Once through the opening, Ben lies still on a downward slant with tree roots dangling over his head. They seem to be trying to tickle his cheeks. The cold ground presses his clothes into his body as if searching for his warmth. The smell and taste of dirt fills his nose and mouth. (Could anything be worse than being buried alive?) He shutters. In the dark he reaches his arms as far as he can over of his head. The ground was about to take a sharp decline into the unknown.
(If others can do this, then so can I!) Clutching the pack as close to his head as possible, he takes a deep breath, grits his teeth, closes his eyes and kicks himself forward.
What starts as a slide quickly begins to feel more like a fall. Ben’s stomach tightens and bile rises towards his mouth as he tries to curl into a ball. Not only is he traveling downwards but also slamming around curves that throw him first to the left, then to the right and back to the left like he’s a giant ping pong ball. On and on he goes - down, down and around. His silent scream is on the verge of being vocal when the slope suddenly flattens.
He continues to spin and slide for several yards before he comes to a stop. Several minutes go by before he catches his breath and stops trembling. Slowly he sits up and looks around. (What is this? A room? A cave? A fishbowl? The Twilight Zone?)
The smell of soil is replaced by a trace odor of burnt electrical wires. A vague hum or buzz in the air tickles the inside of his ears. The ground is solid and smooth with an opaque, blue glow like his mother’s opal ring. (Oh, mum, I’m so sorry!) Ben’s eyes water as guilt tries to reclaim its spot in his heart. He stares at color reflecting in a mist that swirls around his hidden lower body. The fog seems alive - ready to seep into his clothing and attach itself to him. Ben leaps up and brushes off his clothes, but the mist didn’t rise with him. A nervous chuckle escapes with an exhale. He stamps his feet as a warning just in case anything else was slithering unseen in the mist below.
In front of the boy appears to be 3 doors aligned side by side without a wall. They stand erect like sentinels guarding whatever lay beyond them. The dim, floor lighting makes them appear to be floating in the fog. Ben walks over to feel the area between 2 doors. His hand tingles but is restricted from pushing into the darkness. (Gosh, I bet it’s a force field just like in Star Wars!)
He steps back and turns around to face the opposite direction. On the far side are three cave impressions in alignment like the doors. They are difficult to see because nothing is around them and nothing above the fog line is in them that can be seen from where Ben is standing.
Crossing the room Ben stands in front of the middle cave which is big enough to hold a couple of Mac trucks before its floor raises steeply. A column of foot long gouges are sliced into the floor on one side until it disappears into the nothingness above.
The cave on the left is the largest, but it reveals nothing - no mist, no floor, no ceiling, no sides, no back. (How can there be a hole in nothing?!) Ben's hand refuses to check it for a force field and his feet run to the cave on the far right.
This opening is about half the size as the one in the middle. It's hard to be sure with the mist swirling around, but Ben's intuition warns him that his trip downward could continue if he enters it.
"I sure as heck don't want to go that way!" His voice echoes back at him.
(This place is just too weird! I should go back for help...No, I shouldn’t! Who would help? Mum will never forgive me as it is. The girls are in enough danger and it would be worse here...If Kev wasn’t quite so reckless... No. Best I do this by myself.)
Taking deep breathes to calm his racing heart, Ben straightens his shoulders and turns back around to face the doors.
At that very moment, something rushes at him from behind. It slams into the back of his legs, knocking him over into the mist like a wooden pen at the bowling alley.