The Moonshaft by Antonin T. Horak continued from part one.
October 25, 1944.
We had a good night. Martin seems to mend. Am glad that Jurek`s thigh is not yet well enough for him to want to go with me poaching for bats. It is better that he knows nothing about the cave's secret.
I went directly to the wall, undressed like yesterday, smeared muttonfat over me, slid my things through the crack and went in, feet first. Extending the carbide lamp upon a double pole, with four torches burning, still the upper ends of the cliffs remain in the dark. I fired two bullets up, parallel to the walls. The report caused roars, as from an express train, but no impact was visible. Then I fired one bullet on each wall, aiming some 15 meters upward from me, got large blue green sparks and such sounds that I had to hold my ears between my knees, and flames danced wildly.
Assembling the pick caused more uproars. I proved the „pavement“, and started digging where the lime is thin, in the horns of the crescent. At right is dry loam; at left I came, at about half a meter, upon a pocket of enamel from the teeth of some large animal; took one canine and one molar, replaced the rest. Digging on nearby, the backwall has, at about 1 1/2 m below the pavement, a vertical, finally fluted, undulating pattern. It seemed warmer then the smooth surface. I tried with lip and ear, and believe the impression is correct. In the middle the pavements was too thick for a trench pick.
When the torches were extinguished, and I was in a freezing sweat, I left the „moonshaft“, dressed and went where the bats are, and bagged seven. Jurek stuffed them with bread and herbs and they became exquisite „pigeons“.
Slavek and Olga, his other daughter, came about dusk with hay, straw, a sheep's fleece, more medicinal herbs - selfheal and stonecrop - and seeds from the Iris, an excellent coffee substitute. I accompanied him, fetched pine torches, two long poles, and was back at about midnight. Martin got the last aspirins, honey-water; and Jurek both watches.
October 26, 1944.
It was a good night. I went into the moonshaft to continue experimenting. On my longest assembly of poles the carbide lamp did not light the upper end of these cliffs. I fired above the lighted area; the bullet struck huge sparks and made deafening echoes. Then horizontally at the back wall with similar effects - sparks, roarings, no splinters, but a half finger long welt which gave a pungent smell. After that I continued in my digging in the left moonhorn and saw that the wavy pattern extends downward; but in the right horn I found no such pattern.
I left the moonshaft to probe the front wall and its surroundings. Next to the stalactites are some enamel-like flecks, which, scarped, yield the powder too fine to be collected without glue, which I will try to boil from our pigeon's claws. I wished to obtain a sample of a peculiar material of the walls, but even firing two bullets into the crack, upon the protrusions and hitting them, I received only ricochets, a blast of thunder, welts, and the same pungent smell.
Returning to camp I caught some bats and we again had "pigeons". I ordered Jurek to carefully remove any trace of them, and kept the claws. The Slaveks arrived as usual at nightfall bringing this time a quarter of a deer, 1/2 kilogram of salt, and a tin of carbide. Jurek took both watches.
October 27, 1944.
Martin died, slept into death. Jurek knows his kin, took charge of his belongings, including his wallet with 643 crowns, watch with chain and my certificate. Now we are free and ready to leave and rejoin our battalion which is somewhere east of Kosice. With his stick Jurek can march some 10 kilometers daily, and have to move carefully anyway. We will start tomorrow.
At 10 a.m. I was in the cave probing passages for a way around behind the moonshaft; looked also for ice and poisonous air about which Slavek has spoken, and found none, though there may be some. Then I slipped into the moonshaft to sketch, dig, and ponder, and returned to camp at about 4 p.m. I ordered Jurek to prepare our packs, clean the weapons, boil food for seven days, and have ready what we will not need to be returned to Slaveks. He and both girls, if as the family had sensed that Martin died, came and we carried him into the dwarf pines to the trench where he had received his mortal wound, took turns to dig his grave, prayed, and buried him in a blanket. Slavek is to set up a good cross next spring for which I gave him 150 crowns. Slavek briefed me as best he could about the enemy eastward from here. Jurek and I were back in our grotto at midnight, and he took both watches; he can sleep most of the day tomorrow.
October 28, 1944.
