I was Born the Unloved Twin
This is how a horror movie starts.
Not right at the very beginning but when the suspenseful music starts playing and the horror parts actually begins to play on screen. Where the characters are at the top of the dark ominous stairs and you're booing at them with your popcorn to turn on the lights, grab a weapon, or just not do the stupid thing.
I'm about to do that something stupid aren't I?
Three little children somewhere they're not supposed to be, oh god I can see the not so fairytale ending now.
Amar and Luka are definitely experienced despite their ages. They walk ahead, both on guard and hand lingering as if in ready reach of some hidden weapon.
For some odd reason, our steps echo in this stone spiral stairway, so different from the previous warm wooden one. It would be narrow to an adult but it could realistically fit the three of us side by side.
Which is basically how we're walking now that our vision gets darker and darker. Me in the middle and half a step behind my older and much sturdier companions. There's no stick-on glow in the dark stones here. Just blackening darkness that seems to keep going.
The stone steps and cool earthen walls made me think of European towers or castles with their ridiculous defensive stairways. They made sense for the people defending the historical building way back then but were a pain for tourists.
"Do you hear that?" Amar asked, voice barely above a whisper.
I strain my ears but can't hear anything besides our own echos. It's dark and even though I know it's nothing but a narrow staircase that has to end eventually, it feels infinite.
"No, what is it?"
Still, nothing on my part but Lukas twitches in response a few breathes later.
"Water? Is that flowing water?"
"Yes that too but there was something else. It sounded...well I'm not sure."
"Just spit it out."
"I'm really not sure, it's so echoey in here it could be anything."
He says it so easily that even in the dark I know he's smiling in that half truth half lie kind of way. The dumb one that even I often fall for. But this isn't the place for questioning mischevious kids.
We keep going but it's been too long, we must have walked down at least 3 flights by now. At first, I didn't hear anything but since the boys claim they heard running water I tried to focus on finding that.
Not just with my ears, if there's water then shouldn't we be able to smell it or sense some other signs. Sure enough, the air was getting damper and even I began to hear the trickle of water. Like that of an indoor mall fountain, not too strong or large but with no mechanical motor sounds.
Realistically we can only go down but the sound of splashing water sounds stronger to my side?
It's been over 5 flights of going down by now, why not try something else.
"Doesn't the air feel...nicer over there?" it feels different, fresher.
It's dark, too dark to see and we can only rely on touch and sounds. I stop and thus pause everyone's movements, pressing toward my right into Lukas while pulling on Amar from the other side
"No what are you talking about?" rumbles from my right.
"What is it?" says the left.
"You said you heard water right? If you can't feel it then listen."
It's the same feeling when you're in a subway or a mall. As stuffy as the air is, when a door opens, a fresh breeze flies through the tunnels. That's even more strange than the fact that the sound of trickling water isn't coming from below, where the stairs still don't seem to be ending.
Duh, I'm so dumb, of course, this is one of Gable's mechanisms!
Such a powerful and mysterious person is bound to have some more hidden passages and traps in his house. Who knows how long we would have walked down these endless stairs? Perhaps if we had fallen down we would never stop rolling!
We must have all gotten the same idea that there was nothing for us downwards.
Lukas was already leaning fully on the wall, ear pressed listening.
"Yeah, definitely louder, what about on your side Amar?'
"....there's nothing like that over here."
"So you guys believe me right?"
Of course they do, because I'm right. Seriously though what's going on here, hmmm.
"Yeah, guys I think something's fishy about this wall too. But how do we get through? it's too hard to just break right, I also don't want those old geezers getting mad"
True, Lukas makes a good point. Even if we could break through the wall it's absolutely wrong to just break parts of someone's home. Besides we're technically not even supposed to be here right now, according to say, everyone. Booooo boring.
"Maybe you just have to knock?"
The other boy says jokingly, he takes the half step over me to reach the right wall from my other side. The tone is easy but he's seriously knocking on various spots on the stone wall, as if searching for a secret knob that could activate this to open up.
The chances of us actually figuring it out are next to zero. It can't be that easy.
Perhaps we should just go back up, the kitchen would be a much more comfortable place than this damp darkness. I'm feeling peckish anyways and could eat. I was just about to say so out loud, leaning against the wall feeling for the both of them.
That's when we fall.
"Oh, must have found it!"
"Damn it Amar, warn a guy!"
"I didn't know that would work either."
"Ow ow ow you're both crushing me!"
Found what?!?! Don't tell me knocking really worked?! Just knocking randomly?! We just slid through a damn wall like it was the magical platform 9 3/4!
It wasn't a dangerous fall, not like tripping on stairs. Instead, it seems as if the wall supporting us and our ministrations just turned transparent and had us flopping to the grassy ground face first. Luckily it's grass and not a pure rock.
The taller you are the harder you fall so luckily I'm not very tall. But there's three of us tangle and piled together, the surprise was more of a shock though.
Before we could fully get up however our surroundings finally registers.
Gone was the narrow stone staircase, in fact the wall wasn't even really where it was before. Behind us, where it should be, was the mouth of a cave, darkness stretched unnaturally beyond its mouth.
Ahead however was an entire forest, with trees taller than they had any right to be.
Is this really underground?! Was there a secret path to the outside?
Impossible, not only because of the size and space but it was clearly dark here as if it were nightfall. It had clearly been daytime when we arrived not but a few minutes ago.
