found Lem’s arm around her and noticed he also held the shaking teenager. She began to speak but stopped. Another earthquake had arrived. The tent shook, some equipment outside clanged, the shake subsided and silence returned to their lonely prison.
“Oh, Lem,” Renee cried. “Is it over?”
“I think so. Stay here and I’ll slip out for a peek.”
He squeezed both their arms and walked away.
“I was petrified,” Courtney confessed. “When I couldn’t breathe I thought that was it.”
Their conversation was interrupted when Lem returned. “It’s a mess out there but the air is fresh. Even the hot stink has gone. However, the light doesn’t go on and all contact with the surface is broken.” He produced a flask. “Here, quench your throats. The food is all over the place.” He sat and grinned. “There’ll be no more earthquakes, though.” Nobody said a word and his expectant look turned to disappointment. “Well, aren’t you going to ask why?”
“I know why,” Renee whispered.
“I don’t. How?” Courtney shrieked in exasperation.
Renee pulled back the tent flap. “The glowworms have lit up.” She frowned. “I’d forgotten but just before it happened, I’m sure they switched off. I glanced up from my book and saw it. Seconds later the quake started.”
“So it must be a good sign,” Lem added.
“But how would a tiny insect know?” Courtney asked.
“They knew,” Lem replied. “And I reckon they know it’s okay now.”
And so it was. No more tremors arrived, the air remained pure and a million glowworms covered their artificial sky like friends offering guidance and support. Ten minutes later the light came on but the microphone and speaker remained silent.
“Well, back to being Robinson Crusoe,” Lem said.
“Yeah and two Girl Fridays,” Courtney replied.