Morning for Sokroshera Chapter Seventeen

By Timothy Smith, 2020

Morning for Sokroshera Chapter 17

Tim’s novel of Russian America (Kodiak Island area)

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April First, 1964. Mount Sokroshera’s cliffside WWII fort – The door to the cistern room has been opened. (Plot spoilers removed where possible)

At last, they reached the fort on the face of the cliff, and ducking into the lower hallway, soon reached the outer door of the cistern room. After a brief discussion, they decided that Jakob Pedersen would take the lead, then Herman, then Mr. Hansen, then Sandy Ann and Judson, and that Danny would bring up the rear. Marty, Brother Toma, and Billy Jr. would remain outside, with a couple of spare flashlights, in case anyone needed assistance, and because the cave most likely didn’t have room for much of a crowd. The three seemed satisfied to continue their discussion. Jakob insisted that for safety’s sake, they should all hang onto the rope Herman had brought, and he tied it around his waist. Danny, in the rear, also tied the rope around his waist. Jakob told everyone else to keep one hand firmly on the rope at all times. As they stepped into the cave, they all agreed to take it slow and easy. They passed the old handwritten words on the concrete wall: “Caution! Slippery Rocks! Do Not Enter!” Good old Mr. Faltrip hated that cave because of its “slippery rocks” and the badly bruised shoulder they once gave him, and had seen no reason for anyone to enter that cave again! (Skips ahead one paragraph)

With the cistern door now to their backs, they slowly began to ease their way along the ridge of rock that made up this part of the cave’s floor. The granite was just barely above the heads of Herman and Judson, and all the adults had to walk hunched over to avoid getting clobbered. The other main difficulty was that the cave floor was slanted down and to the left as the moisture drained toward the cistern. The rocks below their feet were frequently uneven, and were extremely slippery. Judson noticed that the further in they walked, the louder the sound of trickling water seemed to get. Water was visibly seeping, sometimes running, across the slate beneath their feet, and it didn’t feel any more secure to their shoes than a kelp-covered reef at low tide. On the granite slab above, there were places where water dripped almost at their feet. Very carefully, they managed to find places to step that avoided walking through, or walking under, the dripping water. Herman suggested that they shuffle along slowly on the slippery rocks, one foot solidly down before moving the other, as they would do if walking on ice or on kelp. That seemed to work.

Slowly, deliberately, they hunched, shuffled, and felt their way along the slate ridge to the right of the cistern door. Sandy Ann, sandwiched between Mr. Hansen and Judson, held onto the rope with her left hand, and swept ahead with her flashlight, even though Jakob had suggested they not do that. “Look,” she said, pointing slightly upwards and to the left. Her flashlight illuminated a long section of overhanging granite that seemed to be dry. A large crack in the granite made a jagged ridge in the ceiling in front of them, where a huge section had dropped a good six inches lower than the rest of the slab. Water was trickling from the low side of the crack, which was probably why the rest of that section was dry. As they followed the path of her flashlight, Mr. Hansen, a couple of feet ahead of her, was able to aim a little higher into the crack. “I think I see some concrete and bent rebar up there,” he said. “Do you think the quake did that?” asked Sandy Ann. Herman’s voice cut in. “No, remember the guard shack and the big crack in the floor? We’re looking at the underside of it, I’ll bet. This has been here awhile.” Sandy Ann let out a low whistle, and asked, “Are we that far in already?” Jakob began, “Yes, and we shouldn’t spend too long in here...”

Suddenly, Sandy Ann slipped sideways. Her flashlight was with her until her body landed and her right arm hit a little ridge in the slippery rocks below their feet. Then the flashlight spun out of her hand, slid down the incline, and rested against a bump in the floor below them, at least ten feet out of reach to their left. To her credit, Sandy Ann still held the rope tightly in her left hand. Although both the Hansens had held onto the rope as she fell, they had been unable to stop her fall. Sandy Ann let out a low moan, which finally formed into a soft, “Whooftie... Abahtchahuck!” At this last word expressing strong pain, all attention and all the other flashlights were now on her. Jakob, her “bandage man” uncle, circled gingerly back and bent down over her. He carefully removed Sandy Ann’s sweatshirt and ripped open her shirtsleeve, revealing an ugly bruise forming on her upper arm, where her weight had slammed into the same ridge in the floor that had caused her to slip. “Well, Serafina, I guess we need to take you back out...” She shook her head, but no one could see that. “Wait!” she said, as loudly as she could manage through her throbbing pain. “Look at... where my... flashlight is pointing! Look!



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