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The Strange Case of the Brown Mountain Lights Session Two Part 1 - Strange Tunnels

Max_Writer

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

 

(After playing the Call of Cthulhu scenario “The Strange Case of the Brown Mountain Lights†from The Phantom of Wilson Creek by Andy Miller from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. today with Kyle Matheson, Ashton LeBlanc, Collin Townsend and Katelyn Hogan)

 

Miss Hernandez lay on the glasslike floor, Miss Greene trying to make her comfortable. Miss Hernandez muttered she was having trouble seeing and there was a ringing in her ears. Her head hurt and she ached all over, feeling terrible. She told them, between gasps for breath and moans, she had seen another room beyond the one they were in but then she found she couldn’t breathe.

 

“It was like there was no air!†she gasped. “It was like there was no air!â€

 

“We need to take her out of here!†Miss Greene said.

 

They talked about it. Miss Greene said she would take the other woman out.

 

“Tell the cops where we are,†Rockefeller said.

 

“Bring my flash equipment,†Miss Fairfield said.

 

“We’ll do what we can,†Miss Greene said. “We’ll do what we can.â€

 

Hernandez was able to walk and the two of them left the room, heading back the way they came.

 

“I think we should go back and check the other way before we get too far,†Rockefeller said.

 

They left the strange room and headed back up the tunnel, not far behind Miss Greene and Miss Hernandez, who turned left to go out through the underground stream. The others turned to the right and continued following the strange, hexagonal tunnel. Every 30 feet or so, the green moss or lichen on the ceiling began to glow as they approached it while the one they had passed under before faded to darkness behind them.

 

They guessed they traveled around a quarter of a mile down the tunnel though it was hard to be sure. The tunnels twisted and turned, creeping in any direction except a simple straight line. The tunnel finally ended, interesting with another corridor that went to the left and right. Felix looked down the corridor to the right. The others saw, down the corridor to the left some hundred yards, another of the inset doors on the right wall.

 

Bricker headed down towards the door, followed by Miss Fairfield and Jebediah Cooper. He suggested opening the door slowly and peering in first. He manipulated the spindle to slowly open the door and told Cooper to look in. The man leaned down, rifle ready.

 

“It’s really dark in there,†Cooper said. “Looks like it’s a little room.â€

 

Bricker opened the strange door all the way and, in the sickly green light spilling from the main corridor, they saw it was about the same size as the others rooms and pentagonal in shape. It was too dark to make out any other details. Knowing someone had to enter the room before the light would burn, Bricker stepped just inside the door. He was surprised when no lights came on. The ceiling proved to only be about six feet high so he had to crouch somewhat so as not to bang his head upon it.

 

As his eyes adjusted, he could see shelves cut into the walls on the opposite wall and two tables of odd design were against the walls to his left and right. Devices sat atop the tables, some of them organic. He edged around the side of the wall to one of the tables. It seemed to have several odd devices and instruments though they were nothing like he’d ever seen before. He nudged one and it slid a little on the table, leaving a strange spot that seemed empty. Rockefeller, Miss Edington, Felix, and Virgil Thomas appeared in the doorway as Bricker stepped back out of the door.

 

“Oi, Rockefeller, I need to see that lantern,†he said.

 

“What for?†Rockefeller replied.

 

“Huh? Well, it’s dark in here, isn’t it?â€

 

“It’s supposed to light up, isn’t it?â€

 

“Well, this didn’t.â€

 

“All right.â€

 

Bricker lit the lantern and entered the room again. The devices were even stranger-looking in the light. The shelves held odd minerals and strange-shaped bottles containing more unusual-looking pieces of stone or metal. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust which had left the empty spot when he pushed away the strange item. At least a half-inch of dust lay on everything and his footprints were visible on the floor.

 

Rockefeller entered the room and examined the rocks and jars on the shelves. He found one that intrigued him: a black, jagged piece of stone that had a strange sheen to it. The bottle was closed by what appeared to be a cork but which proved to be some kind of membrane or jelly in consistency. He tried to pull it from the bottle. It gave but didn’t move.