There was no sky, no moon to be seen but somehow star-like lights brightened the space as if it were a full moon shining down. The glow stones perhaps, but from this distance, it looked as if it were a tall starry sky. The air was cold and fresh as if we were really outside in another forest.
There were trees and plants at various stages of life. On closer inspection rather than a forest there were parts of the space the resembled a nursery or a nature reserve. Pots and saplings freshly laid out, potted and obviously under the care of human hands. In the not so far distance there was the sound of running rushing water that flowed into a nearby artificial creak.
I'm very impressed, don't get me wrong, but it kind of reminds me of something out of another shounen anime series. Something with a big secret training space that defies physics underground a recluse's tiny little house shop.
No complaints here, quite the opposite really. This is wickedly cool.
The boys, though equally awed as I am, seem to have a different line of thought.
"Is this a dungeon?" gasped Lukas quietly, or well quiet for him.
His eyes, now reflective like glass, were still pointed above, gazing at the glowing starry sky. He looked on edge, but alive, like a puppy right before reaching the dog park.
"No, I don't think so...but this space may be built on something similar to a dungeon base."
Amar recovers the quickest out of all of us, quickly and subtly analyzing the space around us for threats. Like this, I see a little bit more of that unnerving boy with the knife from before. But he soon relaxes into his usual loose posture and easy smile fit for a child.
"It's really amazing, but it's not a dungeon? It should be safe."
"That's good, it's Gable's place but I never saw or heard anything about this in my time here."
While Lukas is still quite starstruck Amar looks back to the pitch black cave where we supposedly came from.
"Can we get back or are we trapped?"
That's a pretty good question honestly. I dust myself off from the grass and follow him, taking two careful steps into that darkness, which by all sense should just lead back to the stairway. Since I'm cautious of stairs I take as slow careful steps as possible.
I've fallen off of few in my lifetime okay! Stairs are always dangerous no matter who you are or what world you're in.
At first, there's nothing but then the air changes, stills and stagnates. It's just as dark but the floor is stone and there's a wall behind me again. Lo and behold, it's the staircase.
Okay then, not trapped after all. With that, we can relax. Now how do we get back?
"Huh what a strange entranceway."
"What was that thing you heard earlier?"
It's simple curiosity. The boys as young as they are should have better trained senses than I do. It's quite natural to magic users and trained warriors to develop enhanced.... well, anything and everything really.
I don't know all the details, I was a noblewoman not a adventurer. That and it really is hard to say, given each person's unique constitution in this world. That's probably why they could hear the running water much sooner.
It doesn't really matter if it's nothing but I'd like to know if he possibly heard something dangerous, know what to avoid.. In the darkness, I can't see anything and definitely can't make out his expression, but I can hear a light hum as he thinks out loud.
"Hmmm I'm really not too sure."
"It's okay, I still want to know. If you don't want to tell Lukas I can keep quiet."
"It's really nothing."
Well, that's mildly disappointing but hey if it's no threat then good enough. Plenty of secrets in this place, can't catch them all.
"But, if it stays between us then maybe I can tell you what I think I maybe heard."
"That's fine! I won't tell Lukas or anything."
"If you ask nicely and call me big brother."
That shit again? Kids are weird in their own ways. I actually don't want to encourage this kind of thing, I have my line of pride too. But then I recall how I made the younger neighborhood kids call me big sis and used my older kid authority over them at that age and beyond as well.
Guilty as charged.
*sigh* "Big brother Amar, please tell me what was it."
I recite plainly like I'm reading out loud a passage in class when the teacher calls on you.
"Waaah you did it! Didn't think that would work either."
I smack the larger brat in the dark, stairs or not. Not sure where' I hit but I got something flesh.
"Okay okay don't be mad."
For some reason, he felt the need to use my head as leverage in the dark , voice lowering to an unnecessary half whisper.
"It sounded like animals."
"Animals? Like a dog barking? Or the farm animals?"
Those dinosaur birds in the yard can cluck and crow something fierce. I'm just glad they don't rooster crow at sunrise otherwise I'd be forced to wake up in a panic every morning.
"Not any farm animals, probably not a dog. Probably? They're a lot....bigger. "
"Oh, that's not a very big deal? Is Lukas scared of big animals or something"
"No he loves them, especially dogs. He definitely would have wanted to go find them if he knew."
"Ohhhh okay I get it then, he really does suit dogs."
"Right, he always wanted one and plays with Tamera's pets all the time. We should get back to him now."
"Thank you for telling me, I won't say thing to Lukas."
With a sound of affirmation, the wall falls the same way it does before as we press against it. I still don't believe knocking is what activates this thing but hey, knock knock.
Being prepared for the lack of wall this time around we don't fall flat on our faces, thank goodness. The sight of the starry foreign forest is just as magnificent though, especially right of the darkness. There's something about it that makes it prettier, more aesthetically pleasing than nature right outside, like a well detailed art installation.
Which would make sense if this was an artificial forest? Gable did tell me he had another nursery downstairs. I just wasn't imagining something as large nor grand as this.
"Lukas where did you go?"
We weren't gone for long checking if the wall door worked or not but the named boy has already disappeared from the nearby clearing.
"Lukas where are you?!"
Nothing but the twinkling glow of the 'stars' and a small breeze answers us back.
Oh shit we lost Lukas.
Author Note: I am sleepy at all times @_@