TheCaveThe jungle people of Costa Rica say the cave is guarded by a vengeful spirit that destroys all who venture into it. According to legend, two thieves stole a boatload of treasure and fled down the Sierpe River to Drake’s Bay where they stashed their ill-gotten loot deep inside the cave. As they were departing, the spirit of an Indian god appeared to them.

“Do not return,” the spirit commanded, “or you will die.”

Thieves being thieves and of low moral character, they stewed over their circumstances for some time before they screwed up enough courage to return to the cave. The spirit kept its word; both thieves died agonizing deaths. Since then, for over a century, the jungle people have avoided the cavern.

Except… I was in-country with a Texas adventurer friend diving for Sir Frances Drake’s sunken treasure in Drake’s Bay off the Osa Peninsula, a particularly isolated and forbidding region of jungle. Since I have the proverbial curiosity of the cat, I was out exploring the coast line one afternoon, climbing through the rainforest and over a hill toward the Sierpe River when I came upon the black entrance of a cave not far from a sterling jungle waterfall splashing several hundred feet down to the river.

I hesitated. Then I ventured into the cave. I had not brought a light. Very quickly I was in complete darkness. Still, the cave was roomy and I continued feeling my way into its depths.

Suddenly, I overheard hoarse whispering from deep inside the cave’s throat. I froze as the whispering overtook me—and then surrounded me in the darkness. My skin became iced gooseflesh. I’m not superstitious, but I’m generally not a fool either. My imagination went wild. All I could think of was the giant spirit and its vow to destroy all who ventured inside its lair.

The cave was definitely full of something alive. I felt the stirring of the damp air, heard the increasing volume of menace all around me, whiffed fetid odors from the bowels of the earth.

I’m not too proud to admit I fled for my life, as from Dante’s Inferno. I burst back into sunlight, along with hundreds of large fruit bats whose day slumber I had disturbed.

It always astonished Trout at the contempt the average politician in Washington harbored for the common people. . . “A bunch of ignorant Homer Simpsons, a bewildered herd. . . T-shirts and baseball caps or fuchsia bandanas around their heads. Sundresses with bra straps sliding down their arms. Tea Baggers. You half expect to see them wearing face paint and foam fingers and shouting, ‘Hook ‘em, Horns.’ They’ll leave a ring around Washington that even Mr. Clean can’t wash out.”

From A Thousand Years of Darkness, a political thriller by Charles W. Sasser. Available at selected book stores, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com