Squeeze
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Squeeze

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Description

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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Publié par
Date de parution 01 septembre 2010
Nombre de lectures 3
EAN13 9781554695416
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0070€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

Exrait

Squeeze
Rachel Dunstan Muller
orca sports

ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERS
Copyright 2010 Rachel 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 PS 8626.U4415S68 2010 JC 813 .6 C 2010-903536-4
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 ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERS PO Box 5626, Stn. B PO Box 468 Victoria, BC Canada Custer, WA USA V 8 R 6 S 4 98240-0468
www.orcabook.com Printed and bound in Canada.
13 12 11 10 4 3 2 1
For Ana and Isaac, future adventurers.
Contents
chapter one
chapter two
chapter three
chapter four
chapter five
chapter six
chapter seven
chapter eight
chapter nine
chapter ten
chapter eleven
chapter twelve
chapter thirteen
chapter fourteen
chapter fifteen
chapter sixteen
chapter seventeen
chapter eighteen
chapter nineteen
chapter twenty
chapter twenty - one
chapter twenty - two
Caving Glossary
Acknowledgments
chapter one
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 impossible 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 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 through, 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 muffled behind me.
I grit my teeth. Yeah. Just give me a second.
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. 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 yourself.
Wriggling backward is even harder 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 hyperventilate. My dad waits a moment before continuing. Do you want to keep backing out, or do you want to try again?
If I choose to back out, our trip is finished. 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 formations everywhere: 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. 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 Cornucopia as our destination this 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 pressure 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 waterfalls eight stories high, and rappelled down shafts that were even deeper. I ve scrambled over boulders, shimmied up and down sheer walls and waded through icy rivers. And I ve been in tighter spaces than this one.
The true test of a caver is how he or she handles a squeeze, a tight space like the one I m in. If you don t like getting muddy, or if you re afraid of the dark, you probably want to stay above ground. And if cramped spaces make your skin crawl, then you definitely don t belong in a wild cave. You can t be claustrophobic if you want to be a serious caver.
I haven t let a squeeze stop me yet. The Pasta Maker isn t going to get the better of me now. I can do it, I say, breaking the silence. I want to keep going.
Good for you, says my dad. All right then. You re going to need to turn on your side a little bit until you re past the rock that snagged you the first time.
Got it. I m already slithering forward on my right hip. A little more effort, and I m past the section where I got hung up.
Want a hand? Jesse asks. You re almost in reach. I could pull you out.
I m good. I can do it.
A few more minutes of grunting and groaning, and I emerge from the Pasta Maker. I m covered in mud, my right leg has gone numb and I ve got at least six new scrapes and bruises. But I made it through on my own. And in another hour I ll be in one of the most spectacular underground chambers on the island. There s no rush like it.
chapter two
So, was it worth it? my mother asks at breakfast the next morning.
Was it worth it? Jesse and my dad and I can only look at each other and shake our heads. There are no words to describe what we saw in the Banquet Hall. Or the experience of being among the first and only people who will ever see it. Of course, we try anyway.
It was incredible!
It was the size of a theater-
A big theater!
-and the formations!
There was a column that was at least twice my height!
The flowstone was amazing.
My mother sips her tea and smiles tightly. We will never convince her to join us on one of our trips. She s uncomfortable in her own walk-in closet. There s no way she d ever set foot in a cave-even a tame one with stairs and electric lights. It s an understatement to say she s not thrilled about the wild caves Jesse and I explore with my dad. A sport that requires slithering through tight crawlways and rappelling in the dark isn t what she would have chosen for her two sons. She only tolerates our adventures because she knows how safety-conscious my father is.
What s next? she asks when we finally wind down.
There s always another trip in the works. They re less frequent now that Jesse is a student at the University of Victoria. The university is about three hours south of our home in Courtenay. When school is in session, Jesse only comes home on long weekends.
We re going back to Big Swiss at Thanksgiving, says my dad. See if we can survey it a little further.
We re proud of Big Swiss. We discovered it ourselves last summer while scouting a limestone ridge in the interior of the island. Most of the world s caves were formed by slightly acidic water dissolving the limestone in its path over thousands of years. Vancouver Island has a lot of limestone and a lot of rain, which is why it has so many caves.
We were the first cavers to find and map Big Swiss, which gave us the right to name it. The weird name was inspired by a wedge-shaped boulder in the largest chamber. It was pitted all over like a giant piece of Swiss cheese.
My mother looks pointedly at my father. Just bring my boys back safely, you hear me?
Six weeks later, I m walking home from school on a Friday afternoon. With my iPod turned up, I don t hear footsteps behind me. Out of nowhere, someone grabs my hood and pulls it over my head, covering my eyes. I freak. My left elbow connects with something hard, and I swing free.
Relax, kid! It was just a joke. Jesse didn t tell me you were afraid of the dark.
I recognize Cole s voice even before I spin around and see my brother s roommate from UVic rubbing his shoulder. Jerk, I mutter, still breathing hard.
