Red Jaguar Rises Again

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Chapter Six

Cody forget all about his blister in his haste to see what there was to see. He turned himself around to grasp the top rung of the ladder.

“Careful,” whispered Becca, “Be sure it has a good solid feel before you step all the way onto it.”

Cody disappeared into the open space. The beam of Becca’s flashlight saw his face looking up with a big grin.

“Okay, I’m coming. Slide over? That’s good. Take it slow.” Her voice echoed and bounced back, “s. l . o. w. ow. ow. “

Becca slid over the edge onto the ladder beside Cody.

Cody’s hands let go of the platform. He set one foot on the next rung down. “ It’s wet and slippery. You’ve got to use both hands, Mom. Let go of the flashlight. This ladder’s slippery.”

“But, it’s our only light,” Becca said, leting go. The flashlight hits the ground with a dull thud. Darkness filled the space around them as they stood wobbling upon the ladder.

Cody started sliding, down, down, until his foot caught and he could right himself. “I’m on a good, solid rung now, Mom. Be careful of that second one! It’s wet. The ones down here seem drier.”

“Hold it right there, Cody Michael Clark. Stay just where you are.”

He clung to the ladder, his hand on what felt like a rough branch of a tree. He looked down to the tiny beam of light. It sparkled. Why?

In the dark, he heard her lowering herself upon the ladder. She edged her tennis shoes finally onto the same rung upon which his feet cling. “That was a close,” she breathed. “Glad you were able to stop yourself.”

“Me, too,” he said and they moved together slowly down into the darkness, one rung at a time. The ladder creaked and groaned with their weight. Cody said softly, “I see more light below now. Its looks like there’s a tunnel. I also think I hear water dripping.”

His knees feel wobbly. He went down faster now than she was. He heard her little purse bump along the rungs His stomach seemed to be flipping like a fish out of water.

He stopped a second, then felt a hand for the little car in his pocket. He thought he heard his Dad say, faint in the distance, “You’ve got to be careful. Mom’s counting on you.” His shirt stuck to his chest with sweat, even though the air felt cool.

A scream comes from above. “Eeek!” cried Becca. Cody’s heart stood still. His stomach churned. The sound of her voice echoed in the darkness. . . “eee. . .kkkk.”

“What . . . what . . .?” he yelled up.

“A long thing, probably an iguana, fell on my leg. I shook it off.”

The light grew brighter as he made his way down. He looked up. A huge rock ceiling was filled with ice-like sticks or rocks hanging down. Drops of water could be faintly heard as they dripped off onto the ground.

He looks down and sees more of these strange things on the ground. They stick straight up into the air. Some have weird branches. His heart gave a big thump. If either of them had fallen off the ladder, one of these rocks might have gone right through them.

His feet touch the slippery dirt floor and he falls down and just misses the sharp edge of one of the big, wet rocks. He lays on the wet ground and wonders about the huge ceiling above. What are all those different rocks of many sizes that look like icicles?

Becca cries, “This floor’s slippery!” as she wobbles but she doesn’t fall when her feet touch the ground. Cody wiggles up and stands beside her.

“Isn’t this place amazing!” he says.

“We must be in a cave under the temple,” she says softly. “Stay by this ladder and hold onto it while I go get the flashlight.” She makes her way slowly between the meadow of rocks sticking up from the ground. Some of them are tall as her waist.

“Looks like daylight ahead of you,” Cody shouts to her. “Over there,” he says and indicates a wide hole between overhanging rocks.

Becca turns to him midway through the rocks. She shines the beam of the flashlight where he’s pointing.

“What are these strange things all around us?”

“The ones on the ground are stalagmites,” she says as she slowly makes her way back between the wet rocks with the flashlight. “The ones overhead are stalactites.”

The ray of her little flashlight makes the dripping rocks above them appear as if there are butterflies fluttering around.

She makes it back to Cody. He stands with a hand on the ladder as she shines the light in a different direction from the one he’s indicated. Another opening! Again, her arm moves the beam of light.. More holes. But which one will lead them back outside?

Then, Cody hears a soft sound, a voice much like his Dad’s. “Follow the air flow,” it says.

“What do you think we should do?” Becca asks, her voice trembling. “Go back up?”

A loud noise comes from above. Cody’s heart sinks right to the bottom of his stomach. “We can’t do that! The wall of the temple is closing! We’d never make it back up in time. Guess we can’t get out that way.” He tries to sound more confident than he’s really feels. “Let’s stay here a little while. Feel the direction the air is coming.”

Becca says, “I’ll bet we’re in a cave with tunnels. The priests must have used them many years ago. They could get up to the various temples and no one would know how they did it.”

Becca hands Cody the flashlight so she can use both hands to find a hankie in her purse. She wipes her face. “Burr, if this place down here is so chilly, why am I sweating?”

Cody has no explanation. Instead he answers, “If we really are in a series of caves and tunnels and we don’t go through the right hole, we might end up in a tangle of twists and turns. And find our self in a temple. we can’t get out of.”

He stops to think. “But we should be alright if we go through that first hole I showed you. It has the more light coming through it. Let’s try it. Go there. See if the air is warmer. You’d like that. We can always come back and try another of those openings if that one doesn’t work out.”

Becca folds her arms around her shirt. “I hope it is warmer. I’m freezing.”

They creep past the razor-sharp stalagmites. Becca says, “Let’s hope the battery of this flashlight doesn’t give out.”

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