I don’t know if I’m done with Umbrella Academy yet. I am eagerly awaiting Season 4. No clue when it comes out, but I hope I don’t have to wait another year.
So here’s a quick interlude to point out two new releases.
Now, neither is 100% new. One is a paper (physical) version of my short story collection 14 DARK WINDOWS. The other is an extended edition of my long-ish short story, “The Ghost Train.” The long version will soon appear in a paperback called THREE ON A MATCH with THE CAVE and THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT.
First we have to know just what it was that caused the apocalypse that Five found himself in after he time traveled that first time.
Spoilers to follow:
So here we go.
Cause of the apocalypse?
That’s right, sibling #7, the one with no powers. Turns out she does have powers. In fact, she has the most dangerous power of all of them. She can somehow draw on power sources and turn herself into a sort of bomb! We discover that Reggie discovered her power early on, tried to train her to be able to control it, but was unsuccessful. So instead of dealing with it, he first traumatized her by locking her in a cell in the basement, then later having Allison “rumor” her to forget that she has powers. She’s spent her entire life believing she’s useless and being treated like an outcast by Reggie and by her siblings.
See, Five found a clue in the apocalypse. Luther held in his hand an unusual item — someone’s glass eye. So when Five returns, he begins a search for the owner of the eye. It has a serial number on it. It must lead somewhere.
Meanwhile, Vanya has met a guy. He shows up at her place for a violin lesson. She’s expecting a little kid named Leonard Peabody, but Leonard is a grown man. She gives him a lesson, and he’s so nice, so understanding, so self-deprecating. He gives her a little carving he made, and tells her that he has a shop in town where he displays and sells his creations. He’s a bit of a mystery, but he seems really nice. He’s caught by Allison inside Vanya’s apartment, but he has a great explanation. She left her keys at his place (?) and he was dropping them off along with a bouquet of flowers!
We are also shown Klaus trying to steal things from Reggie’s study, anything he can sell to get money for drugs. He’s caught by Luther, who tells him to leave all of it, and so he does — all but one thing, a beautiful ornamental box. Klaus opens the box, tosses its contents into a dumpster, and proceeds to enjoy the spoils of his acquisition. Seems very Klaus-like, in fact. Exactly the kind of thing Klaus would do. Later, Pogo asks the entire family about the box. It seems that he know that Klaus was the likely thief, but didn’t want to accuse him. He states that the CONTENTS of the box, not the box itself, were priceless. Everyone looks at Klaus, but he professes innocence. Pogo says something about looking past the theft of the box if the contents, which were a notebook and some papers, were returned.
Klaus makes a beeline for the dumpster and begins searching it for the notebook and papers, but to no avail. They are gone. Klaus gives up.
So here we have the first of the events leading up to the apocalypse. If Reggie doesn’t die, Klaus doesn’t return to the mansion. If Klaus doesn’t return, then he never loses the contents of the box. Reggie’s secrets remain safe. What are these secrets? We don’t know. But I believe that this whole thing is a fork in the road to possible futures in the show.
EVENT 1: REGGIE DIES, KLAUS STEALS REGGIES NOTEBOOK, SOMEONE GETS THE NOTEBOOK AND LEARNS SOME OF REGGIE’S SECRETS
The Day That Wasn’t and The Day That Was are two of my favorite episodes of Season 1. Five leaves in search of answers to what to do about this apocalypse even as a pair of assassins continue to hunt for him and attack the mansion, fighting with the remaining siblings and battling them to a virtual draw. When the Umbrellas realize that there seems to be nothing they can do about the impending destruction of the world, they move on. At some point we learn who has the missing notebook and papers and it turns out that it’s Leonard.
Who the heck is this guy? We find out that as a child, he was a wanna-be Umbrella Academy fanboy who has the same birthday. He grrew up imagining that he has special powers like they do. When Reggie cruelly spurned him, he decided he will get revenge someday. He grew up in an abusive household, and it turns out he killed his father. He’s read Reggie’s notes, and he knows that Vanya has incredibly strong powers, which he works to get her to first release, then control. He takes her to his grandparents’ lake house where they work at this.
