It was hard work crawling over wet stone on skinny elbows and knees. Olivia thought about turning back. No! We have to keep going! But the flashlight is dying.
That was true. The pink unicorn flashlight did little to ward off the suffocating blackness to begin with and its dim light was fading.
Could she turn around? She raised up on her elbows and felt the cold stone pressing against her back. Rocking side to side her skinny shoulders bumped against the walls almost immediately. No, going back would mean crawling backward.
How did Mr. Spelunker make it through here? He was a very small man, but he must have been inching on his belly like a worm. Maybe he hadn't made it through. He said it widened out in a bit. Osandra, we don't really know Mr. Spelunker. Daddy always says not to trust strangers. Why am I crawling through this cave! I want to go home. I don't know if we should have believed Mr. Spelunker.
There are bad men at the house. They are looking for you. Why are you so sure they are bad? They did something with mother. With mommy? Mother is gone.
Osandra don't be silly! I always hold mommy in my heart. I can feel her right there! She is not gone.
Try it. Can you feel her now? Those men did something to her!
Why can't I feel mommy!
The men walking back down the dry dirt wash were not pulled from the cloning vats with earpieces already inserted, but they might as well have been. Where do they find men like this? Saul wondered. Every single one of them is identical! Olivia was not with them, but was that a good thing or a bad thing?
"Mr. Hill, would you mind following me to the car? We are going to transport you to a CDC quarantine facility."
Saul turned away from the window.
"Yes I would mind. I am not going anywhere without my daughter!"
"Mr. Hill, I am not asking you. We are taking you to quarantine."
Saul was surprised how easily the two men standing behind him were able to grasp him by the shoulders and arms and maneuver him outside. Granted, he wasn't a particularly big man nor athletic. Still, it surprised him. As one of them pushed his head down and propelled him into the back seat, Saul caught a snippet of the conversation outside.
"... father says she was playing outside, but no sign of her. We might need to bring in bloodhounds."
Oh Olivia, where are you hiding? As little love as Saul still held in his heart for his wife, he could not bear to think of telling Olivia that her mommy was dead. But he wanted to tell her, not these cloned vat men! The SUV pulled out into the street. Saul knew the door would be locked but still tried the handle and threw his shoulder into it with all his might. An opaque glass divider separated him from the front seat.
"Let me out! I need to speak to my daughter!", he screamed as loud as he could. There was no reply. Could they even hear him?
The ceiling was even lower here. Olivia pushed the flashlight in front of her. Oh! The flashlight tumbled down an unseen slope, the skitters and bounces echoing in a larger space. Inching forward Olivia could feel the ground sloping away steeply in front of her, an almost vertical drop. Absolute black, thick heavy darkness pressing in from all sides. The flashlight had stopped working entirely in the fall. It sounded like it had tumbled a good distance down. Reaching out around her, Olivia realized that the passage opened up above and to the sides as well.
Mr. Spelunker was right. It did widen up. But we can't see anything! Osandra, we have to turn around here and go back.
But we can't see anything!
Isaac can see in the dark.
That was true, Isaac could see in the dark. But mommy made us put Isaac in a box and throw away the key!
I know where the key is. I can let Isaac out.
But mommy said Isaac was evil.
Father said Isaac didn't start that fire. He couldn't have. Just a faulty battery. And anyway I like Isaac. And we need him!
Osandra! You know very well that Isaac started that fire.
That was true. Isaac could start fires. Isaac liked fires, and burning things. Isaac was not a nice boy and Olivia did not like him. Olivia did not understand why Osandra liked Isaac. Isaac bossed Osandra around something terrible and didn't let her say much. Olivia thought she and Osandra had been much happier since Isaac was gone.
Those men did something to mommy. Isaac will know what to do. He will not be afraid of those men.
That was true. Isaac was not afraid, was never afraid, could not be afraid of anything. Isaac was fear, and anger, and hatred. He did not experience these things, he caused them. Olivia shivered in the dark. Okay Osandra, let Isaac out of his box.
Olivia's eyes began to glow red in the darkness, flickering embers that revealed a wondrous chamber of wavy flowstone and stalactites. She began to crawl headfirst down the sheer, smooth dropoff like a spider.
All words and art by moi. Isaac Spider image originally published here, red eyes added tonight.
This is part 7 of an ongoing series: