The Lost, the Cave and the Closet

📅 Published on November 1, 2021

“The Lost, the Cave and the Closet”

Written by Heath Pfaff
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 6.50/10. From 2 votes.
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“I don’t want the cops up here snooping in my stuff.”  Brian’s voice told me he was angry almost as much as he was worried.  Things were out of his control, and he never liked that.

“Your wife and daughter are missing.  Now isn’t the best time to worry about the cops finding your little grow operation, Brian.”  Quin, at least, was making some sense.  We’d been friends for a long time, since kindergarten, and the dynamic really hadn’t changed much over the years.  Growing up and getting married hadn’t made any of us better at not being idiots.

Brian was a hot-head who got himself – and us – in trouble, but also managed to get us into some great adventures.  Quin was smart and direct, but he didn’t quite have the personality to pull the group in less destructive directions.  Thomas was quiet and just went along with whatever the rest of us decided was the best course of action.  He was dependable though.  I was the one who tried to make whatever plan we ended up with actually work, and usually managed to get us out of the worst of the trouble.

Brian scowled at Quin.  “You know your uncle’s got it out for me.  He comes up here and sees the plants in the back and he’ll finally be able to bust me.  No cops.”  The two plants in Brian’s backyard were barely knee-high and were almost dead.  I didn’t think anyone was going to seriously give him trouble over them.

Brian went on.  “I just need some quick help.  Besides, I don’t know how to explain this to the cops.”

“About that, explain this to me again?”  I decided it was time for clarification.  “You woke up and saw Heather chasing Alice into the closet, and when you went to check the closet, there was a tunnel instead of a closet.  On the second floor.  That’s what you said, right?”

Brian nodded, clearly exasperated.  “I fucking know it sounds crazy!  That’s why I called you guys, because no one else is going to believe this shit!”

“I don’t believe this shit,” Quin helped.

Brian looked like he was about to explode, but Tom spoke up, drawing all of our attention.  “Why don’t we go have a look?”

“Because Brian is fucking with us, and he’s going to have Heather jump out of the closet with a mask on, and I’m too tired for this shit.”  Quin wasn’t having any of it.

I looked at Brian, and I could see the tension in him.  This wasn’t “pulling a prank” Brian.  This was “something bad just happened” Brian.  It was like the time he’d come to us after his parents were killed in that car accident a few years back.  He was brittle, the pain just under the surface.

“We’re here,” I said.  “Let’s go have a look.”

We exchanged looks and everyone nodded, even Quin, so we started inside.

“Did you try to go after them?”  Quin asked as we started up the stairs, meaning he was taking this far more seriously than he was letting on.  He could sense Brian’s mood as well.  We’d been together for almost forty years.  You knew people after that kind of time.  These weren’t just my friends, they were my brothers; the ones I’d chosen as family.

“I started to, but I realized pretty quickly it was getting dark, and I didn’t have gear.  I didn’t want to run into the dark and get lost.”  Brian answered.  This was his brand new house.  The stairs didn’t even squeak as we walked up them.  He’d only been moved in for just over a month.  We reached the master bedroom and went inside, turning in the direction of the closet.  According to logical reasoning, the closet should have been up against the back corner of the house’s wall on the second floor.  As we turned on our headlamps and stepped in to look, we quickly realized that logical reasoning would need to be put on hold.

“This is impossible,” Thomas said softly, and he was right.  We were staring down a narrow cave, gray stone walls all around.  They looked natural, like they’d just been carved by water over time.  They were about six feet wide and about the same tall, the corners rounded so it was a circle and not a square cut passage.  My light went down the path until it couldn’t get any further, and there was only darkness to see.  Had this path actually existed, it would have gone right out the back of the house and extended past the edge of Brian’s yard.  About fourteen feet above the ground.

There was a picture scratched on the wall just inside the cave, a spiral with a pointed tip at the outer end, a diamond-shaped head.  I reached out to touch it, wondering who had scratched it there, but Quin’s voice snapped my focus away.

“Shit, we should really call the police,” Quin reiterated.  “This is . . . I don’t even know what this is.”

