He really didn’t mind the dripping ooze covering his body; after all, it was better than the alternative.
A familiar voice broke his self-indulgent resignation. “Hey Sluggo, still hang’n in there.”
“That you, Maurice?”
“Yeah, dude, like, can we hang out with you here?”
“Sure, Maurice, wish I could see you.”
“No problem, kid, you know I’m here. You can sense me. Right?”
“Yeah.” Sluggo’s voice echoed with disappointment. He curled up as best he could. It was chilly, but his gooey covering served as blanket. It seemed so long ago that he was at home with his mother. He remembered her words so clearly.
“Mind who you are. Remember your family and if you boys go out there on one of your excursions, don’t volunteer for caving,” she said.
Of course, as a teenager, he was bound to do exactly the opposite of what his mother advised. He always thought it strange. He grew up in an earth contact house, he was always playing in the dirt, but when he was old enough to leave on his own, his mother constantly warned him against the caves.
His first cave adventure, with his class, was simply local ground play, common stuff – exploring entrances and rock formations. He followed his instructors and listened to lectures, and that was all the school felt he needed. His education was such a passing phase, he hardly remembered the basics; instinct was his best teacher. Once out with his friends it was the upside down internal feelings he would have to deal with, conflict of his sexuality, conflict of his moral compass, conflict of his mother’s values, and conflicts of his faith. It was during these early years he met Burge and Maurice.
Burge was a friend, not of his tribe, but still a friend. Maurice however was really a distant cousin. They were inseparable friends. No matter where he went, Burge and Maurice were always close by. As they grew out of their adolescent shells, they began their own individual maturation treks, but still remained close friends.
Consideration of his creator was far from his maturing mind. For religion he turned within himself. He lived only to live on – like many teenagers - he knew little of the world outside of his circle. His mother, not unlike any parent, was a protector, but did little to prepare him for adulthood. Burge and Maurice did a better job teaching him facts of life.
Early one morning the trio eased into Burge’s village. “We’re going to the big cave,” the leader of Burge’s tribe announced. She was a big hard- nosed female, decked out in a striped coat – for ease of identification – so, she said.
Sluggo didn’t bother to look back at his mother’s house. After all, he justified, she had his other siblings to look after.
The leader crawled upon a flat rock. “Okay, I want volunteers on top, who’s gonna go?”
Burge snuggled up to Sluggo. “Go for it,” she cooed.
“I’ll go.” He couldn’t believe the words as they escaped from his mouth.
“I’ll follow,” whispered Maurice.
Burge giggled. “Me, too.”
“Good,” said the leader, “three to the top; the rest of you stick to the sides. What’s yer name kid?”
“They call me Sluggo.”
“Good name. Okay kid, you’ll have to feel your way, don’t stop until you hit the cool center, it might be damp. You other two follow in his trail. Whatever you do, watch out for the salt crevice.”
Sluggo gulped. “Okay.”
“Put that protective covering on yourself.” The leader indicated Sluggo’s bare arms. Then the leader crawled off the rock and the rest of the group moved toward the cave sides.
“Let’s roll,” said Maurice.
Sluggo spread the ooze over his exposed parts, “No bat bites for me.” His friends followed suite. Sluggo touched both of his friends, “Okay, I guess I volunteered to lead.”
The trio of spelunkers began their careful crawl, Sluggo leading the way by feel. Suddenly, Sluggo slipped and hung by a small outcropping.
“Hey, I think I’m in trouble here. Who’s behind me?” He knew Maurice and Burge were supposed to be there. Thoughts of salt raced through his mind.
Suddenly, a bright light burst into the cave. A human voice echoed off the walls. “Oh, yuk, get a broom and a bucket, bring’m to the basement, and get rid of these slugs.”
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