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Byron is psyched when his older brother Jesse invites him on a weekend caving trip, even if it means spending time with Cole, Jesse's obnoxious college roommate. With Jesse's girlfriend Michelle rounding out the group, Byron is sure the excursion will be a success. Things get tense when they near the cave, only to find that the way in is blocked. Byron stumbles on the entrance to a new cave, but the thrill of his discovery is overshadowed by Cole's increasingly strange behavior. Exploring a wild cave is always dangerous, but it becomes deadly as tempers fray and the water level inside the cave starts to rise. When an underground confrontation leaves his brother seriously injured, Byron has to make some life-or-death decisions, and every second counts.
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Rachel Dunstan Muller
Copyright ©2010Rachel Dunstan Muller
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Muller, Rachel Dunstan,1970-Squeeze / written by Rachel Dunstan Muller. (Orca sports)
Issued also in an electronic format. isbn 978-1-55469-324-5
I. Title. II. Series: Orca sports ps8626.u4415s68 2010 jc813’.6 c2010-903536-4
First published in the United States,2010 Library of Congress Control Number:2010928819
Summary:On a caving trip with his older brother, Byron discovers a new cave but has to make some life-or-death decisions when his brother is seriously injured.
Orca Book Publishers is dedicated to preserving the environment and has printed this book on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Typesetting by Nadja Penaluna Cover photography by Getty Images Author photo by Bern Muller
orca book publishers poBox5626, Stn. B Victoria,bcCanada v8r 6s4
orca book publishers poBox468 Custer,wa usa 98240-0468
www.orcabook.com Printed and bound in Canada.
13 12 11 10 • 4 3 2 1
For Ana and Isaac, future adventurers.
c h a p t e r o n e
They don’t call this tunnel the Pasta Maker for nothing. I’m on my belly, stretched out like a piece of spaghetti. It would be impos-sible to make myself any thinner. I try not to think about the millions of tons of rock above me. Or the stone slab pressing into my rib cage. Or anything else as I dig my toes in and squirm forward another centimeter. “That’s it, Byron. You’re almost through.” My brother’s voice sounds hollow as it bounces off the rock walls. I can’t see him 1
R a c h e l D u n s t a n M u l l e r
ahead of me. With my head twisted to the side, all I see is the scalloped stone wall directly in front of my headlamp. “How much farther?” I ask between breaths. “A meter. Maybe a tiny bit more,” says Jesse. I groan. A meter is nothing above ground. It’s a couple of steps, a running jump. It’s an eternity when you’re jammed in a tube, fighting for every centimeter. “C’mon, if I can squeeze throug h, anyone can,” says Jesse. Jesse is nineteen, four years older than me and about twenty pounds heavier. If he made it through without getting stuck, it should be a piece of cake for me. At least that’s what I tell myself as the passage gets even tighter. My father and his friend Al are waiting for their turn to enter the tube. “You all right, Byron?” my dad asks, his voice muf-fled behind me. I grit my teeth. “Yeah. Just give me a second.” 2
S q u e e z e
I take another breath and then exhale slowly, willing my upper body to go limp. Tense people puff up, and that’s the last thing I need. All my energy is in my feet.I jam my toes into the ground and push off. Slowly, painfully, I wriggle forward. I gain a few centimeters and then a few more. I stop abruptly, as if someone has grabbed me by the belt. Except I’m not wearing a belt. I’m wearing coveralls, without belt loops or pockets. I’ve caught myself on something all the same. I try to keep my voice calm. “Um, I’ve snagged myself on a rock.” “How did you do that?” Jesse asks. “I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to tell from here!” “Relax,” says my father. “Take a deep breath.” I try, but the passage here is too tight.I can’t expand my rib cage all the way. “I’m wedged in. I can’t breathe,” I say as my heart begins to race. “You’re not stuck,” my father says calmly. “I can still reach your feet from this side.3
R a c h e l D u n s t a n M u l l e r
If Al and I have to pull you out this way, we will. Now listen to me carefully.” I close my eyes and force myself to focus on his words. “You’re going to wriggle backward,” my dad continues. “You got that? You’re going to move back until you’ve unsnagged your-self.” Wrigg ling back wa rd is even ha rder than wriggling forward. It takes all my concentration. I’m barely aware of the stones digging into my thighs as I push my body in reverse. “Are you free yet?” my father asks after a few seconds. My voice sounds a little shaky, even to me. “I think so. Yeah.” The passage has widened just enough that I can breathe freely again. I gulp air greedily. “That’s right, catch your breath. Just don’t hy per ventilate.” My dad waits a moment before continuing. “Do you want to keep backing out, or do you want to try again?”
S q u e e z e
If I choose to back out, our trip is fin-ished. Jesse will wriggle back through the Pasta Maker to join us, and the four of us will head toward the surface. In forty-five minutes we’ll be above ground, breathing fresh air. Another half-hour hike through the woods, and we’ll be back at our car. Then forty-five minutes on a logging road, two hours on a highway, and home in time for dinner. Or we could keep going. There’s a huge chamber called the Banquet Hall at the end of Cornucopia cave, about an hour’s scramble past the tube I’m in.I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve been told it’s amazing. Cool mineral formationseverywhere: stalagmites in giant columns, flowstone rippling down the walls, delicate soda straws hanging from the ceiling. It’s up to me whether we continue.I know how much my father, Jesse and Al want to see the Banquet Hall. There are hundreds—even thousands—of explored and unexplored caves on Vancouver Island.
R a c h e l D u n s t a n M u l l e r
But Cornucopia is supposed to be truly spectacular. Only about a dozen cavers have followed it all the way to the end. It’s only accessible during the late summer, when the water that normally floods the deepest passages has dried up.  That’s one of the reasons we chose Cor nucopia a s ou r dest i nat ion t h is weekend. We wanted to be among the first people to see the Banquet Hall. In a few weeks the autumn rains will start, and the cave will be inaccessible for another year. The others are still waiting for an answer. I know how badly they want to continue, but I also know they won’t pres-sure me. It’s one of the rules of safe caving. You don’t push the weakest member of your team past their comfort zone. I’m the youngest person in our group, but I don’t want them thinking I’m the weakest. My dad took me into my first cave six years ago, when I was nine. I’ve gone caving with him and Jesse just about every free weekend since. I’ve climbed water-falls eig ht stories hig h, and rappelled 6