The Cave of Lost Fortune 12 DJ Corisis

The Cave of Lost Fortune

"And if you all will just please follow me this way, I will show you the main attraction of these caves. Careful not to touch the cavern walls please! The oils can be very harmful to the ecosystem of the caves." The tour guide said as she led a group of tourists through a maze of caverns. They all followed close by, many ignoring the rules the cavern guide had lain out.

The tour guide approached a large flat wall, saying, "And here is the Cavern of Lost Fortune. Discovered nearly two hundred years ago by the man who found these caves, no one has ever seen what lies beyond it. It is the belief that an ancient civilization, most likely to be the Aztecs based off of the hieroglyphics carved into the face of it, left an immense treasure locked inside. It has been proven that there is in fact a hollow area behind the wall, however due to the nature of the rock no extreme measures have been taken to open the wall, such as explosives. There is however, this small symbol in the bottom corner of the door that has yet to be paired with a meaning," the guide said, pointing to a symbol made up of interconnecting lines and circles, "Yes, a question in the back."

"Why don't they use X-rays or another form of invasive method to determine what is behind the wall?" a tourist asked.

"the large quantities of iron and magnetite found in the walls of these caverns prevents the use of any electrical waves to pierce the door," The tour guide explained, "there have however been multiple expeditions of these caverns in hopes of finding some missing clue or perhaps even another route that leads into the cavern beyond this door. Every one of them turned out to be a fruitless search, some of the expeditions failing to even return and disappearing without a trace for unknown reasons."

"Why?" another tourist asked.

"Nobody knows." The tour guide asked.

"But couldn't they call somebody?" the same tourist asked.

"The large quantity of iron and magnetite prevent the use of any electrical waves from inside the cave." The guide said, rolling her eyes at the tourist's lack of attention.

"What do they think is behind the door?" a tourist asked.

"By the hieroglyphics engraved in the wall, they have determined that the creators of the door to be the Aztecs. Such discoveries have led to the suspicion that what lies beyond the door could be a massive wealth of treasure in gold and relics, a door to the lost Aztec city of El Dorado, a temple, and even perhaps a mass burial site." The guide replied, irritated.

A young boy about the age of 11 raised his hand and asked, "If everyone knows that it's here, why is it called The Cave of Lost Fortune?"

The tour guide was happy to hear a question that was new to her. She replied, "That was the first translation to be deciphered from the door. If you would look at the top of the door in the center, you would see the symbols that were translated almost two hundred years ago, giving this door its name and starting the many legends along with it."

"I bet that all the people who looked through this cave missed something." The young boy said.

"I assure you, there is nothing more to be discovered inside these caverns. Extensive studies have been done. Researchers have found signs of strikes on many of the walls, indicating that much of these caves are manmade."

"Well maybe that means something! There must be something left to find in here if all of the expeditions have gone missing… What did they find?"

"You are free to try and discover that for yourself when you are older." The tour guide said, "Now, if you will follow me…"

"I have a question!" an older man said, "what about all the other caverns shown on the three different maps of this cave outside?"

"Each of those maps represents a different area of these caves. The tunnels we are in now would be the first map. The second and third maps are for the more difficult to reach caverns, located above and below this level, respectively. In order to explore these caverns, much experience in spelunking and cave exploration is needed. It has determined many years ago that the general public could only be admitted to the middle level due to safety precautions. Now, if you will follow me, I will admit you to the exit of the cave and you will be free to shop at our gift shop if you like."

"O—oh…" the crowd said together at the excitement of a gift shop.

"I will return here…" the young boy said to himself, "I will return here and figure out what happened to those expeditions and maybe even open the Cave of Lost Fortune!"

20 years later

"Martha! Are you ready yet?" a man yelled down the hall.

"Give me a second John! You've planned this trip since college; it can wait another five minutes!"

John sighed and ran out to the car to double check if he packed everything he needed.

"Alright, alright I'm ready. Now let's go." Martha said, rushing out of the house. The two piled into the car, and they were soon on their way to the New Mexico Caves of Fortune National Park.

"So what level do you think we should check first?" John asked excitedly.

"We have an entire ten hours to decide things like that." Martha said.

"But we have to plan! I know other people have looked for some kind of clue in here countless times before us, but someone has to find it! Why not it be us?"

"There are such things as hoaxes in this world you know, John."

"But a thing like this can't be a hoax! Just look at it! It's shrouded in mystery." John said, waving his hands around in the air to try and add to the mystery surrounding the caves.

"No one can prove that it's not a hoax."

"No one can prove that it is! I know it's real. Just like the Loch Ness Monster! I proved you wrong on that! I saw it! I saw its head go down under the water!"

"You saw a bird go under for a fish."

"Can you prove that?"

"I don't need to prove it. I just know it."

"Just like I know that there is still a secret inside that cave! There is a fortune to be found in there, I know it! Why else would the Aztecs carve out such a big system of caves?"

"I don't know, they were bored?"