“Guys, please, Heather and Alice are down there somewhere.  I need to find them.”  Brian’s voice was as sincere as it ever had been.  Who could say “no” to that?

Thomas stepped into the cave and started walking.  He didn’t say anything at all, but he didn’t need to.  We were here for Brian, for the love of his life, and the little girl we all considered a niece.  There was no question of whether or not we’d keep going.

Brian followed after Thomas, and then Quin entered the cave, and I took up position in the back.  “One second guys,” I called ahead, my voice sounding too close in the relatively narrow space.  I pulled out my knife, and using the glass breaker on the heel of the handle I scratched an arrow pointing back towards the door.  It was kind of unnecessary at this point, but I wanted to make a habit of doing it.  I didn’t want to get lost in whatever this place was.

“Alright, let’s go,” I said, and then we were moving again.  At six foot two, Thomas had to walk at a slight hunch, but the rest of us were just short enough not to have that problem.  Every few hundred steps we stopped and called out for the girls, then waited and listened, hoping for an answer.  How far could they have gone?

Trying to keep track of distance was pointless because the cave didn’t seem to change in any noticeable way.  Not at first.  It wasn’t until I looked back over my shoulder and discovered that I couldn’t see the entrance at all anymore, that I realized it had been very slowly curving.  I stopped and marked the wall again.

“The cave is turning,” I said, and the others stopped to look back as well.  I went down to a knee so they could look back the way we’d come.  “Can you see anything up ahead?”

“There is something up there, but it doesn’t look like a person.  It might be a split in the tunnel,” Thomas said.

Quin cursed loudly.  “A split?  How are we going to handle that?  I mean, it would be logical to split up, but I’m not sure I like that idea.”

“Before we worry about it, let’s go make sure it is a split,” Brian interjected.  “We have to keep going anyway.  We can’t go back until we find the girls.”  He said this last part as though reminding us that he didn’t intend to turn back.  I didn’t think any of us were going to turn back now.  We’d already gone too far.

There was a general murmur of acceptance among the group, and we began to move forward again.  I looked up at the rock overhead as we moved, and I noticed that it looked like there were gouges in the ceiling, spaced out in a strange even pattern to the left and right of center, but not in the center.  I wondered if it was related to what produced the tunnel, but then again, the tunnel was already impossible.  Why did anything have to have produced it?  Maybe it just was.

We stopped after about thirty more yards.  I couldn’t see much around the other guys, but I tried to look anyway.

“It splits,” Thomas said.  “As far as I can see the two new tunnels run right beside each other, but I can’t see the end of either branch.”

“Can you see any evidence of Heather and Alice?” Brian asked.  “I mean, they must have gone down the same side.”

“I’m sorry, Brian.  They both look exactly alike.”  Just as Tom finished talking, a terrible cacophony of sound rushed down the tunnel, enveloping all of us in chaos for several moments until it stuttered out entirely.

“What the fuck was that?!”  The words were out of my mouth before the ringing in my ears was gone.

“Did it sound like a person?”  Brian’s voice held an edge of barely restrained panic.

“No, no, that wasn’t a person, Bry.”  Quin reached up and squeezed Brian’s shoulder.

Whatever it had been, it had sounded alive, but Quin was right to the degree that I didn’t think it had sounded remotely human.  When I was a young man our barn had been struck by lightning during a big summer storm.  By the time we’d realized what had happened, the building was engulfed, as was the livestock inside.  We managed to get some of the animals out, but I never forgot the sound of the dying ones we couldn’t get to screaming in abject terror.  It was a primal sound, one so drenched in fear and pain that it defied my young mind’s ability to understand.  I knew only that hearing that suffering had given me nightmares that I still sometimes suffered from.

The sound I’d just heard in the cave was like that in a way, primal and full of a type of pain that I couldn’t comprehend.  For the first time since we’d entered the cave, I wasn’t sure that I could go any further.

“Which tunnel did it come down?”  Tom was asking, and Brian said something in response, but I was looking back over my shoulder at the way we’d come.

“Maybe we should get help,” I said quietly.  “This whole thing is getting really freaky.”

