The Archer chronicles
Lost Boy
CHAPTER
19
Into the belly of the mountain...
Archer’s bag caught and he yanked it hard, so hard that he heard a rip and barely managed to catch the apples that would have fallen on the ground. No way was he losing food. Stuffing them back into the bag and re-arranging things so that all was safe, he pushed his hair out of his eyes and looked around.
It was dark in here, but not as dark as the previous chamber. He glanced up and froze. Several of the large tubular things spun slowly, and what little light there was came from them. They weren’t humming though, and that was a good thing, because if Archer remembered correctly the humming meant that the creepy crawlies were on the way.
Carefully, he took a few steps, reaching for his lumen hand-held device so that he could see better and when he spied at tunnel to his right, he didn’t stop to think that it might be a bad idea to follow it. How could it be any worse than where he was right now?
He thought of the pirates and of Del’s father, and a sense of urgency stole over him. Running down the narrow tunnel, he felt cool air on his face and—he wrinkled his nose—smelled something old and musty.
The tunnel was very narrow—Archer was small and he could barely fit through. He’d just scrubbed at his face (he hated spider webs but at least he didn’t shriek like a baby when it smashed into all over his nose) when he blinked and ran into something.
“Hey!”
Archer nearly fell on his butt, but couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face when he spied Del. Didn’t matter that she was poised to attack.
“Del!” He hugged her fiercely. “I thought I’d never find you.” She squirmed a bit and when he realized he was still hugging her, he cleared his throat and stepped back.
“I mean,” he continued. “Well, that is, ah…”
“I know what you mean,” Del answered slowly.
They stared at each other for several moments and Archer dragged his eyes away, spying Bruce cleaning his tail a few feet away and Dash floating a few feet above him.
They were all together and they were all fine.
“What happened?” Del asked. “Where did you go?”
He shrugged and pointed toward the tunnel he’d just come through. “I don’t know. I was alone in the dark chamber and then the walls were like, gooey, and I was able to make a hole in it and, well, slipped through and now I’m here.”
“Archibald,” Dash said as he zipped toward them. “We were just discussing whether or not to separate. The odds of one of us finding the prisms is much greater if we do so.”
“No,” Archer replied, shaking his head. “No way. One of us could get lost down here and never find the way out.”
Dash whirred and beeped, his lights flashing blue and then red. “But Archibald, I must point out, that all of us could get lost and never find our way out.”
“I know,” Archer said. “But if that happens? If we’re doomed to wander these tunnels until our food runs out? Or if say, I was able to make it out alone? I’d pick being down here lost with all of you guys. I’d pick being lost together.”
Del punched him in the arm. “Geez. That’s so nice of you.”
But her eyes were dark and shiny. Her voice soft and full of warmth. He smiled and shrugged. What else was there to say? They were in this together.
“I hate to break up the reunion, but we should be on our way don’t you think?” Bruce the cat slowly made his way over, his yellow and purple tail standing straight on end and pointing this way and then that way. It was as if his tail was some kind of….
“We should proceed to the right,” Bruce said.
“Did your tail tell you that?” Archer joked.
“Why yes it did,” Bruce replied rather seriously.
Archer looked at Del and shrugged. “Sounds good to me.” He glanced up at Dash. “Let’s go.”
The trio and the cat slowly made their way down the tunnel Bruce had pointed out. This one was larger and there was more than enough room for all of them. They walked for what seemed like a long time and after a while, Bruce began to whistle. Del began to hum along and then Archer joined in.
They whistled and they sang a few songs until they got bored of that and then Archer decided to tell ghost stories.
With a hushed voice he told Del about the old woman in the cellar, the one who came out when you called her name three times. The one who was evil and would forever follow you until—
“Stop that,” Del said briskly. “I don’t like stories like that.”
Archer laughed. “But they’re made up.”
Del stopped and glanced at him. “Not all ghost stories are made up Archer. There are some places, entire planets in this galaxy that are haunted.”
Archer thought back to the city he’d explored with his father. The silent city he’d called it even though it was full of wandering spirits.
He was starting to get creeped out and kept silent for a few moments as they continued along, eyes moving about looking for a sign. For anything that would let them know they were on the right path.
They came to a fork and Archer glanced down each opening. One was brightly lit and seemed the obvious choice, while the other was dark with slithers of mist crawling along the floor in front of it.
“What does your tail say?” he quipped, half jokingly to Bruce.
The cat was already facing the dark tunnel.
“Are you kidding?” Archer asked, pointing toward the other. “Don’t you think light means prisms?”
“No, Archibald. This is where we should be going.” Bruce waived his tail back and forth. “Trust me. We’re almost there.”
Maybe Archer was crazy. Or maybe he was just tired of the endless walking. But just like his father, he was going to go with his gut. And right now his gut was telling him that listening to a talking cat was the right thing to do.
“Okay,” he said, pushing Del forward. “Into the dark we go.”
Bruce led the way and he heard Del muttering ahead of him. “I hope the fur ball knows what he’s doing.”
Archer slipped in behind her and immediately heard the sweetest sounds. They were like a hundred wind chimes riding the wind. Except there was no wind. There was only musty air and cold mist circling his feet.
He reached for his electron and peered ahead, trying to see through the thick darkness but it was hard to do. Light fell from Dash as his bot zipped past them and for just one second, Archer thought he saw a hundred eyes watching him.
He tried to keep the fear he felt at bay but it was so hard. So instead, he gritted his teeth and plunged forward.
Either way, they were going to find out if in fact, Bruce knew what he was doing. Archer had a feeling that it was going to be sooner than later.
“Archer?” Del whispered.
“Yeah?”
“Do you see all those eyes?”
“Uh huh.”
“Okay,” she replied softly. “I’m not crazy then.”
“No,” Archer murmured, though he couldn’t help but think that they kind of were. Who else followed a talking cat into the unknown?
Bruce kept moving forward and as they crept toward the belly of the mountain, Archer kind of wished that he was a little bit crazy. Because maybe then he wouldn’t feel so scared.
“Almost there,” Bruce purred.
“Great,” Archer muttered.
Here we go.

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