dropped to his knees, searching the ground in case the illuminating brand had dropped from its housing. Nothing rested on the floor immediately around the bracket, and Vance didn't feel confident enough to leave the wall to start scrabbling around for a torch that might be long gone.
He pulled himself upright, using the bracket as support. Unable to hold his weight, it jerked from the wall. One of the pins holding it fell to the ground, the sound echoing around the cave. Vance left the rest of the bracket dangling from its remaining pin and carried on.
Soon, the cave narrowed enough that Vance could reach out and feel both sides of a tunnel with his hands. The passageway sloped downward. For the next hour he followed it. Sometimes it levelled out, but more often it continued down into the constant black. At intervals he would stop and simply listen, feeling for any sign of a breeze or draft. If he was to make his way out of here, he needed to maintain his wits. Even the smallest clue could point to an exit. A shaft of light or a slight change in air pressure could mean a tunnel exit or secret door. Running water, or even the sound of wildlife, might also indicate freedom.
After another hour, the tunnel sloped up. Sometimes the steepness forced Vance to use his hands to pull himself along. He had grown accustomed to being blind in the darkness. So far he avoided stumbling or banging into a wall, but he knew it was only a matter of time before a misstep led to a serious accident.
The tunnel soon levelled out, and as Vance moved along he found it widened until he could no longer touch both sides at the same time. He decided to bear left for no particular reason, and he kept his left hand on the wall as he continued. He did not know how far he'd travelled into the