Excerpt from The Land Below
Juanita stared at the path before her. It was dark and eerily quiet, with not even the sound of the wind blowing through. What could be down there she thought to herself. She was unsure whether she should continue or not. Or should she turn around and make her way back to the tribe. The thought of facing her mother again deterred her from going back. She did not want to get into another argument with her right now.
She took a deep breath and recited a quick prayer. Now more composed, she cautiously made her way into the darkness. She walked slowly, her feet dragging on the stony ground, not wanting to make a misstep and fall into the unknown. She kept her right hand on the wall, where she hoped to find some sort of railing to guide her. Her left hand was in front of her to ward off any surprise creatures or cobweb.
The uneven steps continued downwards for what seemed like eternity. Juanita’s eyes grew somewhat accustomed to the dark but there was nothing to see. The stairs were carved into the earth and vines and ferns covered the walls on both sides of her. Although still skeptical about where she was heading, her heart had stopped racing and her courage had returned. She increased her speed going down the never-ending steps, eager to see where they led.
Suddenly, up ahead, she saw a faint light. Maybe the steps led to another opening in the forest, she thought to herself. She continued towards the light but as she got closer, she realized that the glow was actually
coming from torches that were stuck on the walls! Juanita ran down the final steps towards the torches. The steps ended in a landing and the torches glowed on the walls on either side. She was even more curious, and confused now. Who would leave lighted torches here? Did any
member of her tribe know of this place? She had never heard anyone talk about it before. And where exactly did this passageway lead?
More confident now that she had a source of light, she removed one of the torches from the wall and forged ahead.
The passage continued to go downward. By this time Juanita did not know how far below the ground she decended. With the light from the torch, she moved forward a little bit but still cautious, not knowing what lay ahead. After walking about one hundred feet, she felt the ground beneath her start to tremble. Her heart raced even faster. There must be a gigantic creature down here that was making the ground shake. Juanita clutched her torch in one hand and braced herself against the wall.
The shaking continued, and got more and more violent. Suddenly out of nowhere a fierce wind swept through the cavern. Juanita was knocked to the ground and her torch blew out.