Allison decides to return to her daughter in Los Angeles. And Luther, who she’s been in love with since they were kids, is going with her. He has also been in love with her. They have a lovely moment dancing to the song Dancing In The Moonlight by Toploader (a great cover of a song by King Harvest). Everyone is moving on with their lives for better or for worse. They’ve accepted that there will be an apocalypse. And they’re letting it happen, because without Five they stand no chance of stopping it.
And then Vanya finds the notebook.
This would seem to be turning point number 2. How will Vanya react to this? Will she realize that Leonard is manipulating her? Or will she focus her anger on the Umbrella Academy? No matter what, it does not seem like the apocalypse will be the same one that Five found himself in the aftermath of. The Umbrellas are dispersing. They aren’t at the Mansion for Vanya to kill.
Will we find out? No, because Five does not stay missing. In fact, he returns at the beginning of the Day That Wasn’t.
So that day never happens. This is event number 3. Five returns and says something about knowing how to stop the apocalypse. This event leads us into “The Day That Was.” The Umbrellas piece together what’s happening with Vanya. They still don’t know about her powers, but they realize that this Leonard guy is bad news.
Allison confronts Vanya and Leonard and gets her throat slashed by Vanya’s violin bow as she attempts to “rumor” her sister. They rush Allison to the Mansion, where Pogo treats her. And all seems to be forgiven with Vanya, when Luther hugs her until she passes out, and then locks her in the chamber where she was locked as a child by Reggie.
Event number 4: If Luther doesn’t do this to Vanya, do any of the rest of the apocalyptic events happen? Vanya’s powers are too strong to be contained, and she goes to the theater where she is now the concertmaster, first chair violin. The White Violin. The instrument helps her focus her powers.
The Umbrellas gather in the theater to try to save the concert’s attendees. Vanya tries to kill them, and they fight against her. Her powers are magnified by sound, and Allison ends up discharging a gun next to her ear. So instead of her explosion (she’s kind of a little nuclear bomb) hitting the theater, it is aimed at the Moon.
Vanya destroys the moon. So as the apocalypse rages, Five gathers his siblings and teleports, and time travels, out of there.
And an apocalypse occurs. It’s not the same as the one Five visited. The Umbrellas aren’t killed in it defending the Mansion. But all the same, it’s an apocalypse.
If Allison doesn’t act with the gun, does Vanya’s blast just destroy the theater, instead of hitting the moon? Maybe. This is, in my view, event number 5.
Everything the Umbrellas do leads to an apocalypse. Everything that happens in season one has to happen in the way it does for the apocalypse to occur and the Umbrellas to survive it, including Reggie’s death, which is finally revealed to be a suicide designed to get all the Umbrellas back in the Mansion and in contact with each other. Reggie’s death is event number 6, but in a way, it’s event number 1 — the precursor necessary event for everything that happens to happen. If they don’t get together, does the apocalypse happen?
I’d say it doesn’t. If any one of these events doesn’t go the way that it does go, there is no apocalypse.
Makes you wonder just who’s manipulating events here. And why.
The Umbrella Academy is not a show about multiverses like the current MCU or even something like EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE (which was great; if you haven’t seen it, treat yourself!). Yet it is forced to address certain alternate futures when the siblings act in unison, and we see the consequences of their actions.
This post will be full of spoilers, so if you don’t want to know what happens in the series or are currently watching, you probably should stop here.
Proceed at your own risk!
Season One starts with a funeral — Sir Reginald Hargreeves’s funeral, to be precise. Because of their adoptive father’s death, the five remaining siblings — Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus and Vanya — all return. They aren’t all thrilled to see each other. Diego seems especially angry with Vanya. Luther is a little miffed with Klaus, who is obviously drunk and/or high when he turns up looting the study for things he might be able to sell in order to buy drugs.
