Four young people--Patrick, a violent bully; his spirited sister Petra; his easiest victim, ""gutless"" Kenny; and Kenny's sort-of friend, Pete--are trapped underground as a result of Patrick's mischief at a quarry and some ill-timed blasting operations nearby. Soon they manage to contact the surface through a small hole, but an Army rescue operation accidentally blocks that off and from then on the four wander through flooding caves and shrinking tunnels, making treacherous leaps and slides and becoming more and more terrified, despondent, and exhausted. Just before they claw their way up and out, the children pass through a prehistoric ""cathedral"" with cave paintings and a primitive mother/goddess statue which triggers in Petra a sort of transcendent breakthrough that seems a bit forced; the story ends in a rush with Patrick, near collapse, crashing into a pub ""and he was saying and he was pointing and he was saying myfriendsmyfriendsandhewaspointingmyfriends."" Throughout the ordeal, though, Patrick (like the whole experience) has been seen mostly from the viewpoint of Pete, the least defined of the four, and otherwise from Kenny's; thus Patrick's ultimate conversion must be taken on faith. However, Leigh handles the requisite suspense and the shifting positions and interaction among the four with a sure, skilled hand.