188 - rich
e could hear them calling. The sound had been the faintest of things at first, and Ben was sure it wasn't real. But as it grew in volume and intensity, he realized someone really had come looking for him.
The calls came in regular intervals. Two voices, one male and another female, echoed off the craggy cave walls. They shouted out not only his name, but those of his three comrades as well.
"Martin! Sam! Ben! Bill! Anyone!" the call rang out. Ben heard no responses go back. Their words were heavy on his heart, as they meant that his friends had fared no better. They were all still lost.
After the floor collapsed, Sam was the only one that Ben knew survived. Martin and Bill quite possibly died during the initial ordeal, but Sam and Ben held onto hope that they had somehow escaped or just ended up further away. Maybe they would get help.
Ben now figured that in all likelihood their corpses were buried somewhere in the pile of rubble that separated Sam and Ben into two different chambers. The two of them had tried to dig through the rocks to reunite, but in the end they had to settle for muffled conversation through the new wall.
Sam and Ben had followed the first rule of survival and stayed put. The rule was easier to follow by the fact that both of them were in pitch black darkness, most of their tools lost or damaged during the collapse.
Neither of them was too eager to give up their companion and go it alone.
But after enough time passed, no other options presented themselves to the two stranded spelunkers. Navigating by feel alone, they ventured forward in their respective chambers. They hoped they might find a way to link back up, but as their voices became more strained and distant, they knew that they were moving in opposite directions.
Finally, the pair reached a point where their loudest shouts could barely be heard by the other, and to carry on, each would have to do it by himself. They said no goodbyes, not wanting to think of this as the end. Just wishes of good luck and vows to see each other once they had escaped.
Ben had been on his own since then. Sometimes, he pondered whether or not he was still alive, and how he would even be able to tell when he crossed that threshold. Until hearing the rescuers' voices, he hadn't heard a single sound that wasn't of his own creation.
He tried to call back to the voices. All that came from him was a hoarse whisper. His throat had gone dry long ago, and yelling out to Sam had not helped the condition of his vocal cords.
People were here looking for him, but they might never find him, even if they were close. He needed to alert them to his presence somehow. Feebly, he found a loose stone and gripped it in his hands. He began to knock it against the cavern's walls in a slow, rhythmic fashion.
The sound was faint, but he was so weak that he couldn't strike the wall with any additional force. Every reserve within him had run dry, and though help was near, he had burned through all that he could give.
All that he could do was hope. The calls came louder. Just then, his eyes seemed to perceive something, which they had not done for some time now. A beam of white light bounced off the wall in the distance. And again.