It turns out that the siblings all have powers except Vanya. It also turns out that two of the seven siblings are missing, numbers Five and Six. Five has no name beyond his number, and Six is Ben. There’s a portrait of Five hanging in the house, and there is a statue of Ben in the courtyard. As the season progresses, we learn that Vanya has written a tell-all book about the family from the perspective of the sibling who didn’t fit in, who didn’t have powers. And no one was happy about it. We also learn that Five has this cool ability to teleport. He uses it to great effect when fighting. You throw a punch at Five, you miss and he’s already behind you, punching or hitting you. He’s fast and tough and, as we learn later, very smart.
Then he returns. And while all the rest of the siblings are young-ish adults, Five is still around 13 years old.
As we learn through the episodes, Five wanted to jump through time as well as jump through space. He knows he can do it, but Reginald tells him that he’s not ready. So he goes out to practice, and he starts to practice jumping through time.
Finally, a jump lands him in —
He’s still in whatever city they are based in. But he’s surrounded by devastation. No one is alive. He makes his way back to the mansion, and finds all of his siblings dead. They’ve all been killed. Luther, Allison, Klaus, Diego…all deceased. And Five has no way to get back to his present. So he lives his life in this desolate future, getting older, traveling with a mannequin to help him keep his sanity, and finally he meets…
The Handler runs the Commission. The Commission seems to me to be TUA’s version of Marvel’s TVA. They “correct” errors in the timeline. He goes to work for the Commission as one of their “correctors,” basically a temporal traveler who assassinates people. Why he can’t simply use one of their briefcases, which is how the Commission agents travel through time, to get back to his family, I don’t know. But what we do know is that when he returns, he opens a portal in the courtyard of the mansion, and Klaus throws a fire extinguisher through it (you have to see it for Klaus’s actions to make any sense at all), then Five squeezes through and he’s an old man, and then suddenly, he’s a little kid.
He miscalculated. One of his time travel equations was wrong. He comes through with all of his knowledge, all of his experience gained over the years, all of his memories intact, but he’s put it all in the body of his younger self. (“Don’t tell me. You turned Scott into a baby…you ended up pushing time through Scott instead of Scott through time…” You either know the reference or you don’t.)
Well, he’s back, and they’re together to try to stop this coming apocalypse, which happens in…a very short time. Four days? Nine days? Something like that.
But apparently the apocalypse is SUPPOSED to happen, because the Commission sends agents to kill Five. Or protect someone else. Or…
In any case, I didn’t get to the alternate timeline stuff in this post, but all this background is necessary, and I think you can start to see where they’re going with this. Are the Umbrellas going to be able to change the timeline? And how did Reggie die? And just who the everloving f*** IS Reggie?
Next post will discuss the results of their actions in Season One. More spoilers ahead so close your eyes if you don’t want to know, because this is where we get into the alternate timeline stuff. Is it a multiverse? I don’t think so. It’s just a single timeline. The commission is outside of that timeline, but tries to make sure that events line up with the “already happened for them” events of the timeline. But is THAT even the correct set of events? Who says that they are? Has the timeline been screwed around with so much that it really doesn’t matter anymore?
Or is Reggie somehow still manipulating things?
These are cool questions, and if you watch the show, or have watched it, I think you’ll really have a blast. It was part of the reason that my second viewing of the entire series was more fun than the first viewing! And why I couldn’t even get into the first show the first time I tried to watch it. Knowing this stuff is coming is half the fun for me!
My first attempt to watch Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy” ended in failure quickly. I just didn’t get it, or get into it. I was told that it was a superhero show, and what I watched of that first episode didn’t give me any real insight into the characters’ superpowers. I think it was titled “We Only See Each Other At Weddings and Funerals” or some version of that. The event that brings them together was a funeral — that of their adoptive father.
I think I turned it off before it was past the halfway point.
The second time I made it through the entire episode. Then the beginning sequence of a girl giving birth in a swimming pool in Russia set up the strangeness of the entire show. The thing was, she wasn’t pregnant when she dove into the pool. I then met Reginald Hargreeves, a wealthy and eccentric scientist and businessman, who I was told endeavored to collect “as many of the 43 (? or what it 46?) children born under similar circumstances” as he could, and that he got seven of them.
We see seven nannies pushing seven purambulators along the street, following Sir Reggie, then entering a large house in the center of a city. I took it to be New York City, but am I confident in that location? I am not.