 

“What you got there, Mr. Rockefeller?†Miss Edington asked.

 

“The prettiest rock I’ve ever seen,†he replied. “Felix, do you mind opening this for me?â€

 

Felix took the jar and worked on the cork.

 

“I can get that open, Mr. Rockefeller,†Virgil Thomas said.

 

“I bet you can,†Rockefeller muttered.

 

When Felix pulled forth the strange cork, it liquefied in his hand, splashing to the ground.

 

“Wow, Felix, you’re stronger than I thought you were,†Rockefeller quipped.

 

“Yes, liquefied that,†Miss Edington said.

 

“Why didn’t you just break the bottle?†Virgil Thomas asked.

 

“Because I don’t want to hurt the rock inside,†Rockefeller said.

 

He upended the bottle, letting the strange rock slide out into his hand. He looked at it for a moment before tucking it into his pocket. It was very heavy for its size and he guessed it was heavier than lead or gold. He’d never seen its like before. He also noticed that though the glass of the strange jar was thick, it didn’t seem to weigh anything at all.

 

“Looks pretty solid to me,†Virgil Thomas said.

 

Rockefeller looked over the strange rocks and Miss Edington came over to examine them as well. One of the jars was filled with a strange, greenish sand that seemed slightly phosphorescent and, when the bottle was tipped, flowed like water. Miss Edington picked up a jar that held a strange deep blue stone that appeared to have been melted or stretched in some strange way.

 

“Virgil, would you mind holding this for me?†Miss Edington said. “I don’t have my purse.â€

 

Virgil Thomas took the jar, looked at it for a moment, and then tucked it into his jacket pocket.

 

“Thank you,†she said. “It’s really pretty.â€

 

Rockefeller tucked the bottle with the strange green into his jacket pocket. The jar and its contents didn’t seem to weigh anything.

 

Bricker was looking at the strange instruments on the table. He was having a hard time making heads or tails of them. Despite his experience as a mechanic, nothing seemed to resemble anything he’d ever seen before. Some of them appeared to have articulation but none of them appeared to be made to fit human hands. He finally picked up one, a jagged piece of metal the size of a telephone receiver. It was pointed but not sharp and he slipped it into his pocket.

 

“Maybe it’s mining equipment,†Miss Fairfield said.

 

“Nigel, do you believe that any of this is manmade?†Rockefeller said.

 

“No, I don’t believe so, sir,†Bricker said.

 

“Hmm,†Rockefeller said.

 

“Hmm,†Virgil Thomas said.

 

Miss Edington briefly examined the devices as well.

 

Bricker picked up another of the things, holding it at arm’s length. One item seemed to be some kind of gripping device, though it didn’t work as he thought it should. Another spun in a strange way. None of them made any sense to him. He wondered if they were some kind of prosthetics or if they had been made by madmen. He did notice they were made of the same shiny silver metal as the bear trap that had caught Rockefeller. All of them were very lightweight but seemed to be solid.

 

“Now I really want to know who hurt my leg,†Rockefeller said.

 

He walked out of the room, followed by the others. Bricker closed the door again. He blew out the lantern and handed it back to Rockefeller.

 

They continued down the corridor that led past the room, going about a quarter mile or so before a loud noise came from ahead and the twisting corridor intersected with some kind of natural cavern. Within it was a strange formation of minerals. Water rushed somewhere below. In the corridor was another of the short poles of stone or metal topped with vaguely rectangular flat piece of polished stone with glowing lights, knobs, and devices upon it. The conduit on the wall went past the area but there were also strange clockwork devices of chrome that seemed to be moving in the area. The humming and roar of the area was loud, though not deafening, but did put their teeth on edge. The corridor continued on.

 

“My dear God, North Carolina is weird,†Rockefeller said.

 

“Ain’t Georgia, that’s for sure,†Virgil Thomas said.

 

The clockwork was strange as there was no sign of gears but instead some kind of sliding pivots moving against each other unlike anything they’d ever seen.

 

“Nigel, have you ever seen anything like this before?†Rockefeller said.

 

“Not at all,†Bricker replied.

