| Rich and Robby, in two identical Tigger outfits, stood looking at the sea of masks and costumes in front of them. Not very interesting. If their mother had that relieved look on her face when she left them at Jody’s Halloween party, then this party had to be for losers.|
“Why don’t you start with a piece of candy before we have the cake served?” Jody’s mother suggested.
“No, thank you,” the boys answered. “We don’t like candy.”
Jody’s mother was startled but she asked good-naturedly, “Isn’t there anything I can get you?”
“I like pickles,” Rich said.
“Let me see.” Jody’s mother found that only one pickle had been left in the jar. “Maybe we can cut this in half,” she suggested.
“No, Rich can have it. Eating too much is a symptom of stress,” Robby said.
The children were playing an ancient ‘wholesome’ game of trivia led by an unwilling high school student especially hired for the job. The place looked like a big tub of boiling water with everybody in it.
“Losers! Let’s split,” Robby whispered to Rich.
“Yes, but how?”
They blurted in unison, “Hide and Seek.”
Jody heard them and exclaimed. “What a great idea! I love Hide and Seek. Mom, can we go in the garden too? It isn’t that cold out. Please.”
Permission granted, the children tried to find places to hide. The twins couldn’t leave so easily because Jody’s father had taken up the guard position at the front gate.
“We’ll run all the way to the back fence behind the trees, where we can climb over the fence without being seen,” Robby said as they dashed around.
At the back of the yard was the wooded area reaching all the way to the edge of the basin where a surface mine used to be. During the seventies that land was freed for restoring itself to its natural state.
“Let’s assess the situation,” Rich said. “If we’re found, the day is lost to us. We must make a plan.”
“Let’s look for treasure. If we find one, they’ll let us off the hook."
“Yeah. Great idea. You can always bank on grown-up greed.”
“Wow! Look at that.” Robby said as he stumbled on a fallen log. “A fishing pole.”
“The pirates must have left it here.”
“There are no pirates in Franklin county. Silly. Pirates are on the ocean.”
“Maybe they are hiding here, where nobody thinks they can be found. The pits! I know they must be there.”
“You have a point there, Bro. The pits, of course. The last refuge of the failed humans. Do you remember Mom always saying, 'This is the pits.' Probably, she was meaning that.”
“Nah, she was meaning us.”
“That means we have it in us. Let’s run.”
“Do you think the pirates would be willing to share their treasures with us?” Robby panted as he held on to the fishing pole.
"We can tell them we’re returning their fishing pole as a friendly gesture.”
After the woods, the land suddenly cleared.
“Pits,” the twins gasped. In front of them stretched a fissure in the earth like a crooked smile. In the middle of it two decrepit house-like structures alongside a shaft and some broken down equipment lay in abandon.
There was a pool of water among some submerged rocks.
“Hey, look at that frog.”
The frog leaped under some decayed wood escaping from Rich’s hands. Robby lifted the wood and Rich caught it again.
“I got the frog and a pickle in my pocket, and you have the fishing pole. That should be enough for negotiations.”
“Is it a girl frog or a boy frog?”
“Does it matter?”
“Boys are more expensive. Turn it over and look underneath. It must be printed there. Remember Dad checking the kittens.”
“Nah...no writing here.”
“Then this must be a smuggled frog by those pirates around here.”
The boys went around the wire netting that enclosed an area around the mine opening. They saw a sign with the skull and crossbones which said “Danger! Cave-ins.”
“Yeah, it is the pirates all right. Cave-ins? What are cave-ins?”
“Must be like Aunt Julie’s sit-ins. Remember when she took over her college?”
“Not by herself. But, yeah. That means the pirates took over the cave. Neat.”
They slid under the wire.
“Shhh... if they see us in these costumes in the distance, they’ll think we’re lunch. They'll shoot us.”
“Yeah. We’ll go up close and then we’ll tell them we’re grown men who came to negotiate.”
They slid inside the shaft and tiptoed to the cave opening.
“Should we go in?”
“Go! What are you waiting for?”
They walked inside the pitch dark cave. After a few steps they could barely make out the shapes of things.
Suddenly something grabbed both boys in its clutches. They screamed in unison. As soon as they did that, there was a big rumble as if boulders falling. Then a choking dust filled inside the cave.
“Now, look what you’ve done. How dare you disturb the dead?” A rough voice grumbled.
“The dead? Sorry Sir. We were looking for pirates.”
“Pirates? No pirates around here. Idiots.” The thing that grabbed them pushed them further inside.
“Please let us go. We’ll never bother you again,” Rich begged in a weak voice.
“No way out now. You caused a cave-in.”
They were pushed into a wider place where a strange blue light oozed from the rocks. There the twins easily saw the shapes of many men with faces all twisted and bloodied, in mangled bodies bunched one on top of another. They were humming an eerie tune.
“Sing with us. You’ve joined the underworld.”
Robby had lost his voice. He pointed to his throat. Rich started to hum, afraid to make that thing of a man with the frightful monstrous body angry.
“Sir, we have parents,” Rich begged.
“Everyone has parents. They can’t help them if they’re caught in the underworld.”
“Maybe you can get out too.”
“Not without a proper burial. Nobody gave it to us. They were too afraid to open the shaft. Now you’re here too. Soon, very soon, you’ll be one of us.”
“Please let us out. We’ll give you all we have.”
“And what can that be? Pray tell.”
“Fishing pole, this frog and this pickle.”
“What do you think we have here? Grandma’s attic? More inflictions from the upper strata. No deal.” The masses of men started closing in on the twins.
In terror, Rich started to sob. So did Robby.
“What’re your names?”
“I’m Rich. He’s Robby. We’re the Benton twins.”
“Do you know what my name was when I was up there in the sunlight?”
Rich shook his head.
“Robert Benton. It seems like the laws with the twins haven’t changed much. I had a twin brother Rodney. We got in trouble all the time. Later in life he turned to be the one who obeyed orders. I was the one who didn’t. We were told to empty the mine. He and his men did. I didn’t believe the foreman giving the orders. I must have found the wrong time to be paranoid. What’s your father’s name?”
“David was my grandson. We lived in a farm by the Bugaboo brook.”
“That’s where we live. Except it isn’t a farm anymore.”
The twins were shivering and quivering. As the masses of mangled bodies moved in on them they seemed to get bloodier and scarier. The humming increased and pounded inside their ears. The monstrous looking Robert Benton motioned to the dead to keep their distance.
“These boys’ expiration date isn’t up. Besides I want my bloodline to continue. We’ll make an exception. Give me that fishing pole.” He pushed the rocks above him for a tiny crack to open. “Do you have anything inside you that’s white colored?”
“Just our underpants.”
“Figures...they must be dressing kids like circus clowns nowadays. That will do. Take them off and give them to me.”
He tied the underpants to the end of the pole and pushed it through the crack, waving it.
“Hey kids,” he said. “Don’t forget. Listen to reason and read your books more than five seconds a day, okay?”
The first one to hear the voices was Rich. As soon as they got pulled out, Rich grabbed his father’s arm.
“There are dead bodies in there. Please give them a proper burial.”
“Could be,” Neil Benton said hugging his children, “It was said that my great grandfather’s body was never found.”