As I watched the show, I found out that Luther, AKA #1, was on the moon when Sir Reggie died. Luther, a huge, strong man, receives the news and immediately makes plans his return to Earth. What’s he doing on the moon? No clue at this point. One by one, the seven pseudo-siblings return. #2 is Diego, and we learn that he can control the trajectory of knives. Can he do more? No clue.
#3 is Allison, and we eventually learn that her power is influencing people by saying “I heard a rumor…” and following it with her wish. What she wishes for happens. Again, how can she use this power? It does seem like a useful superpower. But we are led to assume that it is limited to the people in her general vicinity. Is this the case? No clue.
#4 is Klaus, and he seems to be comic relief at this point. Drunk, high, or both, Klaus is irreverent and willing to say stuff that the others won’t say, whether it’s for shock value or for something else, I don’t know. We also don’t have a clue what is power is.
#5 is — well, he’s not present. And this is part of where I messed up the first time. Because by the end of the episode, we DO meet Five, who goes only by his number designation. No name. He’s “Five.” And his power is…well, best I leave that for viewers to see for themselves. And I didn’t know that. Didn’t see Five on my first viewing.
#6 is also not present. His name is Ben, and he’s dead. We do meet him, however, and it’s related to Klaus. What was Ben’s power? No idea. Not yet, anyway.
#7 is Vanya. Vanya, we learn, has NO powers. She plays violin for the local symphony, and she wrote a tell-all book about the Umbrella Academy about their childhood and being raised by Reginald Hargreeves.
We also meet the household staff. Mom looks perfectly normal, until it’s revealed that she’s actually a robot! And the chief of staff, or whatever the title is, is an intelligent chimpanzee who speaks with a refined somewhat English accent, named Pogo.
Interesting cast of characters, no? And there are more coming! The Umbrella Academy ends up being a multiverse story, a time travel story, an alternate reality story. If and when I write more about the show, I will be doing spoilers. (I don’t think anything in this post is a major spoiler, yes, I spoil some of the powers and I spoil the fact that time travel plays a role in the series over its 3 seasons, but I dont give any specifics.) I want to dig into some of those aspects of the show deeper, because there are paradoxes aplenty, and layers of events affecting other events and changing things. And as Season 4 approaches, I want to work out some of these ideas for myself.
So stay tuned if you’re a fan, or if you have no intention of ever seeing the show but want to talk alternate realities as a result of time travel that aren’t related to the MCU.
It turns out that I’ve never really done a post about this book aside from the announcements that it was coming, a cover reveal, and that it was released. (At least not one that turns up on a search of the blog for the title.) So here’s the first.
THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT was inspired by something I read by Richard Laymon – not so much the story, but a title. Laymon wrote something called ENDLESS NIGHT. Maybe you’ve read it? It’s about a girl who is sleeping over at a friend’s house when killers break in and slaughter the entire family. She kills one of them and then is on the run from the remaining killer, who is hunting her in order to not leave any witnesses. It’s been a long tiime since I read it, but I remember when I picked up the title that I had a completely different expectation of the content. I thought it was going to be about a supernatural event where the night doesn’t end.
It wasn’t, so I wrote that book, instead. What I came up with was this tale of a neighborhood block where many of the men leave for work early, so when the sun doesn’t rise, they are on the road and most can’t get back home. For reasons.
I started writing in an epistolary style (I think I’m using the term correctly); the first draft was written as diary entries from a teenaged girl. She’s describing the neighborhood, the neighbors, her friends and her family, and generally wishing that her dad was home and working out possible reasons for the nighttime to continue. But, as I found that style device to be too limiting to tell the story of this block through the eyes of only one character, I shifted to other points of view and added a bunch of material between the diary/journal entries.
So many people seem to have fantasies about what would happen if the world ended or collapsed, and I used my story to explore some of them. No one is ever the “bad guy” in their own story, you know? They might know that what they are doing is wrong, but they have their reasons. And in their mind, their reasons are compelling enough to justify their actions.
Or maybe some people ARE just evil. Typical sociopaths or psychopaths. And we don’t know who they are, until they show their faces.