 

Miss Fairfield took a photograph with her Kodak as Bricker went over to take a closer look at the strange, clockwork contraption. He’d dealt with engines and even other, smaller, mechanical devices, but could not, for the life of him, determine either how the device moved or what it was for. He took several minutes to try to figure it out, but couldn’t.

 

They continued down the strange, hexagonal corridor as it twisted and turned for another several hundred yards before another corner entered on the right as their own passageway continued forward. Bricker walked a dozen yards down the branching path, until another of the strange light sources above began to glow. The corridor continued on beyond them. The others followed him and he continued down the tunnel.

 

“Nigel!†Rockefeller hissed.

 

He handed him back the lantern and the Englishman took it. They continued down the corridor at a slower pace and eventually heard the same noise ahead they had noticed in the other places with the strange rock formations and cascading purple energy. They continued on slowly and, as they came to a final curve of the tunnel where purple light glowed ahead, they could make out another of the natural caves the corridors connected to. Vines or weeds clung to the wall where the rock formations stood but seemed unharmed by the energy.

 

At the strange rectangular board was something alive that was not human.

 

The thing was pinkish and perhaps about five feet from top to bottom. It had a crustaceous body bearing vast pairs of dorsal fins or membranous wings and several articulate limbs with a sort of convoluted ellipsoid, covered with multitudes of very short antenna, glowing in a multitude of colors, where the head would ordinarily be. It stood upright on some of its limbs, balancing on a long tail or section of the body, while other limbs touched the top of the flat, rectangular piece of stone or metal, seemingly manipulating the lights there.

 

We need a flamethrower now, Miss Edington thought.

 

“Stop!†Rockefeller hissed.

 

Miss Fairfield was struck to the core by the horrible sight of the alien thing. She lifted her Kodak slowly and took a photograph out of habit, though she was sure it wouldn’t turn out due to the distance and lack of light. Miss Edington quietly backed up down the corridor and Virgil Thomas drew a large pistol from his jacket pocket. It looked like a Colt revolver though the barrel was wider than any they’d ever seen. Felix set his rifle to his shoulder, raised and ready. He looked at Rockefeller expectantly.

 

“I … I think we should explore other areas before we alert … whatever that is,†Rockefeller whispered.

 

They crept back down the corridor, Bricker bringing up the rear, walking sideways to keep an eye back the way they’d come. Miss Edington led the way, terrified. At one point she slowed enough to talk to Virgil Thomas.

 

“Virgil, do you got any more of your guns on you?†she asked him.

 

“No miss,†he replied. “I didn’t have time to get any of the other ones. You want this one?â€

 

Rockefeller handed his Springfield rifle to the man.

 

“Do you know how to use this?†he asked.

 

“Is he a rifleman?†Bricker asked.

 

“Oh, yes sir,†Virgil Thomas said.

 

“Give her your gun and you can have mine,†Rockefeller said.

 

“What are you more comfortable with, Miss Suzanna?†Virgil Thomas asked.

 

She pointed to the rifle and he handed it to her.

 

“It’s kind of like a shotgun, right?†she said.

 

They all looked at her.

 

“No ma’am,†Virgil Thomas said.

 

“Oi, right,†Bricker quipped. “Exactly like a shotgun.â€

 

“What’ll that leave you with, Mr. Rockefeller?†Virgil Thomas asked.

 

“Don’t worry, I’ve got Felix to protect me,†Rockefeller said.

 

Virgil Thomas just nodded at him.

 

They reached the place where the corridor intersected the one they had traveled on before, turning right to continue exploring the tunnels they had not yet been in, though all of them were shaken by what they’d seen. Miss Edington led them.

 

“Mrs. Edington, do you believe that you should be in the front?†Rockefeller said.

 

“If you want to take the lead, Mr. Rockefeller, by all means,†she said.

 

“I just think it might be safer that way.â€

 

“I just want to be away from that thing.â€

 

This time the tunnel they followed seemed to go on and on, twisting and turning incomprehensively. Miss Fairfield and Rockefeller, not long after they had passed down the corridor, thought they heard a buzzing or a humming noise from behind them. Unlike anything they had heard before, the high-pitched whine got softer and softer and then was gone.

