Otherwhere: Chapter 1, The Cavern
“We want to hike the Jessup trail,” Rory said over the phone, “But no one can get a ride. Would you drive us?”
Her boyfriend Colin replied, “Yeah sure. Actually I’m not working today, can I come along?”
“Sure!” She said brightly. “As long as you don’t mind being the only guy. It’s gonna be me, Dee and Astra.”
Dee was Rory’s girlfriend from school and Astra was her cousin. All were Seniors at Riverdale High and hung out. Colin was a senior at St Michael’s and knew the other two girls through Rory. They had been dating for a few months now.
“No, that’s fine,” he said. “We should go early though before it gets unbearable.”
They lived in Arizona, in the hills north of Phoenix. While it wasn’t quite the scorching oven that Phoenix was, it was late enough in spring that by midday it would be about as hot as you would want.
The hike was fun. About 2 miles in it was hot. The kids had stripped down to essentials and were still sweating. Rory in a sleeveless teeshirt she had ‘borrowed’ from Colin, Astra down to her sports bra and jeans and Dee in just a denim vest. Dee liked to show off and Rory was sure she was doing it just to teas Colin a little. Rory was OK with that, she thought it amusing.
Heading past Devil’s Butte, they saw what looked like a mine opening at the base of the butte.
“I’ve never noticed that before,” Dee said, pointing.
“Me neither,” Rory said.
“Huh,” Colin added. “No.”
“Do you remember hearing about, like old mines around here?” Astra asked.
“No,” Dee said. “This land is like totally worthless.”
“Yeah even the native tribes stay away from this area,” Colin added.
“Oooo maybe its haunted!” Rory said. “OoooOOOooooo!” She made a spooky noise.
“Let’s go check it out,” Dee said.
Up close it wasn’t very remarkable. A hole in the rock that went off into the dark.
“I’ve got a flashlight,” Colin said.
“Of course you do, my Boy Scout,” Rory said, smiling at him.
He blushed. “Well do we want to go in or not?”
They decided to go in. The cave, actually it was more like a tunnel, went slightly downward but seemed to be solid rock.
“This is a little weird,” Astra said looking at the rock. “This isn’t the sandstone that most stuff around here is. This looks like granite which is totally wrong for this part of the country.”
“Is it gonna fall in on us?” Dee asked.
“No, we’re actually safer with this than if it were a lot of things,” she replied.
A few more yards in and the kids felt…strange. It was almost like an earthquake but later they could decide if the earth had moved or if it was just them. They all wound up falling to the floor and Colin dropped his light which promptly went out.
He searched around for it, “Can any of you feel the flashlight?” He asked.
“Um, no,” Dee said, also feeling around, “And I can’t find my water bottle either.”
The kids all checked themselves and, sure enough anything that wasn’t directly on their bodies was gone. Pockets were empty, anything they were carrying. Gone.
“OK, don’t panic,” Colin said. “We know we were coming down hill and we didn’t see any branchings. This is a tunnel. We just go uphill until we get back to the entrance. It’s gonna suck walking back 2 miles with no water, but we can do it.”
They started walking up hill in a line, left hand on the wall, right on the person in front, making sure to go uphill. Soon enough a glow could be seen ahead.
“See?” Colin said, “We’re almost there.”
But it wasn’t the entrance. The tunnel opened up into, for lack of any other way to say it, a room. A giant room extending up as far as they could see and down the same. Stone columns lined the open space with corridors off into the distance. Directly ahead of them a tongue of stone extended into the void. There was a weird compass like symbol etched into the stone.
Slowly the kids walked out onto the platform. When you’re eighteen you’re invincible.
“It’s beautiful,” Rory squealed.
It was indeed. Light glittered from the many openings like sunlight through stained glass, colors suggested off in the distance.
“Hey, what’s that?” Colin said, pointing to the side…