“No… guys, come on!  We’ll split up here, go a little way down these next two passages, and if there is still nothing then we can call for help, alright?”  Brian was pleading, his voice quavering in a way I’d never heard from him.

Shit.  “Alright, yeah, let’s look a little further,” I agreed.  “Everyone got their phones?” I asked, pulling mine from my pocket.  It was reading no-signal, but the time was still right.  The others pulled out their phones as well, everyone checking the signal as though they expected this magic cave in the back of Brian’s house to have reception.  Not having reception was one of the least surprising things I’d seen since we found the hole.

“We’ll split into two groups, and walk about ten minutes down the next branch, and then we’ll come back here and report what we find, alright?  So we meet here in twenty minutes, okay?”  I looked at the others as well as I could in the cramped tunnel.

Brian was nodding, his phone down at his side.  I wasn’t convinced he’d come back so easily.

“Twenty minutes, so we can see what the other group found, right?” I reiterated, trying to get Brian to meet my eyes.  If he didn’t find anything, surely he’d want to know if we had.

“Yeah, twenty minutes, ten out, ten back,” Quin confirmed.  “Let’s get this done with.  Brian and Tom can take the right path.  We’ll take the left.”  He gestured at the tunnel that was going to be our course.  I took a moment and marked the path back.

We moved out together then.  I felt a sense of impending danger as our group broke apart.  For a short while I could hear Brian and Tom talking as they went down the right path.  Tom was trying to comfort Brian, but after less than a minute the voices faded entirely.

“I hate this,” Quin said quietly as we walked.  “Nothing about this is right.  I’d do anything for the girls, but I’m fucking terrified.”

“Yeah, I know,” I answered.  “I feel exactly the same.  I want to help, but I think we need to get some people with real equipment down here.”

“Safety lines, or tunnel lights… something.”  Quin nodded his agreement, and then added a moment later, “Hey, are the walls getting closer, or is it just me?”

At some point, I’d started to walk partially sideways without noticing.  Quin was right.  The walls were getting closer together.

“Maybe this branch of the cave is coming to an end?”  I offered, hopeful at the idea that we might be able to turn around before our time was up.  I checked my phone.  It had only been two minutes.

“Shit, it’s narrowing faster,” Quin said, and then a few moments later we stopped.  I tried to see over his shoulder, but I couldn’t make out much.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s… well, the path is still here, but it’s really narrow.  There is like a slit in the rock here.  I’m not sure I can get through it.”  Quin muttered something quietly to himself that sounded like, “I’m not sure I should try.”

I looked at my phone again.  Three minutes.

“We should try to get through.  If you start to get stuck I’ll help pull you back out,” I told Quin, not liking the words even as I said them.  This whole evening felt like a litany of mistakes.

Quin grunted, seeming uncertain.  “Alright.  Fuck.  Alright.”  He turned sideways and I caught a glimpse of the shallow slit in the tunnel.  He was right.  It was going to be a tight fit, but it did look possible.  Without any further hesitation, Quin began to push himself into the passage.  In a few seconds he was most of the way inside, and I could see the sweat on his head.

“I can… see… the other… side.”  His words came out between shallow, fast breaths.  “It opens… up again.”  He followed this up with another groan as he pushed himself in further.  There were another few moments of this and then I heard him stagger out the other side.

“I’m through!” he called back to me.  “The tunnel goes on from here.  It’s wider again.  Come on.”

I felt a surge of despair and realized that I’d been hoping he’d find this was a dead end and we could head back.  “I’m coming!” I called through to him, and then it was my turn to get moving.

I pushed myself into the wedge of space.  I had to pull in a breath to fit my ribs, and my gut dragged against the stone.  I needed to get back in shape.  The wall in front of me was just an inch from my nose.  I tried to take in a deep breath and a moment of panic as I realized that I couldn’t fill my lungs from inside the gap.  I’d never had trouble with enclosed spaces before, but suddenly I was feeling a surge of panic.  I pushed myself harder, using my hands to grab the stone in front of me to pull me forward.

