Friday Snippet: from THE RUBY KEY

The cat has led our heroes to a cave mouth and instructed them to go inside, telling them they’ll know when they’ve gone far enough. And then, he’s gone off hunting. Genna picks up the story from there.

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The look of the cave mouth gave me no comfort. A narrow vertical cleft jagged upward through sandstone to about to the height of a man, with the base wide enough for us, but the top of the opening nothing but a crack that ran upward as far as I could see. Inside was darkness, and nothing but darkness, and it was all I could do to crouch and move inside.

Dan and Yarri squeezed in after me. We could see nothing.

“Do you suppose there are bats in here?” I asked. I’m terrified of bats.

“Bats,” Yarri said, “and lizards, blind snakes, various toads and frogs, worms, all sorts of insects. Maybe rats. Fish, but again, probably blind ones. And cliffs and ledges and dead ends and drop-offs. Probably some larger predator who has found this a convenient den—”

“Yarri,” I said. “Still your tongue, please. And turn on your light.”

Yarri didn’t say or do anything for a moment. Then she said, “Oh! You didn’t want to know what was in the cave, did you?”

“I wanted you to say, ‘No, Genna. I’m sure nothing is in here but us.'”

She tapped the little light she wore as a chain around her neck once we got to the first sharp turn, and we and the inside of the cave were illuminated in cool, blue-white light. We couldn’t see far. The low, narrow passageway turned sharply to the right just ahead of us.

“I don’t see any bat guano,” Yarri said after a moment. “So there probably aren’t any bats.”

I didn’t believe her. In my mind, they were all just waiting around the next corner. And I did see spider-webs, so my skin started crawling anyway. Outside, I don’t mind spiders much. But in low places, where I’m sure they’ll drop into my hair and I won’t know, just the thought of them makes me want to shiver. Or scream.

“Genna, you have to go,” Dan said. “We can’t spend the night here.”

We could. We wouldn’t be comfortable. But we could.

Still, I had to believe the cat had brought us to this place for a reason, and I had to trust that it was a good one. So I started forward. I could hear Dan and Yarri shuffling forward, and I could hear Yarri whispering to Dan.

But worse than that, I could hear whispers from ahead of us. I reached behind me to wave them to silence, and hit my brother in the head.

“OW!” he yelped. Ahead of me, a thousand voices shouted, “OW!”

I tried to turn, and discovered I could not—the passage was too narrow. “If anything in there didn’t know we were coming, it knows now,” I whispered. My angry whisper scuttled forward to add its rustling-paper sounds to the diminishing chorus of shouts. It also skittered back to my brother and Yarri, and they fell silent.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

11 comments… add one
  • seanachi Aug 17, 2007 @ 6:45

    “If anything in there didn’t know we were coming, it knows now,” I whispered.

    Now that’s just darn foreboding.

  • Nicole Aug 13, 2007 @ 10:29

    I agree with Genna – I’m okay with spiders as long as I can see them, too. But I am fully convinced that, given the option, they would rather play in my hair than stay nice and safe in their webs.

  • Bri Aug 11, 2007 @ 1:09

    That was great – very realistic and creepy and..bleh! Spiders and guano and narrow places – all in one snippet! Very nice 😀

  • joelysue Aug 10, 2007 @ 21:04

    Oh, man, what a killer. Just the thought of spiders and bats in my hair freaks me out!

  • cherylp Aug 10, 2007 @ 19:05

    Yeesh. I hate spiders. I know just how Genna feels–nasty, creepy things dropping on your head, crawling in your hair….crap. Now I’ll be on the lookout for the evil little things all night.

  • PolarBear Aug 10, 2007 @ 17:30

    Nope. No bats here. … Just snakes.

  • PJ Aug 10, 2007 @ 15:49

    Wow. What a heart-stopping moment. After my MRI yesterday (closed), I wouldn’t want to be wedged in some place I couldn’t escape from easily. Creepy. Hope nothing too nasty comes for them. 😀

  • Ann Aug 10, 2007 @ 15:14

    That’s one big cave they’re coming to. Great snippet, nice and creepy.

  • Jess Aug 10, 2007 @ 14:43

    I love your descriptions of the echoes! And that’s one cave I wouldn’t want to be in either. *shudders with Joy Renee* ewww.

  • IanT Aug 10, 2007 @ 12:15

    My angry whisper scuttled forward to add its rustling-paper sounds to the diminishing chorus of shouts.

    Good line. 🙂

  • Joy Renee Aug 10, 2007 @ 11:39

    and here i was planning to quit surfing Friday Snippets and lay down. it’s four hours past my usual bed time. but i’m going to have to put a buffer between that scene and shutting my eyes. *shudder*

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