Pádraig was alone as usual with his dog when he felt the first tremors. Dust started to fall from the large columns of sandstone inside the cave. He wasn’t too worried at first, as the area still had some faint thermal and seismic activity, but the second aftershock took him by surprise.
He almost fell violently backwards if he hadn’t had good enough reflexes to grab on the half carved ledge of the column he was working on.
His dog started to howl violently.
“Hush, Poppy!” the dust made him cough. “Must be those stupid government guys from the nearby base. I thought they’d stopped their nuclear testing decades ago…”
The dog didn’t stop barking though, but darted out in one of the carved galleries. It stopped just before going out of sight, as if waiting for his master.
“Oh, what now silly? I’m getting old for these games.”
But the dog was stubborn, a trait they had in common, his dead wife would have told him. So he relented, and went in the direction the dog was leading to.
It took him a few hundred meters in the tunnel to realize something odd had happened. The air was full of moisture, quite unusual at this time of year. He pressed on.
The dog’s paws were making tick-tick noises on the stones, and echoed in the chambers. His gait was less light, and he had to stop a few times to catch his breath. His life’s work was now quite monumental, and it could take quite a while to go from one end to another.
Before they reached the last chamber, he had to stop. His feet were getting wet.
It had been his dream for a long time, to bring water deep down to create a sort of natural healing pool, and bathe in the beautiful minerals, but he’d done some research, and although he’d always believed some underground river was nearby, he’d never managed to find it, or find any trace in the cadastral maps.
Seemed it wasn’t as far as he’d thought after all.