“Fucking… tighr… in here,” I spoke to try and keep my panic in check.

“Just push through a little more.  You’ll be okay,” Quin said, and then his hand was on mine, helping to pull me through the gap.

I let out a nervous laugh and let him pull me.  I was almost there.

I felt something in the walls, like a vibration that traveled from the stone and into me.  Less than a second later that horrible sound from before rang through the tunnel.  My ears hummed as I let go of Quin and reached up to try and cover them.  I couldn’t manage in the confined space and I had to just suffer through the shrieking horror.

When it finally died down there was still a humming in my ears.  “Was that louder than the first time?” I asked, back to work pushing myself through the slot.  One more hard drag and I popped out the other side of the gap.  I looked around.  The tunnel was empty.

“Quin?”  I could see fairly far down the tunnel, but I couldn’t see my friend.  He’d just had my hand.  There had only been seconds between when I’d last had his hand and when I emerged from the narrow section of cave.  Even if he was running he wouldn’t be able to get out of sight that quickly.

Panic was starting to set in.  I pulled out my phone and looked at the time.  Six minutes.  It had taken three minutes for us to get through the crack in the wall.  I’d agreed to search for ten minutes, but now Quin was gone, and I had the narrow gap between me and the way back.

“Steady, steady, we’ve got this,” I said to myself, my voice too near.  I turned around and looked back at the gap.  Right next to it was an arrow on the wall pointing at the gap.  I froze for a moment.  The number 147 was scrawled over and over around it.  What did that mean?  Had Quin done this?  The arrow looked just like the ones I’d been making, more of a “V” than an actual arrow.  Why would Quin do this?  What was the alternative?

I was panicking.  I knew that I needed to remain calm, but I was having trouble thinking clearly.  This place was too strange, and I was too afraid.

“Quin!?” I shouted as loudly as I could, actually hurting my throat.

My voice faded quickly.

“Noooooooo.”  The voice that echoed back down through the darkness wasn’t Quin’s.  It wasn’t a voice I’d ever heard before.

Fear drove me back to the gap in the rock.  I slammed myself into the narrow opening with reckless abandon, not bothering to worry about how tight the fit was, or how abrasive the rock felt as it tore at my shirt and pants.  I felt my skin abraid on my knuckles, and on my too wide belly, but it all seemed secondary to the terror that kept me moving.  I was looking back down the tunnel that I was now leaving, my head stuck to the side in places as I crawled through the space, and from deep down in the darkness of the cave, two lights reflected back at me.

I lived in the country.  I knew what it was like to catch a deer in a flashlight, or to see your neighbor’s cat looking down from a rooftop with those reflective, shining eyes, but this was something else entirely.  I had the distinct feeling that there were no cats in these caves, and I doubted there were deer wandering through them either.  Whatever was looking back at me, it didn’t belong there.

“Come… on… through.”  Quin’s voice echoed down the tunnel towards me, but it was broken and disjointed.  My imagination was trying to put together the figure that matched those eyes, and matched that voice that was both Quin’s and not Quin’s, and it wouldn’t settle on anything remotely human.  The eyes were too wide apart, the voice too stilted and sharp.

My light reflected off something horrifying.  I thought it was a man with a metal pull piercing through his body, the top erupting from his open mouth and forcing his head backwards.  Its throat was torn open, and there was a mess of leather, metal and human muscle connected to some strange device.  “Come on . . . through.”  It croaked in a shaky clone of Quin’s voice.  It sounded almost like Quin’s voice being played as a rotting instrument.

It was at that moment that I fell backwards through the gap and crashed to the ground on the opposite side of the narrow passage.  I hadn’t even realized I’d been making progress.  I looked back at that narrow channel, expecting to see the monster thing closer now, ready to stretch itself impossibly thin so that it could get a hold of me and do whatever it had done to Quin to me, but I couldn’t see anything now.

I got back to my feet and started down the tunnel.  I was a few feet down when I saw an arrow etched on the wall.  I stopped in place and looked at it.  It was one of mine, or it should have been.  It looked just like it, but it was pointing back the way I’d just come.