 

“Let’s put a little pep in our step!†Rockefeller said.

 

He walked a little faster and the rest followed for at least a mile and perhaps more. They had travelled on and on, it felt like, through twisting, alien tunnel. Then it split in a y-intersection where the tunnel curved to the left. Miss Edington took out a quarter and tossed it, then pointed to the corridor on the right.

 

“Sure, why not?†Bricker said.

 

“Works as well as any other way, I guess,†Rockefeller said.

 

“If all else fails, we can come back and go the other way,†she said.

 

They went down another twisting corridor for about an eighth of a mile before the passageway split again, in much the same way it had before. They could hear the energy rumbling again to the right and after only a few hundred yards, came to another place where the hexagonal passageway cut through a natural cave in one of the areas with the strange purple energy, odd rock formations, and the strange lit board. In this case, the lines connected to the stones almost looked like they were cords made of skin.

 

Miss Edington looked into the place and saw there was nothing there. Rockefeller went to the strange board and stared at it. The shapes, lights, knobs, and script were all completely alien to him.

 

“Stand back,†he said. “I want to figure out what this is and I want to find Tommy as fast as possible.â€

 

He pressed one of the glowing lights but nothing seemed to happen. The others watched from the nearby tunnel. He pressed another button, which went dark. Nothing else happened. Bricker watched more carefully down the corridor, afraid something would show up with his mashing buttons. Rockefeller turned a knob and it went dark but then that part of the board started to flash in a strange way, changing from green to purple and back again.

 

“Felix, stay with me,†Rockefeller said. “Everyone else … back up.â€

 

They all did so, Felix walking over to the man.

 

“Do you know what you’re doing?†Cooper said.

 

“Virgil if this─†Miss Edington said.

 

“Did you see that thing?†Cooper said. “This is crazy!â€

 

“Virgil, if this goes to hell, help them out please,†Miss Edington said.

 

“I’ll do my best,†Virgil Thomas replied.

 

“We must find Tommy!†Rockefeller said.

 

He fiddled with another of the greasy-feeling buttons and it changed color. He began fiddling with the buttons and knobs with great enthusiasm. The next one went dark.

 

“Are you sure this is wise, sir?†Felix said.

 

Rockefeller pressed another button and part of the board lit up with a strange cascade of lights in a strange pattern that made absolutely no sense to him.

 

“Mr. Rockefeller,†Miss Edington called. “I don’t think anything’s happening.â€

 

“Something’s happening,†“Rockefeller said. “I just don’t know what it’s doing.â€

 

“It might be alerting the aliens,†Miss Fairfield said.

 

Miss Edington went over to the man as he pushed another button that went dark. She fiddled with the board as well, pressing something. One of the lights Rockefeller had darkened lit once again.

 

“I had that one dark!†he said.

 

“I don’t know if they’re supposed to be all lit up or dark!†Miss Edington said. “I don’t understand any of this!â€

 

Rockefeller continued fiddling with the board and the strange colors on one side changed in intensity and color. Rockefeller brought both fists down on the board as Miss Edington leapt back. All of the lights seemed to reset, the lights that he’d turned off came back on while the scrolling colors stopped. As far as he could tell, it was all the same as it had been, though the complexity of the thing made it impossible to be sure.

 

“This electrical board is broke!†Rockefeller said. “It does nothing.â€

 

“Probably because you hit it!†Miss Edington said.

 

“It doesn’t seem to be electricity, sir,†Felix said. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this.â€

 

“Well, what is it then?†Rockefeller said.

 

“I don’t know,†Felix replied.

 

Miss Edington wandered over to the cascading purple energy. It appeared to be moving into the weird, flesh-like lines leading to the conduits. She touched one of the strange cords. It was warm and almost felt like it was alive. It gave slightly when she pushed on it. It felt soft but unlike anything she’d felt before. Some of the lines went to the conduits and one went to the stone pillar holding up the board Rockefeller looked at with irritation. She went to the board and looked underneath but there was nothing else out of the ordinary there. One of the lines came from the glowing stones to it, while the others went from it to the conduits on the wall.