They may even be your neighbors.
That’s where I went with THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT. It’s not my favorite of my stories. But whenever I reread it (not often recently), I always have the thought that it’s better than I remembered it being.
Here is author Steven M. Moore’s review of the 96 page novella:
“I don’t know what caused it, but the title says what happened…for weeks. NIce little twist to have Beth, the main character, writing in her journal most of the time, although this might not be appropriate for young adults. Reminded me a bit of King’s Cell (or something like that), because cellphone service goes out in this one too. A bit of King’s flavor too. Consider it instead an allegorical tale about how the worst of humanity can rise up and cause mayhem and murder in desperate situations. We scratch the thin veneer of civilization and are surprised at what we find beneath!”
I thought I’d write a bit about my first e-novella, THE CAVE.
THE CAVE is a coming-of-age type of story told mostly in first person (though I occasionally shift POV’s to show things through the eyes of a couple of bullies, and these sections are told in third person). It’s a technique I’ve seen used a bunch of times in thriller novels, especially those with a strong central character, like Elvis Cole or Alex Delaware. When Jonathan Kellerman shifts away from Delaware’s POV, for example, he also shifts to third person for Milo Sturgis’s sections. I’ve always liked that style, but I know that others don’t care for it. Too late for this one. It’s been in the wild since something like 2015.
I can’t remember when I even started this 83 page novella. I know it was a long time ago. Maybe in the early 2000’s? Maybe even in the late 90’s? I do know I was stalled out on Chapter 7 for a long time. I would come back to it, add a few words, delete them, repeat, repeat. For whatever reason I couldn’t come up with a direction. I didn’t really know where I was going to end up with it.
I think part of it was I had locked myself into thinking of it only in terms of the book that inspired me to write it, Richard Laymon’s THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW. I was trying to follow that story, trying to do what Laymon did.
And it was when I stopped doing that – when enough time had passed between me reading Laymon’s book and working on this story – that I just relaxed and pantsed the rest of the story. I didn’t worry about the end; instead, I just wrote what happened next.
And the end became clear to me as I progressed. That seems to be how it usually works.
I never had a length in mind. I was just writing until it was done. Looking back, I can see lots of avenues to explore further in order to lengthen it from its ~25K words to a full-length novel. Back then I was a short story writer trying to write longer. Now I seem to comfortably fall into the 40-60K range on most of my stories. I have learned to write novels through just doing it.
So getting back to the novella, it is the story of four boys, joined by the “hot” neighborhood girl who everyone has a crush on, as they find and explore a cave. But the cave is not simply a cave. I won’t reveal more about its nature. The kids face off against the challenges of exploring the cave and against neighborhood bullies as they keep their discovery a secret, grand dreams of creating the type of roadside attraction that we’ve all visited on road trips and vacations filling their thoughts.
Here’s a brief excerpt:
Bike riding was boring, but at least it was something to do.
I’d been doing a lot of riding that summer, sometimes by myself, but mostly with my friends. We were like a little gang of four back then. We’d been pretty tight since we were little kids. It was serendipitous that we were all about the same age and in the same grade and lived in the same residential neighborhood. It was almost like destiny that we all should meet and become such good friends.
I remember riding up the street and seeing Donny Schultz playing with his younger sisters in the muddy ditch in front of their house. It was just too good to pass up, and of course I stopped and made friends with him. We were in the same grade and we hit it off pretty quickly. Then the two of us became the three musketeers when, on a different day, Bill Meyers stepped out from around the side of his house and called out, “Hi there!” as we rode our bikes past. Just like that.
Jim Mason came later. His family moved into our neighborhood when we were all around nine years old, and it was immediately apparent that our trio was to become the “Fantastic Four.” We even called ourselves that for a while.
Anyway, we spent a lot of time riding our bikes around the neighborhood. It was what we did for fun back in those days, simpler times when electronics and video games were just not entertainment options that were available for us. Instead, it was baseball on the empty lot, playing army and building forts with scavenged wood, and bike riding.