“No, that’s not possible,” I said quietly to myself.  There was only one branch in the cave, and there was no way I’d gotten turned around.  I hadn’t even marked a place along this area, had I?  I ignored it and kept going.  I’d have to reach the split soon, and then I could wait for the others and we could get the fuck out of here and call for some help.  Quin needed help now too.  We all did.

I traveled on for another minute or so and came across a slipper laying in the middle of the cave.  I knelt down and picked it up.  It was a woman’s slipper; probably Heather’s, but I hadn’t seen it on the initial pass through this cave.  There was no way both Quin and I would miss something so obvious.

I stood back up and came level with a hand written message.  I recognized the scrawl as mine.  “Stay inside.  Don’t leave the cave!”    It was in big letters, and the words were underlined.  I reached into my pocket and pulled out my knife, turning it over in my hand.  I still had it.  No one else had taken it and started scrawling things on the wall, so where did these other things come from?  I put the knife away, but my hands were shaking.

I started walking again.  There had to be some explanation, some reasoning behind all of this.  If I wasn’t in pain from scraping through the narrow tunnel earlier I might have thought it was a dream, but everything was too real.  There was a crisp focus to the madness that made it impossible to ignore.

A few steps later I put my foot down in a puddle of thick, red liquid that I immediately knew was blood.  It might have been any number of other things, but I knew it wasn’t.  My breathing was getting frantic and fast.  I had to make myself slow down.   Who was bleeding?  I followed the path, the steady trickle of blood.  It was so heavy.  If I was following a deer, I’d be expecting to find its corpse soon enough.

“They’re all dead if you leave.”  The words were in massive letters down one side of the tunnel, and I had to split my attention between them and the blood on the floor.  The result was that I almost tripped over the body laying in the middle of the hall.

I recognized it immediately.  “Thomas?”  He was so still, but for some reason I still knelt down next to him and tried to shake him.  “Tom, buddy.  You okay?”  My voice was a harsh whisper.

I shook him harder, and then finally grabbed his shoulder, and with considerable effort, flipped him over.  My stomach immediately turned and I ran back a few steps and lost the contents of my stomach.  It was Tom, but most of his face was gone.  It looked like something had reached in and taken a handful out of the front of his skull.  His brain was visible, and in solid enough condition that I thought it was likely he’d walked down the tunnel with his body ruined like it was for some time before finally dying from blood loss.

“Tom’s… dead.”  Brian’s voice swept out of the dark towards me.  “Oh, god… Tom’s… dead!”  The voice was wet and gravely.  It wasn’t Brian, even if it sort of sounded like him.  Looking back down the hall I saw a brief flicker of reflective light, and that was all I needed to send me running.

I didn’t know where I was going.  I hoped the tunnel would take me back to the house, but I had no way of knowing.  I’d never passed the split in the path, or I had and hadn’t noticed.  The arrows and the writing on the walls made no sense, and then it was there in front of me.  Light.  I could see the tunnel exit.

I ran as hard as I ever had in my life and burst out into the house so fast that I crashed to the ground, slid across the floor, and slammed into the doorway to Brian’s room.  As I was righting myself I heard a voice behind me, one that was strange and familiar at the same time.

“You shouldn’t have come out here.  You should have listened to the walls!”  I turned to face the speaker and nearly fainted.  It was me.  It looked just like me, but it was all covered in blood, and there was a handcuff hanging from one wrist.

I looked down at myself, expecting to see the other me do the same because it had to be a reflection.  I was covered in blood now, but why?  A door slammed and I looked up to see the closet had been closed, but it was something caught out of the periphery of my vision that gave me pause.

I turned my head.  The dead bodies were splayed out across the floor, bed and walls as though each had been expertly butchered.  They were all there.  Brian, Quin, Thomas, Heather and even little Alice.  They’d been taken apart like an engine that was to be cleaned and rebuilt.

“No… ”  The word fell out of my mouth.  “No, this is…”

I pulled my phone from my pocket and with shaking hands dialed 911.

Rating: 6.50/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Heath Pfaff
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Heath Pfaff

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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