Meeting in front of the house after a breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy, the friends piled into Dan’s wagon. Caitlin overheard Nicholas mention to Eugene that he’d stay permanently if they had that every day for breakfast.
Dan and Mark sat in the front, and the kids sat with their backs on the edges of the wagon and their feet touching in the middle. “If it wasn’t under such stressful circumstances, this would be a magical experience.” Andrea’s eyes scanned the scenery in front of them.
Seeing, literally, the same landscape they knew from back in their time, less the houses and occasional oil derrick built in the later years, compelled Caitlin to look harder in hopes of seeing her mother who was probably driving a route similar to theirs one hundred years later.
Dan guided the horses to walk in a slow gait to reduce the intensity of bumps they experienced. They stopped at a stream and the horses drank some water before returning to their route to the Sweet Grass hills. At the base of one of the hills, a shack anyone could have been mistaken for an outhouse stood perched beneath a tree at the base of the mountain.
Dan pointed at the structure that looked like it could topple with the next strong wind. “You’re going to want to see what’s inside there.” He responded to their looks of concern saying, “We’ll be out here waiting for you.” The shack that looked like it barely held one person, let alone eleven, drew second and third quizzical looks.
Selene casting one last quick glance in the direction of the shack asked, “Aren’t you coming with us?”
“This is your meeting. What is in there has been waiting for you. You won’t be disappointed,” Dan promised. He tied the horses to the tree. “You go along, the sooner you get started, the closer you’ll be to getting home. Unless of course, you wanted to stay with us.”
Selene swallowed hard, turned, and joined the group that had already walked in the door of the shack.
Following close behind Selene, Caitlin wondered how all of them were going to fit in a building that small. One by one, they entered and the line never seemed to back up. When she got to the door, Selene commented to Caitlin, “It’s bigger on the inside.”
Sconces lined the wall providing dim light to guide them on their path. The width of the room remained the same. However, the length extended like a hall to a larger room. Caitlin ran outside quickly to see if the shack butted against the mountain. She saw a solitary building that looked like it didn’t belong in the place where it sat.
Allowing a couple seconds for her eyes to get used to the change in lighting, Caitlin moved quickly to catch up to Selene. Their ability to see ahead of them only went as far as the four people in front of them and then they only saw darkness.
They heard a clank behind them and Caitlin rushed towards the door. It resisted her push and remained shut.
The light bright enough for Caitlin to see Selene’s wide, round eyes reflected the worry she felt in her gut. Selene asked the question to which they both already knew the answer. “We’re locked in?”
Caitlin silently nodded.
Both girls worked together to push against the door that refused to budge. After several attempts, through ragged breaths, Caitlin said, “There must be another way out.”
“How do you know that, smart one?” Selene sniped.
Maybe it was the stress, or perhaps Caitlin had grown tired of Selene’s habit of talking to her as if she was stupid. Usually when Brian wasn’t around to defend her, Caitlin sulked quietly at Selene’s cattiness. Something in her snapped. “Do you ever think beyond what’s the next nail polish color you’re going to wear? If there was an end, somebody would have come back to meet up with us. They’re so far ahead they probably didn’t hear us fight with the door.”
Selene stepped back and her face softened. She replied, “I don’t plan my nail polish colors. I just pick one and go with it.”
Expecting harsher response, Caitlin smiled at Selene. Apparently her bark was bigger than her bite. Deciding to let the offense go, Caitlin said, “Let’s catch up with the class.”
The light in the sconce above their heads pulsed and burned out leaving them to stand in darkness. “We better move quickly.”
Caitlin thought they were moving quickly. The burning in her legs and difficulty breathing were almost strong enough to entice her to stop. Every time she considered it, a nearby light burned out motivating her to keep moving.
“We need to go faster,” Selene urged through panted breaths.
Rather than burn her energy talking, Caitlin remained silent and stayed the course. A band of lights dimmed in front of them.
“What is going on?” Selene groaned.
“Maybe our breathing is draining the oxygen from the lights.” Caitlin recalled the science experiment where they used marble coasters to limit the amount of air while a candle burned. To make it interesting the class voted on how long certain candles could burn once its resources were limited. “We need to slow down.”
“You need to slow down,” Selene barked. “Actually you need to get away from me. It’s your fault we’re even here.”
Caitlin did wish for another life, but she didn’t wish for one that included her personal bully. For as long as she had known her, Selene at best tolerated Caitlin. And, only when people were around. When it was just the two of them, Selene made sure to let Caitlin know that her company was unwanted.
if she wanted her point completely understood, Selene pushed Caitlin against the wall and broke into a full run in the direction of the lights. In the time it took Caitlin to recover from the fall and get her bearings the corridor was dark.
She wanted to get up and run, but was unsure of the direction to go. What happened if she went back to the door? Then the possibility of wild animals entered Caitlin’s mind. The only thing she had to protect herself was her jacket.
She told herself, “It’s better to die in battle than to wait for death to come to you.” Feeling silly, yet emboldened Caitlin smiled and moved in a forward direction. It was time for her to confront her fears and she was ready to do it.