The cave system had a great deal of several things. It had water, in streams and dribbles and the occasional waterfall. It had light, coming down from always-maddeningly-inaccessible holes high above or from tiny holes in the more reachable rock, and it had bats.
Bat-like creatures, Becky corrected herself, although Vas wasn’t there at the moment to scold her. (She would have welcomed his scolding, if it had come with a rope long enough to get out of the caves). Apparently mammalian winged creatures who preferred enclosed spaces, ranging in size from large-mouse to small-cat.
They were edible, although they tasted, no matter how she prepared them, something like doom and something like starving-might-be-preferable, and were, as they seemed to have little fear of her, amazingly easy to catch.
They were still, barely, more tasty than the bugs that were the other life form around, and she needed the calories they provided.
After two days of waiting in one place for the rescue that didn’t seem to be coming, Becky had been on the move, marking her trail with fluorescent blue paint that would not be easily mistaken for anything natural to this planet, and surveying her route as best she could, with most of her tools still up in base camp. It was slow going, but it was the job she’d been sent here to do, and it was better than waiting to die.
It was also cold going, the caves only a few degrees above freezing in many places. She burnt a lot of energy simply staying warm. The balaclava her mother had slipped in to a tidy care package kept her face warm; the Bulgarian wool socks kept her feet from freezing. And the things-like-bats gave her the energy to burn, and motivation to get out of the caves and away from them.
She tried stewing the things; they made mush. She tried frying them in their own fat; they made jerky. Roasting them did the best, but it was time-consuming. Served tartar, they had a bitterness that made the meat even more inedible. To add insult to injury, it seemed as if she was allergic to their fur.
She had some Benadryl, due to the same care package (she’d given up spare boots to balance her weight book; she had not once regretted the lost of boots, and thanked her mother wordlessly for every time she dug into her pack). She couldn’t take it often; it made her too drowsy to properly map her route, and the once she’d tried, she’d forgotten to blaze for nearly half a mile and mixed up north and south three times in a row. Still, it helped her sleep.
Only the Bovril in the bottom of her bag had gone unused. The salty meat paste had been a childhood favorite, and her mother had never really gotten the memo when “Yay, Bovril” had turned into, “crap, not Borvil again?” There it was, the heaviest thing in the care package, wrapped in her last remaining wool sock.
In desperation, eight days of stewed bat into her spelunking, Becky tried mixing the two, stewing the bat in a solution of Bovril and stream water, with a few cattail-like-plants roots cut into it for texture. To her surprise and relief, the resultant mush was not only edible, it was palatable. A little experimentation proved to find the ratio that was actually tasty.
Becky sent up another silent thank you to her mother, light-years away in her London flat, as she fell asleep for the first time in days with a contentedly full stomach. Now all she had to do was find a way out of the caves before she ran out of Bovril and Benadryl.
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