- Ch. 1: Waking up is hard to do. Unless, of course, there are fries.
- Ch. 2: It might be a game to you, but it’s not to us.
- Ch. 3: Does anything actually happen or do we just talk about it?
- Ch. 4: What could possibly be better than jewels, gold and glittery treasure?
- Ch. 5: The first thing we do, let’s uninvite all of the parents.
- Ch. 6: The long walk to freedom
- Ch. 7: Pieces of the puzzle are coming together. But what’s the puzzle?
- Ch. 8: The unknown versus the known.
- Ch. 9: It doesn’t always make logical sense. Sometimes, you just have to go with it.
- Ch. 10: This is the worst day of my life (again).
- Ch. 11: We are family.
- Ch. 12: Castle Burgers with a side of Bog
- Ch. 13: Upside-down ladders and distant brothers
- Ch. 14: Sibling rivalry isn’t only among 9- and 11-year olds
- Ch. 15: No time for patience
It’s going to get scarier before it gets funner.
A bird chirped above them and they all looked up. It looked back at them. It sang a little song, but it was the only sound to be heard.
Dec walked a few paces towards the opening of the tunnel and stopped and listened again. Nothing.
“Dan?” he said in a normal voice. He waited.
“Maybe he’s just playing with us,” Lu said. “My brother does that sometimes when we’re walking and he’ll go ahead and hide behind a tree to scare me when I get there.”
“Yeah, Dan doesn’t really do that,” Dec said.
“Maybe he’s started now,” Lu said. “He has been hanging out with Li all morning.”
Dec took a few more steps and was in the tunnel. “Guys, it’s pretty dark in there,” he turned his head back to them.
“Should we get our parents?” Li asked.
“Or some adult?” Lu suggested.
“Guys, he was just here a second ago, he can’t be far,” Dec tried to justify it. “Besides, where could he have gone? There’s nowhere to go. It’s just like a drainage tunnel or something. Maybe there’s one of those grates so big sticks and raccoons don’t get in and make nests.”
“Do you see a grate?” Li asked.
“Well, no, but I’m just saying maybe that’s right up here so he’s not far,” Dec tried harder to look and took a few more steps. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw a bit more. “Hey, I can see a little bit better now. Come closer, guys, your eyes will adjust and you can see better.”
“Don’t you think we should go get someone? I mean, I don’t hear Dan at all. Maybe we get Alastar, maybe he knows about this thing and knows what happened,” Li said.
“I’m not leaving my brother here alone,” Dec said defiantly.
“He’s not even here now,” Lu said.
“Well, I’m not leaving.”
It was decision time. Stick with the boys or go to the adults.
“Dude, our parents will be so mad if we, I don’t know, disappear, you know, like, forever,” Lu said.
“I’ll be madder if we don’t find Dan,” Dec said and took a few more steps into the tunnel. Dec peered his head in further, ahead of his body, as if that helped more than taking another step, but it must have been human instinct because he did it without thinking.
“Dec, I can barely see you now it’s getting so dark,” Li said as they kept taking small steps into the tunnel. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Do what? I’m just taking a few more steps, I’m not going all the way in,” Dec spoke, but didn’t turn around. The sounds bounced off of the stone walls. “Dan?” he tried again. “Dan, can you hear me?” Nothing. No sound, not even a bird. He inched forward, trying to feel with his bare toes.
“Do you see the ball?” Lu asked, trying to change the subject.
“Yeah, Lu, I see the ball, here it is. Oh, and here’s Dan, too,” he stopped before he said something he didn’t want to.
“Sorry, just trying to help,” Lu said and also inched forward. “Dan, I’m pretty close behind you, but I can barely see you. No, wait, I can’t see you at all. How did you go from being right in front of me to not being there?”
“Maybe it’s something with the light and the stones and, well, I don’t know,” Li suggested.
“Well, whatever it is, I don’t see him and,” Lu paused, “Wait a minute, why isn’t he even answering? Dec?” he called out. “Dec?” he cried. “Dec!” he screamed. The sounds echoed into the nothing, but there was no Dec.
“Dec!” Li tried as loud as he could. The voice bounced around and seemed to even return. It was a little eerie. OK, it was a lot eerie.
“So Dec was just here a second ago, I even saw him, then he wasn’t there and now we scream and he doesn’t answer,” Lu explained the situation. “It doesn’t make sense, right?”
“No, it doesn’t,” Li said dryly.