Restful night, good breakfast. Cut my name, etc., on a leather strip, and together with the golden back of my watch rolled and inserted both engravings into a glass bottle, plugged it with a pebble and ball of clay mixed with charcoal, and deposited this record in the moonshaft, on the top of the ashes of my torches. It may stay there for a long time, possibly until the structure is completely hidden behind its curtain of stalactites and stalagmites. Slavek has no son to tell him about his cave-mystery; his womenfolk don't know about it, and anyway daughters usually marry to other villages. In a few decades nobody will know, If I do not back and have the structure explored.
I sat there by my fire speculating: what is this structure, with walls 2 meters thick and shape that I cannot imagine of any purpose known nowdays? How far does it reach into the rocks? Is there more behind the moonshaft? Which incident or who put it into this mountain? Is it a fossilized man-made object? Is there truth in legends, like Plato's, about long-lost civilizations with magic technologies which our rationale cannot grasp nor believe?
I am a sober, academically trained person but must admit that here, between these blacks, satiny, mathematically-curved cliffs I do feel as if in the grip of an exceedingly strange and grim power. I can understand that simple but intelligent and practical men like Slavek and his forebears sense here witchery, conceal it, ever made known, it would attract armies of tourists, and commercialization which would probably ruin their nature-bound trade and honest life. If and when I came back it will be with a team of secrecy-bound experts: geologist, metallurgist, cave expert; and if the object is of true importance for the advancement of knowledge and proper civilization, will to have to be found to respect the Slavek`s interests.
On my way back to camp I burrowed and hid the crawl holes which lead towards the wall; the cave may have entrances which Slavek does not know, and some chance discoverer may start blasting "for treasure" before a scientific team can get there. I was in camp after 3 p.m., and about 5 all three Slaveks arrived, bringing some hard-boiled eggs. Jurek asked permission to talk privately with Slavek, and then Hanka was carefully sounded out by her father whether she would accept Jurek as her husband. She cried and laughed, Jurek gave her his photograph and golden watch which his father had brought from America; Jurek is a well-to do carpenter in Bratislava. I am invited to the wedding and will try to come. To make sure, I gave Hanka a letter to a befriended jeweler and commanded her to get the nicest set of Bohemian garnets as a wedding present. The Slaveks had brought their family Bible, and I made some entries.
With the hardy Slovak handshakes and "Mnoho stiastie, Pan Buh pozehnaj Vas, Buh s tebou", we shouldered our weapons and packs and went. When we entered the pines and turned we saw Slavek concealing his cave and the girls sweeping away our tracks. The moon was bright and the snow glittered.
October 30, 1944.
We moved during the dark hours only and along the timber line. During daylight, camping snugly below a fine pinetree, were alarmed by the sound of infantry fire; approaching to investigate we observed a strong group of skirmishing with a ski party of Wehrmacht and Polish Blue Police (fascists). The fascists went soon, and, joining the insurgents we were their guests for a whole day. They were a mixed group of Hechaluts, ZOB, DROR, from the Rzeszow region in adjacent Poland, who had helped in our Uprising and were now on their way back - through immense snow - to their usual sectors between Cracow and Przemysl. Their physician was Rachel W. the widow of a murdered Jewish doctor; she knew and told us about the exploits of the famous Jesia Fryman Banda against the Nazists; and fed us two fine, hot meals. When these valiant Jewish fighters were marching on northward, we had to go southward, towards Kosice, Which we reached on our 6th day; and there receiving directions we could proceed to join our battalion which was awaiting the next offensive of the Red Army to join it until to the end of the war.
In the very last days of World War II, on my way towards Bohemia, I revisited the place. The Slaveks lived temporarily at Zdar. I visited Martin's grave and looked at the cave entrance. I have taken the animal teeth I had collected to the curator of paleontology at Uzhorod, and he classified them as adult cave bear, Ursus spaeleus. Thereupon I speculated: the crack is too small; the lump of limestone and stalagmites in front of the crack would not let any debris through; this bear seems to have fallen into the moonshaft, which may have had a connection to the surface.
In correspondence dealing with plans for the publications of this journal, Dr. George W. Moore suggested that the moonshaft might have been dissolved from a steeply dipping limestone layer between curved parallel sheets of chert. I am skeptical. All the inner surfaces of the moonshaft are composed of the same material. Also, such an hypothesis does not explain the peculiar, exactly parallel, finely grooved pattern on the back surface (or wall) of the left horn.
On my last visit to the place, I examined the mountainside above the cave and found no sinkholes or pits, the assumed connections toward the moonshaft. But on these very steep slopes in the Tatra Mountains, rockslides could have obliterated or filled in any such connections.