 

“Virgil, Felix, Nigel,†Rockefeller said. “Let’s see if we can move this.â€

 

The other men went to the board as Miss Edington moved out of the way. Each of them took a corner and tried to lift but didn’t move. It seemed very solidly connected to the pole. Rockefeller called for them to do it again and they tried a few more times without success.

 

Miss Ingerton looked around for loose stones but, surprisingly, found none. She realized she hadn’t seen any kind of debris anywhere in the place.

 

“I just want to figure out how all of this works,†Rockefeller said.

 

Miss Ingerton took the quarter from her pocket and tossed it towards the energy around the minerals. It struck the purple energy and vanished with the slightest of hisses.

 

“Yep,†she said.

 

She moved away from the area.

 

“I think we should explore the way we came,†Rockefeller said.

 

They headed back to the nearest fork and then turned right, going the way they had not yet explored. They followed that strange, twisting tunnel for perhaps a half mile before it ended in another of the odd energy rooms. It looked like another of the dead ends and they saw another of the horrific, alien creatures at the board. Rockefeller realized the thing was manipulating the board somehow, touching different sections of the thing. The colors on it changed and the cascading lights moved as well. Sometimes the thing moved its pincers quickly over the board, then stopped. Lights flickered across the board and then the thing did something else. The colors changed again and the thing manipulated the board once more. It seemed random and none of it make sense.

 

“I think that our best course of action is to avoid these for as long as we can,†Rockefeller whispered.

 

“Right, right,†Bricker said.

 

Miss Edington turned and walked back down the corridor away from the thing. The rest of them quietly followed until they returned to the intersection they had last met and headed again to their right, going back the way they’d come to the last y-intersection. Everyone was worn and hungry. Their watches, if they were still accurate, said it was around 5 p.m.

 

Less than two hundred yards down that tunnel, they saw another of the iris valves on the right wall. Bricker went to it and opened it slowly as Miss Edington moved to the door and leaned down to peer into the hole as it expanded, rifle in hand. It was another pentagonal room and she backed to one side as the iris valve opened.

 

Bricker handed Miss Edington the lantern and she took out her lighter, lifted the glass, and lit the wick. She turned it up and held the lantern through the partially opened door. Light began to form in the room and she quickly blew out the lantern.

 

The pentagonal room beyond had a low ceiling only about six feet above. As Bricker opened the door the rest of the way, they saw that each of the other four walls was adorned with a strange, circular pattern carved with figures, mathematical formulae, and unsettling and horrible symbols. Each was about five feet wide and not as intricate as the one they had found in the place that had led to vacuum. They more closely resembled the one they had found on the rock wall on the mountainside.

 

Miss Edington walked to the one to the left of the door and reached for it, touching it. Her finger went directly through the solid stone wall. Virgil Thomas was close behind her in a moment, his hand in his pocket. She pulled her finger back out immediately. It seemed fine. She was worried about putting her head through after seeing what had happened to Miss Hernandez so reached forward and put her hand through once again. Virgil Thomas did not seem pleased at this. She reached and tried to grab at anything beyond the portal and it was cool though not cold. She thought she felt a breeze on her hand as well. After several seconds, she pulled her hand back out. It looked fine.

 

She leaned forward, shoving her head into the portal. She went to put her hand on it to brace herself and it went through but she maintained her balance. She was blinded by the brightness on the other side and blinked rapidly, trying to adjust her eyes to the sunlight that was beyond the portal. She heard the sounds of birds and eventually was able to make out trees all around her. She realized she was not at the place she had been before but another hollow of some kind. The sun was to her left and near the tops of the mountains there.

 

In the room, Miss Fairfield took a photograph of the woman, her head and shoulders in the wall. Virgil Thomas put his hand near Miss Edington’s shoulder as if he was going to jerk her back.

 

Miss Edington leaned back out of the portal.

 

“What did you see?†Rockefeller said.

 

“What did you see?†Miss Fairfield said.

