“I’ve always wondered where this river might flow. Now I guess I will finally know.” Cleo said with a sigh as she surfaced. All three were strong swimmers and they had no trouble following the current of the underground river as it meandered through dark tunnels. But the lack of light meant that they had no advance warning of the whirlpool that had formed ahead of them. No matter how hard they paddled to try and get clear of it they were no match for the powerful swirling funnel of water. They were soon all so dizzy and exhausted that there was nothing they could do to keep from being pulled down into the center of it.
Most of the animals ran back towards the cave they called their outpost but Allie May had noticed a ledge with an opening near where she had been working. As the sky had darkened she thought she had seen flickers of blue light from within it. It reminded her of the will-o-the-wisp. She pulled herself up and peered into the darkness. After just a moment the blue light appeared again. She rushed after it. Cleo saw her go and gasped. She called to Hugh and told him they needed to follow and quickly. They clamoured up and rushed after her.
“Wait! Stop! Don’t run anymore! I have to tell you about the trap door!” Cleo tried to shout above the sound of the rain, but Allie May could not hear her. She was so focused on the blue light that she did not notice when the rock floor turned to a wooden bridge. But she definitely knew when the planks swung out from under her and once again she was falling.
The water Allie May landed in was incredibly cold and deep, but she could still see the blue light glowing above her. She was able to swim towards it and get her head above water. She tread water and looked up at the booby trapped bridge. Cleo and Hugh had just arrived at the gap in the bridge. They only paused for a minute and first Hugh and then Cleo dove in after her.
Impressed with her thumbs the animals asked Allie May to help with several tasks. She was happy to contribute but kept gazing at the window of blue sky above them. She knew she was lucky to see such strange and fantastic sights, but she missed the light and air outside of the cave. She could not bear to think of being stuck in underground for as long as the others. She knew she could not stay until they finished building the rocket. She needed a plan of her own. As she stared up at the circle of sky it began to change. The clear sky filled with clouds. The clouds grew darker. Soon it looked like dusk, then night. The few trees visible from down below were swaying in the wind.
The animals saw the change as well and raised an alarm.
“Oh no! A storm is coming this way! Cover your work without delay!”
They all rushed around tying coverings to their large project. They just barely finished before the rain started pouring down around them.
The three introduced themselves and compared stories of their slides into the cave. Cleo the Armadillo had actually been in the cavern for quite some time. She had tried climbing up the walls at least a dozen different ways, but each time she had fallen back down into the sand.
“I guess I’d better taken you to meet the crew. We’re not the only ones that have fallen through,” she told them and pointed to a low opening in the rock. They crawled through into a passageway that led through many small caves. It finally opened up into a high roofed cavern with an opening to the bright blue sky far above.
“Here is our outpost where we stay. Though soon we’ll get back to the light of day,” Cleo explained. The cave was a flurry of activity, most centered around a large scaffolding. Cleo announced the new arrivals and soon they were surrounded by other animals that wanted to meet them.
“Have you told them about our plan?”
“Will they help?”
“Do you think they can?”
After a flurry of questions, and many animated interruptions, Allie May and Hugh came to understand a rocket was being built to try and get back to the surface. The trapped creatures had spent a lot of time exploring the labyrinth of connected caves and collecting a strange assortment of objects. These were being used to construct the oddest vessel Allie May had ever seen. She could not understand how it could possibly fly, but she kept her doubts to herself as she watched the animals continue with their work.
Note: At the halfway point of Inktober it seems both the words and images are struggling a bit. I find myself in need of a day off, so I combined today and tomorrow’s prompts. I’ll be back with “Storm” on Saturday.
“Hugh! It’s you without a doubt! But then whose tail is here sticking out?” Allie asked him as she pointed to what, on closer examination, was not a furry tail but a scaly one
“It’s not a squirrel, a hare, or a pig. To find out we need to dig!” he told her as his front paws started the excavation. Alllie May threw up her hands to block the flying sand then moved to the other side to help him. It did not take them long to unearth the big scale covered ball attached to the striped tail. Allie was worried by its initial lack of movement but as they watched four sets of plated toes emerged. A pink snout peeked out next and then shaking sand from her armor the creature straightened all the way up.
“Well, I am obliged you two were around. That time I landed quite deep down,” she said, holding out a paw in greeting.
