A Novelette By Robert Swartwood

Chapter 5

I’m first out of the cave, and once I’m no longer crouching, I look around at the trees, the brush, the sky. Everything’s so real up here I want to disbelieve what I’ve just seen and heard. Because down in the hole, that was a different world. Now I’m back in my own world, my own time, where shit like this doesn’t happen, where shit like school shootings and terrorist bombings are simply a way of life, and tall grass that sways and sucks dogs in with its long blades doesn’t exist.

Ty’s out of the hole. He heads for the open space in the brush. I watch him dumbly, then glance again at the hole.

“Hey,” I say, my voice cracking on that one stupid word.

He looks back.

“Shouldn’t we replace the board?”

I don’t know why, but it seems like the most obvious thing to do. Why I don’t go and do it myself, I have no idea. I’m asking my ten-year-old brother if we should do something, which is so unlike me, but in a way our roles have switched. Tyler at least knows a little about what’s going on here.

He only glances at the board like he’s been seeing it all his life. He frowns at me and says, “What’s the point? We’re just going to have to take it off once we come back.”

And there it is. It hits me like a hammer to the head, the sudden realization that we’re coming back here, we’re going to go back down that hole and deal with that … that thing.

“Right,” I say, because it’s the only word I’m able to speak.

Ty starts to climb through the brush. I find myself walking forward too. But before I reach the brush, I glance back at the oversized gofer hole, and I wonder.

I wonder if the grass knows we’ll be back.

I wonder if it’s waiting.

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