This is the first story of the “Towards the Light Series. The Table Contents is here.
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Cate and Leo came running up to the back of the house, where I was doing chores.
“Whoa, calm down, what’s the rush? Being chased by a hornet again?” I asked.
“Dwarves, Dad,” Leo said. At eleven, he was Cate’s elder by two years and often the instigator in their little escapades.
“Dwarves?” I asked.
“Mmm-Hmm, Daddy,” Cate said. “We saw them. Four of ‘em.”
“Dwarves, like ‘Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho’ Snow White style, or dwarves like The Hobbit?”
“Snow White,” Cate yelled simultaneously with Leo yelling, “The Hobbit!”
“So, tell me a little about these dwarves that are part of cartoons and fantasy books.”
They looked at each other for a moment. Cate nodded to Leo. I hid my laugh. They usually aren’t quite as transparent with their stories.
“We were hiding in the pines to see if there really was a pack of coyotes that drink by the stream when we heard voices. Four little guys, about this tall came out of the woods on the other side.” He used his hands to indicate just below his shoulders, which put them up to my belly button. “They had long beards. Cate screamed.” He threw a dark look at his sister. “They turned and ran back into the woods. We tried to follow and think they went into a tunnel. Come, we’ll show you.”
“Sure. Hold on. I have to put this stuff away.” I was curious about what they had up their sleeves.
We lived pretty far out into the countryside and back in the woods. Our property was surrounded by conservation land, so I never worried about them running free and encouraged their imagination. They took to it like fish in water and thought of screen time as a rainy-day activity or some type of punishment when the weather was nice. They knew every inch of land better than I did.
I followed them out to the stream and then across to the woods on the other side. A short distance from the stream there was a small cliff. My heart skipped a beat when I saw the kids climb up to a ledge about eight or nine feet up. Following, I discovered that there were well-worn steps carved into the wall. They were subtle, and hard to see, yet it made climbing to the ledge a snap. The only problem was how closely spaced they were, made more for children than adults.
Impossible to see from the ground, I discovered that the ledge funneled back to the entrance to a cave. Looking closer, I decided it wasn’t natural, but had been carved by hand. Perhaps it was a mine. I had heard that back in the late 19th century there was a little mining activity in the region, but they never did well enough for large scale operations to be opened up. The tunnel was only about four feet in diameter, perhaps wider than tall, so I thought it was very small for a mine. On the other hand, the few mines I had seen were very rough affairs.
The entrance was very tidy and there was no sign of any animals. I gulped my fear back, got down on my hands and knees, and went a short distance in.
The tunnel was amazingly well made. It was almost perfectly circular, maybe five foot in diameter, with the bottom cut straight to make a nice level area for walking, or, in my case, crawling. The walls were very smooth, though obviously shaped by hand. I continued down, for it was gently pitched back into the hill side, for a minute or two. It was too dark. I knew I’d have to come back with flashlights.
Being slightly claustrophobic, I turned around. The light streaming through the entrance seemed overly bright, like looking directly at a spotlight. I could make out shifting silhouettes that I knew were kids watching me from the entrance.
I heard a noise behind me. Fearing a bear, or perhaps something worse, I swiveled around. My brain barely had time to register that several very small people were rushing at me before something struck me. All went dark.
So, here we come to a cliff hanger. I will continue this at another time, perhaps next week’s “writephoto, perhaps sooner. I hope you enjoyed it so far.