 

“What did you see?†Rockefeller said again.

 

“It’s not space,†Miss Edington said. “It’s outside.â€

 

“Space?†Rockefeller said.

 

“It’s not space,†Miss Edington said again. “It’s outside.â€

 

“Was that last thing space?†Rockefeller said.

 

“Don’t you do that again!†Virgil Thomas said.

 

“You wanna look?†Miss Edington said.

 

“Not particularly,†Virgil Thomas said.

 

“I promise you, it’s outside,†Miss Edington said.

 

“Did you see Tommy?†Rockefeller said. “Was Tommy there?â€

 

“No,†she said. “It’s another clearing, like before. With the other door. But it wasn’t that same place because there’s a bunch of drawings on the ground there.â€

 

“Hmm,†Rockefeller said.

 

She rubbed her eyes. It felt dark in the room now.

 

“It’s extremely bright out there,†she said.

 

“See … see if one of the other ones is the same that you just stuck your head through,†Rockefeller said. “We need to know if it’s the same.â€

 

Miss Edington, feeling very brave now, moved to the next wall and stuck her hand through. She held it there for a little while, reaching around and feeling about. She felt nothing though there still seemed to be a breeze on her hand like last time. She removed her hand and it looked normal. She then shoved her head through and was almost blinded by the light once more. The sun seemed to be behind her and to her right.

 

“Virgil, is she always this straightforward?†Rockefeller said.

 

Virgil Thomas just nodded. He looked upset.

 

Through the portal, Miss Edington recognized the hollow they had been in earlier that day. She saw the markings she’d made on the ground and the slope on either side. She pulled back out and found herself in the room again. She looked relieved.

 

“Was it bad?†Rockefeller asked.

 

“No,†she said.

 

“What’d you see?â€

 

“That was the hollow where we were, the first door we saw when I was trying to figure out what happened.â€

 

“So, they are different.â€

 

She nodded.

 

“Are you up for checking two more?†Rockefeller asked.

 

“Why not?†she said.

 

She went to the next engraving and put her hand in, feeling the drain she’d been feeling each time, though a little stronger this time. She let it sit for several seconds before pulling it out again and seeing it was fine. Then she leaned into the portal once more. She found herself in another little glen she didn’t recognize. The sun was to her right, still heading down towards the mountains. She pulled her head back out.

 

Rockefeller looked at her expectantly.

 

“It’s another one,†she said. “It’s another one.â€

 

She moved to the last carving and put her hand through again, testing it. She removed her hand and it was fine again so she stuck her head in and found herself in yet another glade or hollow. The sun was directly ahead of her this time, nearly blinding in its intensity. She pulled her head back in.

 

“Same as usual,†she told the rest.

 

“Well, now we know,†Bricker said.

 

“Should we … hmm,†Rockefeller said.

 

“Maybe we could use these to get back to camp,†Miss Fairfield said.

 

“Well, I know that one goes back to camp,†Miss Edington said, pointing to one.

 

“Are you wanting to go back to camp?†Rockefeller said.

 

“Well, we won’t be able to come back in though,†Miss Edington said.

 

“Perhaps,†Rockefeller said.

 

“But we know the way in,†Miss Fairfield said. “This is just a shortcut.â€

 

“Maybe the door is open now, whereas before it was not,†Rockefeller said.

 

“Well, I’m getting hungry, so I might just walk through that door right there,†Miss Edington said.

 

“I … I think it is imperative that we try to find Tommy as quick as possible,†Rockefeller said. “But … we might be ill-prepared as well. But I think I will stay.â€

 

Felix merely nodded.

 

“Well, Mr. Rockefeller, I’d hate to leave you here alone,†Miss Edington said.

 

“I will not be alone,†Rockefeller said. “Felix will accompany me. And you all know how to get back if you have to. If you think we need more supplies, go get them and bring them here.â€

 

Virgil Thomas glared at the symbols on the wall.

 

“What is it, Virgil?†Miss Edington asked.

 

“I don’t think we’ll get back through,†he said. “We couldn’t get through before.â€

 

“No,†Miss Edington said.