“But we’re not going to just walk in and follow Dec and disappear the way he did, right? I mean, what if he’s dead?” Lu pleaded and plotted and soon knew it was a losing discussion. “Wait, bro, Li, brother, no, older brother, wiser older brother,” he cringed at the thought of complimenting his brother, he knew it would be repeated for months to come. But this was no time for big brother-little brother debates. “You’re not seriously thinking of following him, are you?”
Li said nothing. Li was behind Lu so Lu looked back to Li. He could barely see him. “You’re not, right?”
“I am,” Li said calmly.
“Dude, seriously, that’s like the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard you say and, believe me, you say some pretty dumb stuff. But this is the dumbest.
“Who knows what could happen, right?” Li said.
“Wait, who said that? Is that some quote or something? Are you quoting stuff now? Who said that?”
“Dan,” Li said.
“OK, think about this, though. ‘Who knows what could happen?’ also means that bad stuff could happen. It doesn’t just mean it’s going to be good stuff, it could be anything. I mean, that’s exactly what you’re saying that who knows what could happen. That means nobody knows, that’s exactly what you’re saying, who knows? No one knows. In fact, that’s even better, it shouldn’t be ‘who knows what’s going to happen,’ it should be ‘no one knows what’s going to happen.’ That’s more accurate,” Lu paused.
“Bro, what in the world are you talking about?” Li asked as he whispered ahead to Lu.
“OK, wait, math,” Lu tried. “You like math. Do you know how many people who is?” Lu asked, but Li didn’t respond.
Li caught up to Lu and squeezed by him in the tunnel. “Who is one person, but who is that person? If we say no one, do you know how many people no one is? That’s even less than who, no one is zero. So no one knows what’s going to happen, that’s who,” Lu thought he was doing a pretty good job of making his case, but Li was now past him and Lu was having trouble seeing him. It was now or never.
“How do you think you know, anyway? I know that sometimes you say that you just know like you really know or you feel it or I don’t even know what and that’s probably what you’re going to say here, that you just know that we’ll be OK, but how do you know? You can’t just know something, unless it’s, well, math. I mean, eight plus nine is seventeen, no one can say it’s not. But you can’t know we’ll be OK down there, wherever ‘down there’ is anyway. You don’t even know that. Maybe it’s under the castle, maybe it’s a dark pit of mud with spikes coming up and snakes swimming around and the reason the other boys haven’t responded to our calls is because they’re dead and the snakes are already licking their lips because they’re going to have some little boys for lunch. Ooh, is it almost lunch? Wait, do snakes even have lips? They have those long tongues. Don’t they have splits in their tongues? That’s so weird. There’s probably some story behind why they have those tongues like it helps them find mice to eat or something. Or, no, I know, it helps them figure out if the boys are fresh to eat or maybe their tongues can tell if they boys are still alive and if they are, then they need to slither up and squeeze the last bit of life out of them. That must be it. So, do you know that the boys are alive down there or not?” Lu didn’t wait for a response.
“No, of course you don’t know, but you’re probably going to tell me that you do know, that you know they’re alive because, ‘Duh, dude, I just know, I can’t explain it, I just know.'” Lu mocked his brother in a moronic voice.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that before and you’re not always right and then when you’re not right you come back to math and say that it’s not a science or numbers or whatever and that you know but you don’t really know you just think you know and then you seriously just admitted that you didn’t really know. So, what I’m saying is, wait a minute, I just proved it, I’m saying that you don’t really, really know even though you say you know, but you just can’t know it, like know it for a fact. Like, I know for a fact that they have fries for lunch because we even saw the deep fryer this morning. Ooh, I could go for some fries about now. What time is it anyway? I bet it’s just about lunch time. So, Mr. I Know Because I Know, are we going to have fries for lunch or what? Do you know that?”
Lu couldn’t see a thing in front of him and part of that nothing was not seeing his brother. Somehow, maybe around three-fourths of the way through when he was talking about knowing and not knowing, he knew that his brother wasn’t there anymore. He admitted that he knew it but didn’t really know it for sure.
“Li?” he whispered, but nothing. He wasn’t terribly surprised and even said, out loud, “I knew it!”
Lu inched forward with hesitation as it seemed that the others went so quickly it was like they fell off a cliff.
He had one last word for his brother, something that summed up his thoughts and feelings at the moment. His brother of so many years, but a brother who just abandoned him, leaving him alone in a dark stone tunnel outside of a country castle in Ireland.
“Dikzak,” Lu whispered as he took just another step, felt nothing under his feet and somehow knew without really knowing that he would be OK and he was gone.