In the distance, flashes of lightning played across the sky, and the first few giant-sized drops of rain splashed across the ground, indicating more and harder rain was on its way. Gusts of wind picked up bits of dried grass, scrub brush, and dry earth and whipped them around in tornado-like swirls.
A lone figure and a large shambling shape, hard to make out against the darkness of the trail and the dim light of a grey day, stepped into the rift valley. The small figure popped open an umbrella, which immediately struggled to keep from turning inside out in the wind.
“I wish Dad would let me explore the other trails that branch off from the valley, but my GPS tracker would get me in trouble for sure if I tried that without permission.”
Sara patted her huge companion, Abby. “This is the only one big enough for you anyway.” A wet grey trunk lifted and draped itself across her shoulders, the tip reaching up to tug at her ear. “That tickles, Abby,” Sara laughed. “Let’s go check out The Well,” sensing her hesitation, “Don’t worry I’ll be careful.”
Girl and elephant, an incongruous pair, worked their way through a rock-strewn area that hadn’t been traveled enough to create a path but a few more times with Abby surely would. As the rain lifted they came to a low crumbling wall whose intact stones still fit together; you couldn’t fit a knife blade between them. The odd thing was that the rocks that had fallen from the wall uniformly were on the outside, away from the base of the wall—as if they’d been blown there by something from within the walls boundary. The wall framed a square slab of polished stone, easily 40 feet by 40 feet, eroded by wind and water and countless feet. The piece of red porphyry was fine grained and glinted with crystals embedded throughout. When the sunlight hit it right, she could watch little sparkle angels dance in the swirls of dust that lifted from it. Not today, though the slab was wet and rain slick.
In the center was an opening, five feet in diameter. She called it, The Well but her Mom and Dad didn’t think that was its purpose—neither did Esteban, and he knew a lot of the legends and stories that had never been written down about this place. Stepping to the edge, closer than she ever had before, despite what she’d promised Abby, Sara looked into the darkness. A squeal from Abby attempted to call her away from the edge, “I know… but I’m going to be careful.” She knelt and leaned over to look closer inside, “I see something like handholds carved into the rock.” At that moment a spear of bright sunlight broke through the clouds; shafting down onto the slab and into the hole. Sara saw something glinting, not at the bottom but on a ledge about twenty feet below. Shifting her weight forward to get a better look, with a crack, suddenly the lip of the slab that rimmed the hole broke and Sara pitched forward into the darkness.
Abby trumpeted in alarm and crashed through the wall onto the slab and up to the opening, the lip cracking and splintering further, threatening to give way under the weight of the elephant.
In the hole, Sara had twisted as she fell and caught a rock projecting from beneath the rough lining of the opening. Dangling and slightly swaying six feet down, fingers slipping from the wet stone, Sara saw Abby’s trunk snaking down to her and grabbed it just as what she was holding onto snapped off. With more of the slab breaking and falling into the well, Abby backed away, dragging Sara to lift her over the wall and set her down on the other side.
Shaking, Sara gasped, “Abby, let’s not tell Mom and Dad about this just yet, okay? I saw something that looked like eyes down there shining up at me from the shadows.”
Abby looked at her with a ‘what-am-I-going-to-do-with-you’ kind of look and shook her head.
“I know, but the diary says that sometimes we have to go into the shadows to understand the light,” retorted Sara.
The above is one of the scenes I wrote excerpted from a 2011 fiction novel I co-authored titled, Serpentauria: Ark of Extinction. [Photo credit belgianchocolate via VisualHunt CC BY-NC-SA]