At first the hole was nothing but a tunnel of darkness. Allie May could not see Hugh or anything else. She kept reaching out hoping to find anything she could grip, but there was nothing. After what seemed like several minutes of sliding through wet blackness there seemed to be a bit of light ahead of her. The tunnel opened up and for a moment she was flying instead of sliding, then she was on her back on a bed of cool sand. She tried to sit up but instead rolled over and across a huge sand dune. When her movement finally slowed enough she could see she had landed in an enormous cavern. There was hole way above her that let in enough light to see a roof of glistening stalactites, walls of dripping stone, and just a few yards away her friend’s long tail sticking out of the sand. She half crawled, half rolled her way across the sand to dig him out. She smiled when she heard him call her name, but it sounded like it was coming from the wrong direction. She turned and saw Hugh somersaulting down the sandy hill.
“I am trying not to get too vexed. But I wonder what I will lose next,” Allie sighed and wiggled her very muddy toes. She was still surrounded by mud. She pondered which direction was the most likely to lead her back to firm ground. She looked over to where Hugh had slid down the tree and was bounding towards her.
“I think I hear Tuner’s favorite song! If we follow the sound we can’t go wrong!” he shouted excitedly as he jumped over the mud she had just been stuck in and barrelled right into her. He was not a small animal and everything around them was slippery. Allie May lost her balance and the two of them went sliding through the mud.
As they both frantically tried to find something to hold onto, the muck around them began to bubble and swirl. Before they could even understand what was happening a hole in the mud opened up and swallowed them right up.
After their snack they climbed down with the plan to head back to the center of the garden. Hugh felt sure that he knew the way, and set out confidently, but the longer they walked the less familiar their surroundings seemed.
After leading them for what seemed a very long way he admitted his confusion, “I don’t recognize the clearing we just crossed. I am afraid we are rather lost.”
Alllie sighed. The clearing had been full of the most enchanting wildflowers. She had enjoyed looking at all the sights while they walked it had not occurred to her to worry about which direction they were going. She tried to think back to the view from the top of the tree and guess where they were, but she really had no idea.
“I’m not really sure what to say… I guess we should just keep going that way,” she said and pointed towards what looked like a path leading back into the trees. Matthie nodded his agreement and it seemed like a very good choice at first. However gradually the ground beneath their feet got softer. What started as a bit mushy was soon an expanse of mud. They tried to walk carefully, stepping on rocks and what looked like firmer spots, but they did not always succeed. One misjudgment landed Allie in mud that came up to her knees.
“Oh no! I think i’m stuck! This is rather disgusting muck!” she groaned as she tried to pull her feet out.
“Do not worry my new friend. A tree will help us once again!” Hugh was very excited to try and help. He climbed the nearest tree and scooted out onto a branch above her. He wrapped all four of his legs around the limb and held on as tight as he could, letting his tail down for her to grasp. Having something to pull on made all the difference. It took several yanks but finally she was able to move forward. Unfortunately when her feet finally came all the way out of the mud her shoes were not with them.
Allie May climbed up to the limb from where Hugh had thrown the acorns.
“Thank you so much for helping me out, you saved my life without a doubt!” he said to her as he gave her a hug. “Look how I am still shaking with fear. That beast is not supposed to be around here.”
“Has he bothered you before? I hope we can still explore,” Allie’s breath, heart rate, and curiosity were returning to normal. “Let’s climb higher in this tree. I wonder what all we’ll see.”
She did not wait for him to answer but immediately started up towards the top branches. Her new friend came along right behind her. Once they got to the top the view was just as magnificent as Allie had hoped. Hugh was still trembling slightly but the beauty of the scenery in front of them soon calmed him. It was turning into a lovely day. Allie was glad to remember she had put a sandwich in her pocket before leaving her basket. She gave Hugh half and they enjoyed a tree top picnic. The sky above them was blue and clear. Below them the canopy of trees spread out like a patchwork quilt. It felt like there was no end to the possible adventures in store for them.
Allie May’s mind and legs were both racing as she ran after them. She had only known Hugh a short while but he already felt like a friend. She needed to figure out how she could help him and quickly. When she nearly tripped over a big stone she stopped and picked it up. It was heavy but she was strong. With a running start she used all her bodily strength to throw it at the beast. The heavy stone landed squarely on the alligator’s back. He turned around and glared at Allie who was ready with another stone. Hugh scurried up a tree as she hit the alligator again, this time between the eyes. He growled and then started walking towards her. Her heart beat crazily in her chest. She wondered if she should run, but instead she picked up the biggest rock she could find, yelled as loud as she could, and ran straight at the alligator. She threw the third rock from a close range. It hit him on the head at the same time that a shower of acorns came down on his back. It did not knock him down but he appeared slightly stunned. Allie May used that time to climb up the tree after Hugh. The alligator shook his head and growled up at them, but then turned and headed back towards the pond.