 

“We could go around,†Miss Fairfield said.

 

“You know more about that kind of thing than I do,†Virgil Thomas said.

 

“Well, from what I can gather─†Miss Edington started to say.

 

“Can you find your way back here?†Virgil Thomas said. “I couldn’t.â€

 

“We could guess,†Miss Edington said.

 

“Could you?†Virgil Thomas said to Bricker.

 

The man shrugged.

 

“That’s why I think we should stick together,†Miss Fairfield said. “We shouldn’t split up.â€

 

“I … I have a plan Mrs. Edington, if you’re willing to try,†Rockefeller said.

 

“Mrs.?†Virgil Thomas said.

 

“Miss,†Rockefeller said. “Why don’t you stick through your head through and an arm and see if the arm can come back through when you approach it from the other side?â€

 

“I don’t know,†Miss Edington said. “I feel like I’m tired.â€

 

“Could you just give it one more try?†Rockefeller said.

 

“Well, before it didn’t work,†Miss Edington said. “I guess it’s just a one-way door kind of thing.â€

 

“Ain’t nothing stopping you from trying, Mr. Rockefeller,†Virgil Thomas said.

 

“Right you are, Virgil!†Rockefeller said. “I guess I should take the lead here.â€

 

“Don’t walk all the way through,†Virgil Thomas said. “Don’t know if we can get you back.â€

 

Rockefeller told Felix to hold his arm and the man did so. Rockefeller leaned into the portal with the upper half of his body. Once he had half himself through, he tried to push his hand back through the portal. His hand went through the thing as if there were nothing there.

 

While he was through, Miss Edington called the man’s name but he didn’t seem to pay her any attention. She called him several times but he didn’t respond.

 

Rockefeller pulled his head back out, leaving his arm in the wall.

 

“I’m going to go through and try to come back in,†he said. “Let me go.â€

 

Felix let go and he walked through, finding himself in the hollow on the other side. It was very bright and the air felt really fresh. He touched the wall but nothing happened. Then Miss Edington’s hand came through the wall. He grabbed the hand and was pulled back through the portal.

 

“So something has to be coming out for something to come in,†Rockefeller said. “Therefore, Tommy did not go through of his own accord.â€

 

“Something took him,†Virgil Thomas said.

 

“Perhaps,†Rockefeller said. “Yes.â€

 

“Kind of like … a trapdoor spider?†Miss Edington said.

 

“Maybe one of those creatures grabbed him,†Miss Fairfield said.

 

Virgil Thomas shook his head.

 

“Does that mean Tommy’s gone?†Miss Edington said.

 

“So, now that we have solved that mystery, we do know that we cannot go through here and come back through,†Rockefeller said. “We’re going to have to either continue on or all of us go back to camp.â€

 

“Well …†Miss Fairfield said.

 

“Or one of us stay behind,†Miss Edington said.

 

“… she pulled you through,†Miss Fairfield said. “So, if someone stayed here, they could pull us through. Or we could go back around the way we came in the first time.â€

 

“That seems like a lot of work,†Rockefeller said. “That mountain is very steep.â€

 

“Well, I’m not going to be pulling through anyone for a while,†Miss Edington said.

 

“Why don’t you all go and get provisions?†Rockefeller said. “Me and Felix will stay here in this room and we’ll pull you all back through. Does your watch still work, Nigel?â€

 

Bricker pulled out his pocket watch. It was still running.

 

“But Mr. Rockefeller, how will you know when we come back?†Miss Edington said.

 

“Well, I’m going to time it,†he replied. “You think you can be back at the rock wall by … be back at the rock wall by eight. My hand will be extended out and you can all hold hands and I will pull you through.â€

 

“You’re going to wait for two hours, Mr. Rockefeller, here in this dark room?†Miss Edington said.

 

“I’m sure there’s some things in this room we can examine for a couple more hours,†Rockefeller said.

 

“Maybe you can play with some more of those buttons,†she said.

 

“There’s only doors in this room,†Miss Fairfield said.