We rode everywhere, even a bunch of places that if our parents knew where we’d gone, we’d have gotten in a lot of trouble. Mostly, however, we rode on the new bike trails which the city park district had so thoughtfully installed near our neighborhood. The trails were safe and provided a smooth surface for maximum speed. We knew those trails like the backs of our hands.
But as well as we knew the trails and the forested land, we held out for surprises, always hoping to find one around the next curve. And did we ever. Because it was on one of those rides that we found our cave.
I was totally stoked about the discovery, as were Bill and Donny. I mean, how could we not be insanely excited? It was a cave! People paid to get into these things. The wonders we would find down in that hole in the ground!
Jim, who we called Mase, was more stoic about it, but he was like that about nearly everything. Except girls. He’d get excited about girls. Mase was our “chick magnet;” he was tall, handsome, athletic, and a little cocky. In eighth grade (okay, we weren’t there yet, but we’d be starting it in the fall) being a little cocky and sure of yourself went a long way. Not that the rest of us were trolls or anything. I was maybe a little too thin, Donny a little too short, and Bill a little too weird, but we were okay. It was simply taking us longer to come into our own.
Anyway, back to our cave. We found it when Donny had to take a leak during one of our rides. He pulled off the path, dumped his bike behind a tree in the tall weeds, and wandered off into the forest preserve to do his thing. Bill, Mase and I circled back, parking our bikes. We watched the path for a while, but no one was coming up it. During the week, it was often very quiet like this.
Bill’s face broke into an evil grin, and he signaled to us that we should sneak up on Donny. It wasn’t the first time we’d done that sort of thing to each other, so I knew exactly what he wanted to do, and so did Mase. We ditched our bikes next to Donny’s bike and crept back into the woods. We didn’t know exactly where he was, but figured it wouldn’t be too hard to find him.
And there he was. But he wasn’t pissing on a tree, like we expected. He was bent over the ground, digging at it with his hands.
“Aaargh!” Bill shouted, practically throwing his stocky frame into the small clearing with enough force to make the ground shake just a little. Mase and I grinned at each other and stepped out of the woods.
Donny hardly noticed, until Bill tapped him. He jumped, startled, and looked at us as if he didn’t know where we had come from.
“Geez, Donny, didn’t you hear me yell when we came out of the woods?” asked Bill.
Donny didn’t answer directly. Instead he said, “Look at this! Look what I found!”
We looked. Donny was pointing at a hole in the ground. When we got closer, we could feel cool air rushing out of it.
“A cave!” I exclaimed. “How cool is that?”
Donny turned back to it, pulling at the dirt around the opening. “I can’t see down too far, but listen to this,” he said, dropping a golf ball-sized rock into the opening. We listened intently to the sound of the rock hitting something…then going on, and on, and on, until we could no longer hear it. I could visualize it bouncing down an incline.
“Sounds deep,” said Bill. “We gotta check this out.”
“How are we gonna do that?” asked Mase. “That hole’s not big enough for a person to get into. Even for Donny.”
“We’ll dig it out,” said Bill. “We’ll come back later with shovels. And rope. Lots of rope. Then we’ll go down and see what’s in there.” He lay down next to the hole, and reached his arm into it. “Feels like dirt as far as I can feel – oh!” His body moved into the hole, his arm disappearing into it up to the shoulder.
“Geez! Something’s got him!” Mase exclaimed. He grabbed Bill and started to pull. Donny and I started to join him but I noticed Bill laughing.
“Here,” I said. “Let’s shove him in there. Give whatever’s got him some help.” Mase looked at me like I was nuts, but a glance at Bill’s face told him that Bill was jacking around. I grabbed his feet and tipped him up toward the hole. Mase grabbed on to help, pushing a bit harder than I would have.
“Hey!” shouted Bill. “Stop it, you’re forcing my face into the dirt!”
“Well, we thought whatever was pulling on your arm would pull it off if we didn’t shove you through that hole,” I said. “Before it starts pulling our legs.” That was one of my mom’s favorite expressions – “pulling my leg” – she always said it when someone was kidding her. The others knew it well.
“Okay, I give. Lemme up!” he said. We released him, and he pulled his arm out of the hole and scrambled to his feet. “Gotcha though,” he said, brushing himself off. His blond hair was longer than any of ours, and he rubbed his hands through the unruly mop, just filling it with more dirt.