"They were an ancient civilization and very advanced for their time!"

"Why would they even go as far as New Mexico then? I'm sure there are plenty of mountains for them to carve into a little closer to home."

"Another reason why there must be a secret in those caves. There's some great mystery that could be solved if we could just open that door."

"Well wake me up when you open it." Martha said, as she laid her seat back and closed her eyes for a nap. The two continued to drive for the ten hours, until they arrived late at night at their destination, staying in a hotel a few miles down the road from the caves.

They unloaded their suit cases from the car, and entered into the hotel, checking in and setting up their room.

"You remembered our cave licenses right?" Martha asked John.

"Of course. It took me years to get it! But we needed them so we could explore the upper and lower level of the cave."

"I should have known better than to think you would forget them…," she said, rolling her eyes.

"I've waited since I was a kid to explore this cave! My grandpa always told me stories about it! He was never able to explore it because of his age and condition. I always told him that I would go and explore it for him."

"You've told me before… if I had a nickel for every time I have heard you tell me that since we met…"

"How much would you have?" John asked with a smile.

"Enough to buy these dang caves!" Martha joked, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek, "Now get some sleep. I know you're going to be full of energy tomorrow. You'll need your strength just to keep up with yourself!"

The two said good night to each other and retired to their separate beds, each excited for their expedition tomorrow and what it may yield.

The next morning John woke up, shaking Martha awake and demanding to leave for the caves right away, not even giving himself a chance to shower or freshen up.

"Calm down, I don't think the caves are going anywhere…" Martha said, groggily.

The two arrived at the caves shortly, entering into the main office and presented their licenses.

"Everything looks good here…" the ranger said, "you folks make sure to be extra careful. We don't need another unexplained disappearance."

"We'll make sure to be extra careful, Sir." John said.

"Now, here are the maps of the three levels of the cave," the ranger said, handing them three pieces of paper, "and I assume you know that once inside, we won't be able to contact you by electrical means?"

"Yes we know that."

"Then I wish you the best of luck. I am not aware if you know this, but if you come across any water, I would advise you not to break the surface. It would likely release toxic gasses. We wouldn't want a rescue team in there because you stopped breathing."

"Thank you for the warning, Sir." John said as he and Martha left the station, and headed for the caves.

Once inside, the two explored the caves to their hearts content. John had even spent an entire hour looking at the wall with the unknown room on the other side. Whenever he believed that he had found an unexplored cavern behind a pile of rocks, he would be dismayed to find it already tread before and marked on the map. With each passing hour, John grew more and more downcast as he feared his hopes of finding the secret to the Lost Fortune were dwindling.

"John, it's time to head back to the hotel… If they don't find us back by the park's closing we'll be in trouble."

"I've searched all over these caves; every rock and every crevice. I have seen for myself that there are no more secrets left in these caves. And yet, I can't get it out of my mind that these caves have something more. Nobody, a single person or an entire ancient civilization, would create something as great as this and not leave something to be found."

"Maybe you just need some rest. You have all week to go through these caves."

"Maybe…" John said, as he turned to leave the cave.

For the rest of the week, John's searched turned up fruitless. No matter how hard he looked, and at all the different perspectives he looked at the tunnels and their caverns from, nothing turned anything up. The day eventually came to head for home.

"All those years of waiting, an entire week of searching, and I find nothing…" John kept saying to himself. For the entire drive home, John was silent, contemplating something that he could have missed, one last thing that he could try. He found nothing.

Despite his failure, John continued his obsession with the cave, positive that he had missed something.

"All those expeditions had to have gone somewhere…," he would always say to himself, "they didn't just disappear. They found something that everyone else had missed, and followed it up." For hours at a time he would simply sit and think about the caves and the fortune that lie within them. He even had transparent copies made of each one of the maps to the three levels, in order to stare at them projected onto his wall, looking for something that didn't seem to be there.

"John, you need to forget about the caves…" Martha told him one night, "your work is starting to slack! All you ever do is look at those maps… All you ever think about are those caves!"

"I have to find their secret. There is something there still, I know it."

"You've seen it for yourself. There's nothing there. What's there to discover has been discovered. Anything they say about any lost expedition teams is probably just something the park made up for publicity."

"I know those teams were real. My grandpa told me stories… He had a friend that went missing in one of those teams."

"The caves are all manmade John. Whether for a hoax or an ancient civilization, they're manmade. There's no crevices, no pitfalls for a man or an entire expedition to fall into and become lose for eternity."

"Then they found the Lost Fortune. They solved the mystery of The Cave of Lost Fortune, and so can I. I just need to find what they managed to find themselves." John said, staring intently at the projection.

"I'm leaving, John." Martha said. John said nothing, still staring at his maps. She sighed to herself and left the room, leaving John to his maps and Lost Fortune.

Suddenly, John stood up out of anger and threw the projector to the ground, the three maps scattering across the floor and the light flickering off in the projector. He cursed under his breath and stumbled around in the dim light to try and find his possessions. He gathered the three maps into a stack, and replaced the projector back onto the table, the maps on top of it.

