Ch. 2: Like a cat’s eye at night. But it wasn’t night … and it wasn’t a cat.
- Ch. 1: I’ll go in if you go in.
- Ch. 2: Like a cat’s eye at night. But it wasn’t night … and it wasn’t a cat.
- Ch. 3: Into the The Heart of Parkness
- Ch. 4: Do we stay or do we go?
- Ch. 5: Just Give In
- Ch. 6: Do we dare dig ourselves even deeper?
- Ch. 7: Who do you listen to?
- Ch. 8: Lu Goes First: Aliens, Farting, and Pepper!
- Ch. 9: Li Goes Deep: A Maze, Spiders, and Pepper
- Ch. 10: Last In, First Out?
- Ch. 11: Fright at the End of the Tunnel
- Ch. 12: Hi honey, I’m home!
- Ch. 13: It’ll be our Secret
If it wasn’t a light and it wasn’t a cat, what was it?
Was it a small light? Maybe a flashlight? But it wasn’t necessarily shining, it was more like a reflection, like a cat’s eye at night. But it wasn’t night … and it wasn’t a cat.
There was also only one. Most animals have two. Or do they all? Are there one-eyed animals? Maybe it was an animal but one eye was closed. There was also something of an orange shape and possibly a slight blue stripe. Our ball. But it was very near the one eye.
In horror movies, I’m the first one to talk to the screen and say, out loud, “Just get out of there! What are you thinking?” But I was the adult, I’m not supposed to be scared of a bush in the evening in the middle of the city. But there was the eye. There was our ball. It wasn’t far at all. I couldn’t reach it, but we three could see it.
“Is that a bear?” asked Lu. But a bear is often his first guess on animals, little matter of the situation.
“No, it’s not a bear,” I said, happy I could be certain of something. “But I don’t know what it is.” We didn’t move. Then the eye closed. Then it opened again.
This is the point where you’re supposed to run. Even run screaming. My boys love both running and screaming. I figured if I stayed calm my boys would stay calm. I had no reason to stay calm, an eye just blinked at me from a brush that seemingly went much deeper in a cave that was spookier than we had even joked about on many an afternoon walk home from school. Maybe we watch too many movies, but I think we thought it was funny. An eye just blinked at us. An eye that was close to our dog ball. Speaking of the dog, what did he make of all of this?
He was in the same boat as we were. He was looking into the den, too, but, like us, he wasn’t moving, saying anything, or even doing a whole lot of blinking. But he wasn’t scared or growling either.
“Throw a rock at it,” said Li.
“No, I’m not going to throw a rock at it, I don’t even know what it is,” I said.
“Well, could you just get the ball, dad?” asked Lu.
“Did you not see a blinking something in there? Maybe an eyeball?” I whispered. Didn’t want to wake up the sleeping monster.
“So what is it?” Lu asked, now also whispering. But the thing was so close to us, whispering was a little late at this point. If it wanted to attack and eat us, it probably would have done so by now.
“How am I supposed to know what it is, I can’t even see it,” I said.
You could see the eyeball, but it wasn’t moving. Maybe it was hurt, maybe it was a trick, maybe it was a Halloween prop, maybe we were on camera and the neighbors were going to jump out soon and say we were on their reality TV program. I didn’t look away from the dark den, I couldn’t. But somehow, as chicken as I am in situations involving spooky eyes and dark dens in city parks, I couldn’t look away, but somehow I didn’t feel threatened. Or at least too threatened.
“Maybe it’s hurt,” said Lu. “Maybe it needs help.”
“Maybe,” I said intelligently.
“Could you just get the ball back?” Lu asked again, not remembering the last time he asked that and seemingly forgetting the potential alien being in the cave below us. Lu occasionally jumped from the present reality to his own reality and the two often were light years apart. You could be taking your first steps on planet Jupiter together and he would say, from one instant to the next, ‘So I have a question. What do you like better, Indian food or pizza?’
“You can get it, Lu,” I said. “I’ll be right here. I’ll cover you.” He looked at me but didn’t say anything and didn’t move. The eye blinked again. Lu smiled at me and I smiled back and for a slight moment I had one of those lightning bolt moments of love so deep you could bottle it and power a city block for a week. One of those “we’re experiencing an adventure together” times that, although bordering the cheesy, were nonetheless worth their weight in gold.
“What are we going to do?” I asked my boys, if only to see where their thoughts were. I was impressed that they weren’t running for the hills. I was partly impressed that I wasn’t in front of them running for those same hills.
Li picked up a pebble and tossed it gently in the direction of the glowing eyeball. The light slowly closed and went away. I squinted and tried to focus to see better, but I could only see worse. Now there was nothing. I thought I saw some movement, maybe something was happening in there, but I couldn’t really tell. But I also wasn’t about to get closer.
“Hey, did it move?” I asked.
“I think so,” Li whispered.
“Let’s follow it!” Lu said excitedly, but still hushed.
I didn’t have a verbal response to that, but gave him my best are you crazy? look with my mouth contorted and eyes wild. I looked up to Li who was higher up than both of us, and he gave me his embarrassed smile that said ‘I’m not really going to smile, but I can’t help it because it’s actually pretty funny.’ He has lots of expressions that said about seven sentences with just a look.
While I was reading Li’s face, Lu moved down further than I was and started sliding into the den. The eyeball was gone. Lu started sliding faster and I grasped for his arm, then his hand, then anything I could get. I grasped the collar of his shirt, but I couldn’t get hold of it.
“Lu!” I screamed.
“Dad!” he screamed, and I saw the top of his head go from a sparkle of sun-stroked wisps of blond hair to darkness in an instant. He was gone.