Red Jaguar Rises Again

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Chapter Six

Cody forgot all about the blister then in his haste to see what there was to see. He turned himself around and grasped 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 at her 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. “ This is 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, but let it fall.. The flashlight hit the ground with a dull thud. Darkness filled the space around them. They wobbled 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 really sopping wet. The ones down here where I am 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 where the flashlight lay on the ground. 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 wasa 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. I think I see a tunnel. I hear water dripping.”

His knees felt wobbly. He was going down faster now than she was. He heard her little purse bump along the rungs. His stomach was flipping like a fish out of water.

He stopped to put his hand into a pocket for the little car. As he did, he thought he heard his Dad say, faintly in the distance, “You’ve got to be careful. Mom’s counting on you.” Cody’s 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. The huge rock ceiling was filled with ice-like sticks or rocks hanging down. Drops of water were delicate sounds as they continually dripped onto the ground.

He looked down. More of the strange ice things lay all over the ground. Some stuck straight up into the air. Others had branches. His heart gave a big thump. If either of them had fallen off the ladder, one of those things could have gone right through their body

His feet touch the slippery dirt floor. He fell down and just missed the sharp edge of a big, wet rock. He laid on the wet ground amazed to see the objects on a vast and huge ceiling. What were all those different rocks of many sizes? They looked like ice circles?

Becca cried, “The floor’s slippery!” She wobbled but she didn’t fall when her feet touched ground. Cody wiggled up next to her.

“Isn’t this amazing!”

“We must be in a cave under the temple,” she said softly. “Stay by this ladder and hold onto it while I get the flashlight.” She made her way slowly between the rocks sticking up in the ground, some as tall as her waist.

“Looks like daylight ahead of you,” Cody shouted. “Over there,” his arm pointing to a wide hole between overhanging rocks.

Becca turned to him midway through the rocks, followed where his arm pointed to shine the light in that direction.

“What are these strange things?”

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

The ray of her little flashlight made the dripping rocks above them appear as if they had butterflies were fluttering around them.

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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