Book II: Chapter 34
Now it was finally getting interesting!
In my vision I’d been watching Alan and Miriam make their way through the secret catacombs beneath St. Peter’s Basilica – and so far it was kind of a boring vision. However after watching Alan fail to make a clean jump across the chasm things suddenly got a lot more exciting!
Unfortunately for me, the suspense did not last.
Rather than fall backwards into the pit, Alan somehow managed to throw himself forward – he then careened down into Miriam and sent them both rolling in a pile down the remaining steps.
“Ouch!” Miriam tried to catch her breath as they came to a stop on the damp stones at the bottom of the steps.
“Sorry,” Alan rolled off of Miriam, looking back towards the steps. “How are we going to get back out? There’s no way we can make that leap back UP those missing steps – if any steps are still there.”
“No time for that. We’ve got to keep moving.” Miriam got up and raced ahead, following the only path available – a sharp curve to the left.
This cave was level – yet even more slippery than before because of a slimy mildew that clung to the rocks. Eventually they came to yet another triple fork. Miriam again chose to go left, yet the cobwebs filling this doorway were so thick she actually had to use her flame to burn them away.
Nonetheless, when they entered the next cavern, not only were the walls narrow, but worse yet the ceiling grade sloped in upon them and after just a few paces, Alan was forced to bend down further and further until eventually he was crawling, “Are we almost there?”
Miriam didn’t reply, but instead pressed ahead.
Crawling on hands and knees, at last she wriggled her way through a tiny opening and then called back, “Don’t worry, I can stand up – this room is larger. Come on.”
Yet when she flashed the light back to give Alan a view, he panicked upon seeing that the opening was the size of a watermelon.
“I can’t do it!” Alan began to hyperventilate. “I’ll get stuck.”
“You CAN do it. Just stick your right arm and head through first, then I will pull you the rest of the way.”
Alan hesitated. For nearly a candlemark he refused to move, regardless of Miriam’s encouragements.
At last Miriam reached her limits and not even trying to mask her frustration she growled, “Would you rather just stay where you are and have me go on without you?”
That’s all it took to get Alan to move. Closing his eyes, he began squeezing into the hole before him…
Only to get himself stuck!
He huffed and puffed, and all the while the rocks tore into his clothes and scratched at the flesh beneath.
Yet no matter what, he couldn’t get through. “ARRRGH! I’m going to die here.”
“Hush, you’re not going to die.” Miriam tried to calm Alan as he remained stuck in the cave. “You can’t die. Remember?”
“But that’s even worse!” Alan whined. “I’ll be stuck here forever.”
“Sshh. Just give me a moment to think.” After a pause, Miriam joked, “Well, look on the bright side, after a couple months, you’ll lose a few pounds and maybe you can squeak through then.”
“Not funny. Just get me out.”
Miriam stood for a moment more, and then came up with an idea. “Close your eyes.” Then after taking a deep breath, she kicked hard three times against the edge of the portal under Alan’s arm which was sticking through on her side – the rock cracked! After a more kicks, large chunks fell away – making the opening wide enough for Alan to push his way through.
“Thank you, Jesus!” Alan gasped, trying to regain his senses.
He and Miriam were now in another antechamber – and although it was only about five feet by six feet, and Alan still had to stoop a bit, this place must have seemed like a coliseum compared to the suffocating corridor he just came from.
“Don’t worry.” Miriam advised. “The rest of the way should be no problem. Er, assuming that nothing else has changed.”
“Hrmpf.” Alan clenched his teeth. “Let’s just get this over with.”
Miriam took the only way available – a sharp turn to the right – followed this a short way, but then suddenly she stopped.
“What’s the matter?” Alan asked.
Miriam held up the light before her – revealing a blank wall.
“Did we take a wrong turn?” Alan asked anxiously, surely feeling the weight of the earth above him and dreading a return back towards that tiny hole. Yet before the phobia took further hold of him, Miriam bent forward and pushed at the lower right corner of the wall, causing the stones to grate apart.
“Ah good, another wall that moves.” Alan remarked casually — no longer surprised to see that Miriam had found yet another secret cavern.
“This is it – The Sacra Crypta.” Miriam was all smiles. “We found it – praise God!”
(Well, this should be interesting – even I don’t know what to expect now…)