 

“You could go and explore a little more if you feel like,†Miss Edington said. “It’s going to be two hours, after all.â€

 

“Well, with only the two of us and one Springfield rifle …†Felix said.

 

“Two Springfield rifles,†Rockefeller said.

 

“Here ya go,†Miss Edington said, handing her rifle back to Rockefeller.

 

“Two Springfield rifles, Felix,†Rockefeller said. “But I do agree, we should wait for the others to get back.â€

 

Something passed through all of their minds. If there were portals all over the mountain, that would make the room they were in a kind of hub where traffic potentially passed through. Miss Edington’s eyes opened wide as she realized the terrifying fact.

 

“This is where the creatures probably grabbed Tommy,†Miss Fairfield said.

 

“Mr. Rockefeller, I don’t think you should stay in this room,†Miss Edington said.

 

“Well, I think this is the quickest way to get back in,†Rockefeller said. “I understand that there could be things coming in and out and me and Felix are prepared for that. And if something does come into this room, we’re going to run out one of these other doors. But …â€

 

“Make sure you run out the one then, ‘cause I don’t know where the other ones go,†Miss Edington said.

 

“We’ll figure it out,†Rockefeller said. “Right Felix?â€

 

“Yes sir,†Felix said.

 

“Anyways, like I said, it is imperative that we find Tommy as fast as possible and I think this is our fastest course of action,†Rockefeller said.

 

“All right then,†Miss Edington said.

 

“Unless you want to continue looking without rest and provisions,†Rockefeller said. “So, are you all going back to camp to get us more provisions?â€

 

“All right, Mr. Rockefeller.â€

 

“Bring as much food, guns, and supplies as you can.â€

 

“Virgil, I don’t feel right with the just the two of them staying. Would you mind?â€

 

“That seems like a good idea, Miss Suzanna,†Virgil said.

 

They suddenly all realized Cooper was not there.

 

“Oi!†Bricker said. “Where’s Jebediah?â€

 

“That man is so quiet, I bet he ran off!†Miss Edington said.

 

Bricker poked his head out of the doorway and into the corridor but saw no sign of the other man. The last they had seen of him, he had been out in the hallway.

 

“I fear the worst for Jebediah,†Rockefeller said.

 

“I fear the worst for y’all,†Miss Edington said. “I haven’t trusted Jebediah since we were up on that hill.â€

 

“He did act kind of strange,†Miss Fairfield said.

 

“How could he have got … what do you think happened, Mr. Rockefeller?†Virgil Thomas asked.

 

“He probably ran off, looking for Tommy, because he seemed highly adamant─†Miss Edington said.

 

“I highly doubt that he went looking for Tommy alone,†Rockefeller said. “I think that he was probably taken just the same way that Tommy was when we weren’t looking.â€

 

“Well, if he was taken, why didn’t that creature come after us too?â€

 

“It’s picking us off one by one.â€

 

Rockefeller realized if it had been one of the things, they might have heard the same buzzing they had heard in the corridor before.

 

“Jebediah could have just shot us all while we were looking through the doors anyway,†Rockefeller said.

 

“That’s why I think he wandered off,†Miss Edington said.

 

Bricker walked through the portal, following quickly by Miss Fairfield. Miss Edington walked to the strange portal and then stopped.

 

“I’m going to try to knock on the other side and see if you can hear it,†she said.

 

“How are we supposed to tell you if we do?†Rockefeller asked.

 

“Well, I will … not …†she said.

 

“So, since they’ve already walked through, are me, Virgil, and Felix staying here? I think we can all protect each other until you get back.â€

 

“At least that’s what I’m hoping. All right.â€

 

“All right.â€

 

“Back in a couple hours.â€

 

“Bring as much as you can. Eight-o-clock sharp. My hand will be out the wall.â€

 

“I hope you leave it out there for a little longer just in case we’re a smidge late.â€

 

“Don’t be late.â€

 

“All right, then, Mr. Rockefeller.â€

 

She disappeared through the portal.

 

Rockefeller had Virgil Thomas watch the door, which he closed with the spindle on the inside. He and Felix set themselves to watching the strange portals.

 

* * *


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