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Crawl and Shuffle

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Before Idele was born, her parents took a road trip from the top to the bottom of the African continent. She was conceived after the trip, to two people bonded together by love and the spirit of adventure. Unsurprisingly, their daughter inherited that same spirit. Idele would frequently skip school to explore places she found scouring maps. When she managed to maintain some level of proximity to her home, she would be found hanging from trees or playing in the nearby streams.

A few days before her fifteenth birthday, Idele was examining a map of nearby regions when she found something she had never seen before. About a day’s drive away, there was an underground cave system.

“Please can we go?” she pleaded with her parents. “It can be an early birthday present.”

A short while later, three people incapable of saying no to an adventure were in a car and on the road.

Idele lowered herself into the cave and shone her helmet torch into the darkness. She had been climbing and sliding down for almost fifteen minutes. Awaking at sunrise, she had left her parents at ground level, sleeping in the tent. The three of them had spent the previous day exploring the cave system. The two adults were exhausted but Idele wanted to see more. She had come to a flat, open section of the cave system where she could walk upright. She noticed something up ahead. It looked like a light source, but colourful. She switched off her helmet light and walked closer. Suddenly Idele lost her footing and fell. Her body landed in a twisted heap. Dazed, she looked around. She realised that the cave floor had come to an end and she had fallen down a steep incline. She unfurled herself, but when she attempted to stand up, she felt a sharp pain in her ankle. She tried again more cautiously. Another darting pain informed her that she would not be able to put any weight on the leg. She swung her backpack into her lap, opened it and began to rummage. As ever, she was prepared. By the light of her helmet, and wincing all the while, she wrapped a brace around her ankle and secured it in place. Returning the backpack to her back she glanced back up the incline. She took a deep breath. It was not going to be easy.

“Crawl and shuffle,” Idele said to herself, her voice echoing in the cold, dark cave. “Crawl and shuffle.”

For the next hour, Idele crawled and shuffled back up through the cave system. The pain in her ankle pulsed with every movement. It was excruciating. Every time she turned a corner, she felt like the stretch ahead was impossible. Yet, she persevered and each time, the impossible became the accomplished. At last she found herself shuffling towards the entrance to the cave.

“Idele!” her father exclaimed when he saw her gripping the side of the cave, covered in dirt and shuffling along.

“What happened?” asked her mother rushing forward.

“Oh, you know,” Idele said, smiling and gratefully allowing her mother to take her weight, “Just had an early morning adventure.”

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