Just as John was about to call it a night and go to bed, the light in the projector flickered on, shining its light through the stack of the three maps, creating an image of all three combined. Seeing a possible view he hadn't seen before, John rushed back to the projector and looked at the image. Having all three of them shown in unison, he saw that each level had a cavern in common, represented by a circle.

"Each map has a cavern the same size and shape of the cavern in the middle level with the door to the Lost Fortune…" he said to himself, studying the image, "almost like a main point." Then the image on the screen reminded him of something. There was something similar to it on the lower corner of the door to the Lost Fortune!

Quickly, John ran to the computer and printed out a picture of the unknown symbol from the door. He pinned it next to the projection image, and hurriedly tried to create the same image from his three maps stacked on top of one another, rotating the three of them around the main caverns placed on top of each other as a pivot point. He nearly fainted when he found what he was looking for.

"They did carve the caves for a reason," He said, "they weren't carving caves, they were carving a map."

As fast as he could, after withdrawing whatever savings he had left from not working, he packed up and drove to The Cave of Lost Fortune National Park.

"Martha doesn't know what she's going to miss," John said to himself, recalling he negative feedback when he asked if she wanted to join him, "I solved the mystery of The Cave of Lost Fortune!" he would exclaim to himself many times over and over.

He entered the ranger station, and presented his license to the ranger.

"Back again are you?" the ranger said.

"I know I can get something." John said with a smile.

"A lot of people have come through here saying that since this cave was found you know."

"Maybe I'll just get lucky!"John said, leaving the ranger station. He prepared his equipment, and after looking at his map to the Lost Fortune, said to himself, "according to this, there is a separate tunnel that leads to the hidden cavern…" he said, staring at a small curve that traveled from a small cavern and into the back of the main cavern. He wondered why no one had ever found the small tunnel on the map however.

He made his way to the cavern, anticipating what lie ahead. Upon entering the cavern, he looked around with his flashlight and saw no tunnel leading to the Lost Fortune. He looked behind every rock formation, and every small crevice. That's when he saw the water.

He looked into the pool of water, shining his light down into it, the water as crystal clear as the air he was breathing.

"impossible…" he said to himself, not wanting to believe the truth, "the entrance is through a water tunnel?" he sat and thought for a moment, whether or not to risk it going in alone or to go and come back with more gear and a partner.

"But if I come back with scuba gear, someone might get suspicious and look and find the water tunnel and the Lost Fortune…" he said to himself, "and if I bring a partner, I'll have to share it fifty-fifty." He looked at his map, and seeing that everything was to scale, the water tunnel wouldn't be a long swim. He soon chose to go for the dive alone.

He left any of the extremely heavy gear behind in the cavern, and after rolling up his sleeves and pant legs, leapt into the water. In an instant he became disoriented. Because the water was so clear, it looked as if either way could be up or down and lead to air. His only sign of up and down were the direction the bubbles travelled.

After regaining his sense of direction, he dove down into the tunnel, following its curves and dodging the rocks in his path. He soon felt it begin a small incline, and his need for oxygen begin to rise along with it. He followed the tunnel, hoping and praying that he would burst into air soon. He started to he spots before his eyes, and he knew that he had only a few seconds to find air.

He pushed off one last time from the tunnel wall, and propelled himself forward. His head exploded from the water and he gasp for air, choking in the stale cave air. He looked around in the pitch black darkness, fumbling for his waterproof flashlight. He flicked it on and gasp as his heart skipped a beat, as he looked a skull directly in the face, resting in the dirt at the water's edge. He quickly scrambled out of the water and shone his light around the cavern.

He saw dozens of piles of bones and skeletons littering the floor. He quickly realized that these were the lost expeditions.

"They all wanted to make sure they got their share of the Lost Fortune…," he decided, kicking an old skull aside, feeling tired from his swim.

Surrounding all of the bones, and lining the walls, up to the ceiling in some places, were mounds and mounds of glittering gold. John couldn't believe his eyes. Countless artifacts lay everywhere, priceless pieces of history. Gold and jewels filled the cavern. It was more than a single pair of eyes could take in. he had to blink to make his blindness go away from the light of his flashlight reflecting off of the riches. He had to sit down for a minute.

"That swim took more out of me than I thought…," he said to himself in the dark stillness of the cavern, the only living soul. He suddenly remembered what the ranger had told him.

If you come across any water, I would advise you not to break the surface. It would likely release toxic gasses. We wouldn't want a rescue team in there because you stopped breathing.

John quickly realized his fatal mistake in his rush for the Lost Fortune. He felt this lungs start to tighten, and his breathing became more difficult. He let the flashlight roll to the ground and shine on his new mountain of lost Aztec gold.

"I was right," he choked out, "it's not called The Cave of Lost Fortune because no one knows where it is. It's because finding it makes you lose everything to it."