“Just Mase. I saw you snickering,” I said. “Your hair’s full of dirt now! You look like a zombie or something that crawled out of a grave.”
Bill shook his head like a dog, and bits and pieces of grainy soil flew out, hitting me in the face. “Well, let’s go home and get shovels. We can start digging today!” he said, so excited by our discovery that a little crud in his hair wasn’t going to bother him.
So that’s what we did. We rode as fast as we could back to Bill’s house, and absconded with a spade, a regular shovel, a pickaxe, and a couple of smaller garden shovels. Then we rode swiftly back toward our discovery. Who’d pay attention to a bunch of boys with digging tools, especially ones riding into a forest preserve? Apparently no one, fortunately for us.
We began digging, most of the dirt falling into the hole. By the time we had to leave to get home for dinner we had a pretty good-sized hole opened into the ground.
Donny was the last one to quit working on it. When he stood up, he looked like he was all camouflaged up for war games, what with all the dirt around his face and hands. With his military-style haircut, I could imagine him as the tough sergeant that he always pretended to be when we played army. I wondered if we all looked as dirty as he was.
He pointed at the hole. “Should we cover it up?” he asked.
“I don’t think so,” Mase said. He dusted himself off and checked his hands and arms for signs of too much grime.
I agreed. “If we cover it over and someone falls in, it’d really be our fault. I don’t know if I want to have to worry all night about that happening.”
Bill wasn’t so sure. “If we leave it uncovered, someone else will find it,” he said.
Donny sided with Mase and me. “It’s late, and we haven’t seen anyone back in here. I think it’s better to just leave it open.” He looked into the hole. “Sounded real deep, too. If we cover it up, it’d be like one of those punji pits, but without the sharp sticks.”
“I think if someone falls in there, they won’t need sharp sticks impaling them to be seriously hurt. We need to leave it open,” Mase said. His tone implied that his was the last word on that particular subject.
“I’m thinking we can get through that opening now,” said Bill, looking down into the orifice. “A little more picking at the sides and we won’t even get real dirty.”
“Rope, and some old blankets or a plastic tarp,” I said. “That’s what we need tomorrow. That way we can loop the rope around that big ol’ tree right there,” I pointed to the biggest tree at the edge of the clearing, “and drape the blankets over the sides of the hole. Then we can slide right down without ruining our clothes. And it’s rocky, once we get past this topsoil.”
“Flashlights, too,” said Donny. “And maybe some candles. Or a torch.”
“A torch is out,” said Mase. “How do we make one that would stay lit? But my dad has this really powerful lantern-type light we use when we go camping at our club. I’ll grab that if I can. It’s got a big battery.”
“Someone should stay up top,” I said. “Just in case we need to send them for help. Who’s it gonna be?”
“Not me,” said Donny, knowing that usually we’d work things so he would be the odd man out. “I found it.”
“What about Rick?” said Bill. Rick was his younger brother. “Maybe he’d agree to stay up top if we promise to let him come down later.”
“Okay by me,” I said. “That way it won’t have to be Mase.”
“Me? Why me?” said Mase.
“Well, you’re the coolest of us four. If something happens we wouldn’t want the coolest guy to be down there in trouble with us. We’d want you up top so you can get all the chicks later.”
“Ha ha,” Mase said. “I’m going down in there too.”
“How much dirt do I have on me?” I asked, standing up and holding out my arms.
“A little,” Donny said. “How about me?”
“Same as usual. You look like that character in the Snoopy cartoons, but you always look like that,” I teased. “Doesn’t your mom give you hell about how dirty you get?”
“Nope,” he said. “She just figures we’re building something in the woods or whatever.”
We located our bikes and mounted up for the ride home. Four guys, riding along the streets, mostly hands-free except on the steepest part of the hill and on the corners, that was us.
“Guess it’s obvious, but hey…no one’s gonna tell their parents about this, right?” I asked.
“Not a chance,” Bill said. “I’ll threaten Rick with death if he says a word.”