I would say more, but I ve just spied Jesse s Bronco at the curb. My mood immediately improves. Hey, Byron, my brother says as he leans out the driver s side window. Long time no see.
Hey, Jesse. My smile turns to a grimace. Did you get Dad s message? He has to work. There s some crisis at the base. Our father is a helicopter mechanic at the Canadian Forces in Comox, half an hour from where we live. When one of the helicopters needs special attention, he has to drop everything else. So Big Swiss is off this weekend.
No, it s not, says Jesse. That s why I brought Cole up. He s going with us instead.
I knew Cole was a member of the UVic caving club, but I d never been caving with him. Did you clear it with Dad? I ask.
Clear it with Dad? Cole echoes in a mocking voice. Hold on, Jesse. You promised me some hard-core cave crawling. You said we d be going deep into the stone. You didn t say anything about babysitting your kid brother all weekend.
Byron doesn t need a babysitter, Jesse replies before I can say anything. He knows what he s doing underground. In fact, he s got moves you can only dream about.
I doubt it, Cole says, still sizing me up.
Jesse shakes his head and rolls his eyes at me. Just ignore him, Byron. He can t help it if he was born with an idiot gene. Hop in and we ll go get your stuff.
I squeeze into the back seat of the 4x4. It s a tight fit with all of my brother s and Cole s camping gear.
Cole s cell rings as he climbs into the front seat beside my brother. He jumps out so fast, you d think there was a bomb under the car and the phone was a detonator. He walks out of earshot before answering it. What s up with that? I ask.
Don t know. Someone s been texting him every five minutes since we left Victoria. He says some girl is stalking him.
I raise my eyebrows. Stalking Cole? In his dreams.
Stranger things have happened, says Jesse. Hey, throw some of that stuff into the back. We need to make room for Michelle. We re picking her up on our way out of town.
Michelle is coming too? I ask, trying to keep my voice casual. My brother s taste in girlfriends is a million times better than his taste in roommates. Michelle is a goddess. Okay, a miniature goddess. I m 5 foot 8, and she barely comes up to my shoulder. She looks like one of those old-fashioned porcelain dolls, but with short dyed-black hair and a stud in her nose. Her size is deceiving. She s one level below a black belt in Karate. She d kick some serious butt if anyone were ever stupid enough to pick a fight. She s also a rock climber, which is how she and my brother hooked up. They both belonged to the climbing club in high school. She s at UVic now too, taking computer science.
I didn t know Michelle was into caving, I say aloud as we wait for Cole to finish his phone call.
She s just getting into it, says Jesse. I ve taken her into a couple of easy caves. She s been in a few tight places. Hasn t freaked out yet.
The freak-out factor is why most people are better off staying above ground. As I said before, a wild cave is not the place you want to be if you don t like the dark, or if cramped spaces make you uncomfortable. Or even if you re afraid of heights. You don t really know how you re going to react until you re rappelling down a ten-story abyss in the dark for the first time. Or slithering through a muddy passage the size of a drainage pipe. Some people are fine. Other people lose it. I m glad to hear Michelle isn t in the second group.
Big Swiss is a good cave for a newbie, I say, nodding. Only a few squeezes. Some good climbing too. Michelle will like that.
Cole returns to the car as I m talking. He slams the door behind him and settles into his seat.
So, what s up with the stalker? Jesse asks as he starts the Bronco.
Stalker? Uh, nothing. Listen, I need to drop something off on Davis Road.
Sure, says Jesse. We ll get Byron s stuff and pick up Michelle first. Davis Road is past her house.
Sooner would be better than later, Cole says stiffly.
I can see Jesse s arched eyebrows in the rearview mirror. What are you dropping off? Drugs?
Just some papers, Cole says defensively. I m doing a friend a favor. It s personal, okay?
Hey, whatever. I was just kidding, Jesse says, lifting his hands from the steering wheel. He shoots a curious glance in Cole s direction as we pull away from the curb.
You know what? It doesn t matter, says Cole, his voice still tense. It can wait until we ve picked up your girlfriend.
Jesse meets my eyes in the mirror and shrugs.
chapter three
We have to answer a few dozen safety questions before my mother will let us leave the house. She knows how dangerous caving can be, even though she s never set foot in a cave herself. She s definitely not thrilled that Jesse and I are going without my dad.
We write down the GPS coordinates of Big Swiss on a map of the area to make her happy, even though my dad already knows where it is. We promise to be back for lunch on Sunday. Unfortunately we ll be out of cell-phone range most of the time we re gone, so there s no way we can check in.
We ll be fine, Mom, I promise as I squirm out of her goodbye hug.
Michelle s house is next. She s waiting at the end of her driveway with a large backpack and a bag full of climbing gear. Cole grumbles when Jesse orders him into the back seat so Michelle can sit up front with him.
I got the weirdest call just now, Michelle says when she s settled. The police want to talk to me when I get back to UVic on Tuesday morning.
What about? asks Jesse.
I don t know. Something must have happened in Registration. The officer wanted to know my schedule over the last few weeks.
You work in Registration? Cole asks. I didn t know that. His voice sounds casual, but I notice his hands tighten around the pouch in his lap.
Michelle shrugs. Yeah, since the beginning of the year. It s a work-study placement, an IT thing. You know, computer geek stuff.
Did the cop ask you anything else? says Cole.
No. He just wanted to know when I d be back in Victoria. He made an appointment to talk to me at nine on Tuesday morning.
Weird, Jesse says. So where exactly are we going on Davis Road? he asks Cole, looking at him in the rearview mirror.
What? says Cole.
The delivery you had to make.
Uh, right. Cole fishes a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. It s a property near the end of the road. Number twenty-seven twelve.
We don t make it to the address on Cole s paper. There are two police cars with flashing lights blocking the end of the dirt driveway.

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