Cobalt laughed. The sound echoing through the cave made Tyler wonder if there were more creatures in the shadows. “No, no, silly boy. James not bring me suey.” The temperature in the cave seemed to drop as the fire dimmed. Cobalt stepped toward him, her feet dragging and making trails in the dirt as she moved.
“No, no. James too smart for that.”
Tap. Tap. Tap.
A slow chill trickled through Tyler’s veins. The sound that had seemed so close moments before now came from somewhere deeper into the dark. Despite the voice in the back of his mind telling him to run, Tyler’s curiosity got the better of him. “What is that?”
Cobalt smiled and held out her small, surprisingly childlike hand. “Come. I show you.”
Tyler hesitated. He didn’t want to touch Cobalt. He didn’t want to go with her either. Not really. Rachel had always been the one to go first; he followed after. But Grandpa must’ve wanted him to see this. There was a reason he didn’t want the land sold.
Cobalt wiggled the fingers of her outstretched hand, her silvery eyes on his.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The sound seemed to be retreating. This might be his only chance. An image of Grandpa, frail and tired except for his eyes, which were alive with urgency, flashed into Tyler’s mind and the decision was made.
He took a deep breath and grasped Cobalt’s hand.
Rachel shoved the last of the boxes into the backseat and slammed the door. She’d lucked into a huge cache at the grocery store where the stock boy was setting them out for recycling. All she wanted was to pack up the last of Grandpa’s things and get the hell out of town.
Once the farmhouse was just an empty shell and no longer looked like the source of all their childhood memories she was sure Tyler would agree to sell. He was so sentimental. He couldn’t see the place for what it really was – a rundown house smack in the middle of a whole mess of evil.
He’d almost given her a heart attack this afternoon when he found the door. If she hadn’t gone looking for him… She didn’t even want to think about that. But then, maybe if he saw those things, he’d understand why they needed to sell.
She shivered as she remembered the day she first found the door. She was eight and frustrated with the way Tyler always copied everything she did, and even more frustrated with Grandpa who never told him to stop no matter how much she complained. He loves his big sister, he would say. One day he won’t want to be like you anymore and you’ll miss it. So she ran off, into the shadows of what she liked to call The Hundred Acre Wood. She would never admit it to anyone, but part of her always secretly hoped she’d run into a talking bear like Pooh.
Back then she’d loved the farm and the forest around it, and when she found the big blue door tucked into the hillside, the only thing she’d felt was hope. Maybe it was a door to magic place, like Never Never Land where she could play all night and never have to clean her room or go home. Or maybe there was someone in there. A new friend. Someone better than a stubborn baby brother who ruined everything.
She reached for the bars of the strange door. Strange because it had no handle. The metal was cold and thick in a way that felt very old and just a little bit dangerous. It made her think of jail cells for pirates and bad guys in olden days and for a moment she hesitated. Maybe the door was meant to keep something locked away.
Then she heard it.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
It called to her from the shadows, just outside the circle of light that reached through the spaces between the bars.
“Hello,” she called.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
This time she thought she heard a faint scraping sound mixed in with the tapping. She gave the door a soft shove. It creaked but didn’t move. “Is anybody in there?”
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Somewhere inside, a girl laughed. The sound was close enough, Rachel thought, that she should be able to see who was making it. But all she saw was dark. Her fingers tingled with excitement. An adventure. That’s what this was. All she had to do was open the door.
She braced a hand against the doorframe and leaned into the door with all her weight. If that laughing girl could do it, so could she. Rachel didn’t like to lose. She gritted her teeth and pushed her shoulder against the door over and over until it popped open, sending her falling to the dirt floor. “Hello?”
A voice whispered from her right, “Follow me.”
As Rachel’s eyes adjusted to the dim, she could make out the shape of a girl with long wild hair skipping further into the cave. She ran to catch up, and just as she crossed out of the last of the outside light and into true dark, she tripped and fell to the ground.
She let out whimper at the pain in her scraped palms and knees, but refused to cry. She could be just as brave as the other girl.
Suddenly the room filled with light. Rachel gasped. The girl approached her holding a thick stick that was on fire, just like they used in the movies.
Rachel sat frozen, staring up at the thing she wasn’t sure she should call a girl afterall. Her outstretched hand looked normal, but nothing else did. Her hair was tangled and green and filthy. She had animal parts mixed in with people parts. Rachel could see bird and cow and maybe even lizard all squished together in the thing’s face. Her heart beat furiously in her chest, but she couldn’t move.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The sound came from behind the girl and Rachel looked up and around the cave, trying to find the source.
“Don’t be fraid,” said the girl-thing. In the back of her mind, Rachel thought its voice was too rough and too deep to be a girl.
But it wasn’t the girl with the monstrous face that scared her anymore. It was the eyes. So many eyes. They glowed from the surface of every rock, alive and hungry, and focused on her.
Rachel was dimly aware that the girl-thing had moved closer, was holding out her hand again to help her up.
A thousand whispers pushed against her from every side. Yes. Come join us. We’ve been waiting for you, Rachel. The whispers seemed to pull her forward, made her forget how monstrous the girl-thing had looked.
“Rachel!” Grandpa’s voice echoed off the rocks. The eyes squeezed shut as if in pain. The girl-thing opened her mouth wide and hissed like an angry cat. Rachel turned to look over her shoulder. Grandpa stood taller and stronger than she’d ever seen him, a flashlight in one big, gnarled hand. “Don’t touch her, Rachel!” Grandpa shouted.
Rachel had only a moment to comprehend his words before he grabbed her by the arm and dragged her back towards the entrance.
The monster girl let out a hideous, piercing shriek, and the echoes made it sound like the rocks were joining her. “You can’t take her! She belongs to us now!”
“The hell she does,” Grandpa said, before scooping Rachel up and carrying her out of the cave.
When they were far enough away, and Grandpa had made sure the blue door was shut tight, he took Rachel by the shoulders and made her promise never to tell anyone about the cave or the monsters inside, and to never ever take Tyler there. “Now you know our family secret,” he’d said. “I trust you to keep it.”
Even all these years later, Rachel still felt a chill when she remembered the darkness in Grandpa’s eyes when he said “family secret”.
Grandpa thought the only way to keep people safe was to keep those things locked up and fed, but he was wrong. She’d known it the moment she heard the tap tap tap when they arrived today. Without anyone at the farm watching over them, they’d run rampant. The fact that Tyler almost fell into their trap this afternoon was all the proof she needed.
The land was evil. The only way to make it safe was to destroy the whole thing. Let some corporation level the hills and fill it with concrete.
Rachel started the car and headed for the farm. She would convince Tyler to sell even if she had to tell him the whole ridiculous story.
She would make him believe.
Next week we're taking a break, but come back Monday, October 3rd for an all new tangle started by me!
Photo by snady_ via Flckr Creative Commons.
BURN OUT by Kristi Helvig Cover Reveal!
3 years ago