“No way,” Donny agreed.
“I know mine would freak if they knew I was going spelunking,” Mase said.
“Spe-what?” Bill asked.
“Cave-exploring,” I clarified. Mase gave me a look that I interpreted as, you don’t always have to be the smartest one of us. I shut up.
“Spelunking. New word,” Bill said. “After we spelunk the cave,” he started, pointing with his free hand to Mase, “we’ll have to set up a stand and sell tickets. We’ll make a fortune.”
“Yeah,” agreed Donny. “But we’ll have to, like, build some catwalks and string lights down in there and such. Build some stairs going down.” Donny was practically salivating at the idea of building all that stuff. You could see it in his eyes. The wheels were turning. The ideas were flowing and he’d probably have schematics drawn up by tomorrow.
I didn’t want to throw a wet blanket over the talk, but I had to ask. “How do we get the electricity down there?”
“A generator, probably,” Donny said. “I’ll swipe some wood from those houses they’re building.” I nodded. That was how Donny got the wood for most of his projects. Our forts were mostly built with stolen lumber.
“We’ll be the guides, right?” Mase asked. “I mean, every cave tour I’ve ever been on has had a guide.”
None of us either thought of, or brought up, the fact that we didn’t own the land, and we didn’t have a spare generator. Nor did we know anything about insurance or safety issues, or dealing with the government. We had a cave, and we wanted to exploit it. Who cared about reality?
My own excitement was bubbling over. I thought that I’d hardly sleep that night knowing that the next day we’d go back and begin our exploration.
If you like it, the only place to buy it currently as an ebook on Amazon. It’s priced to sell at $0.99. Here’s the link: THE CAVE.
My introduction to new author Noelle West Ihli was through a BookBub deal for her first novel, THE THICKET. I had no expectations; I’ve read a lot of new authors, some better than others, but the premise of her debut intrigued me. A haunted house attraction has drawn quite a crowd from the community – lots of young people, including Norah, the main character, who was roped into dragging her younger, horror obscessed brother to visit it. She’s upset. She wants to be with her friends, and more specifically, with the young man she likes and wants to hang out with.
When her brother is taking too long to get through the attraction, Norah moves on to wait for him outside. Except he never comes out. But someone does – a killer who murdered her brother while everyone thinks it is part of the show. The question is, will he (or she) strike again?
Cool premise for a novel, and Ihli pulls it off beautifully. Her plotting and her prose kept me in the story, and I felt connected to all the characters and wanted to find out what would happen to them. The tension escalates throughout the book, and it resolves in a satisfactory manner.
My review on Amazon said that I couldn’t wait to read Ihli’s next novel, and lo and behold, here it is. ASK FOR ANDREA is a unique story, again about a serial killer, but really about his victims. And here’s the catch: it’s about them after they are dead! The story follows the murders and the subsequent “existence” of three victims of a killer who uses a dating service to attract his victims.
That existence is incredibly interesting, in my opinion. I mean, in some ways it’s a very mundane existence. After all, they can’t do much beyond making lights flicker or a computer fritz out. But as the story progresses, we are treated to the tale of what they experience as they follow their respective paths, and how they do influence the resolution of the story.
The title, “Ask For Andrea,” refers to a sign in a bar that alerts women to a service that will help them if they are in an abusive or unsafe situation, to help them extirpate themselves from the situation if necessary. It is one of the first things that one of the victims (Meghan, I think, if I recall correctly, but maybe it was Brecia) notices on her meet-up with the killer. But she doesn’t use it; instead she ends up as a victim. Still, it ends up being an apt title for the novel, and I will let you discover why.
Like her debut, Ihli’s sophomore effort is well-written and carefully plotted, and her characters are masterfully drawn. Plus, she gets extra points for these inventive, original tales.
Like my Amazon review said, I can’t wait for her next one.
(I started thinking about characters, and had this idea to write a short bit to see if I can make the reader care about a character in an undramatic situation and with only his thoughts and perspective. I couldn’t get it out of my mind, so yesterday I banged out this 1300+ short story. You be the judge of whether I succeed in getting you to care about young Mr. Crowder. )