The Door is Locked. What is behind it?
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It would have been better if the door had remained locked. Of course, we didn’t know that at the time. My younger brother, Calvin, and I were exploring the hills around the house that we had inherited from our grandfather, when we found it. We had only visited Grandfather occasionally, and had never had a chance to explore before now.
Mom and Dad had decided to relocate our family. It hadn't been all that hard to do, since there was a call for nurses, like my mother, in Sandy, the town closest to us. Dad was a published author and could do his work anywhere. They told us that we would all be better off, out here in the Pacific Northwest, breathing the clean mountain air. So far they seemed to be right, as Calvin’s asthma didn’t seem to be bothering him nearly as much as it had in the smoggy city of Los Angeles. I missed all the friends that I had to leave behind, but I was glad Calvin was feeling better. It was scary when he went into one of his attacks. The last time he had one, he had asked Mom if he was going to die. She had hugged him and said that she wouldn’t let him die, but I was still scared.
“Look Lori! There’s a door behind that bush.” Calvin’s voice interrupted my examination of a grouping of orange wildflowers at the edge of the forest.
“Oh sure, like there could be a door way out here." I turned and looked at him. "I didn’t see any door.”
“Well it’s there. Come here and I’ll show you.” Calvin grabbed my arm and pulled on it.
“Okay, okay.” I allowed him to pull me to where he had been standing, and looked at the bush from his perspective.
“Wow, there really is a door. But why? Why would a door be way out here? Do you think Grandpa knew about it?”
“I don't know, but let's go check it out!” Calvin’s foot caught on a root as he rushed off, and he fell. He jumped back up and continued running to the door. He knocked as soon as he arrived. “Hey, open up in there!”
I laughed at his eagerness. “It’s locked on the outside, goofy. Even if there’s somebody in there, they can’t get out.”
“Well, we need to find the key then.”
“And just where are we going to look?”
My brother ignored me as he rushed from one rock to another, lifting them and checking the ground under, and around them.
I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm driving Calvin, but I shrugged and joined him in the search. The afternoon sun seemed determined to melt us. I had been hot before we started to search, but now I was even hotter. Sweat rolled down my face and burned my eyes, while salty rivulets raced down my back. After fifteen minutes of unproductive probing, I gave up and dropped to the ground.
“I can’t search any more, my throat is parched, and my back is screaming,” I told Calvin. “We might as well stop. We aren’t going to find it here.” I grabbed my water bottle and took a long drink. Calvin came over and sat beside me for a few minutes, then stood up, and walked to the door. I followed.
“The key has to be around here somewhere.”
“I agree, but Grandpa might have kept the key in the house, that is, of course, if he knew about the door. All Grandpa’s stuff was packed up, and put in the attic. It might be in one of the boxes, but I don’t think Mom and Dad would let us go through them.”
“Probably not.” Calvin sighed. “I want to see what’s behind the door, but I don't want to break the lock.”
“I just thought of something, it could be up here.” I ran my fingers along the top of the door. When I got to the right side, my fingers bumped into a small chain. I pulled on it, and the key followed. Calvin and I looked at each other.
“Should we open it now?”
I looked at my watch. Dinner wasn’t supposed to be ready until six, and it was only two-thirty. “Yeah, we have a couple of hours before we need to get home.” I removed the chain and inserted the key into the lock, then glanced at Calvin. He appeared to be dancing on hot rocks, as he waited for the door to open.
“Here,” I said taking the key out and handing it to him. “You found the door, so you should open it.”
“Thanks.” He smiled, and reinserted the key. After removing the lock, he slowly, carefully, slid the dead bolt back, pulled the door open, and entered.
“It’s dark in here, really, really, really dark. I can’t see anything.
“Maybe our eyes need to adjust.” I followed Calvin into the cave. We stood there for a few minutes, but still couldn’t see. “Okay then, we need to use our flashlights.”
“Good idea.” Calvin pulled his flashlight out of his pack. “We can use my light now, then later, if we need to, we can use yours.” He turned his light on, and we surveyed the cave. “Look at the sparkling rocks,” Calvin said, flashing his light on the walls. “Do you think this might be a goldmine?”
“No, I don’t think so.” I said. “That’s probably iron pyrite, they call it fool’s gold.”
Look, There's a tunnel, lets see where it goes."
"Okay, but only for a little ways."
There were mineral columns rising from the floor, and ice-cycle like mineral formations dripping from the ceiling, as we followed the tunnel, deeper and deeper, into the mountain. We passed a couple of forks in the path, but always stayed on the left side.
“I think it’s time we went back.” I said, after about thirty minutes. “I’m cold.”
“In a minute,” Calvin replied. “The path is opening up and there’s a little light ahead.”
We walked about 25 feet more, then the tunnel opened up into a huge cavern. Light filtered down from small openings above, making it just light enough to see.
“Wow!” Calvin ran ahead to the other side of the large cavern. “Lori, come on, look at the creek.”
“Wow, is right. We can see clear to the bottom and the sparkly rocks are even more beautiful when covered with water.
"How deep do you think it is?”
“I don’t know,, Maybe three feet."
"I think it's only about two feet. And I still think those sparkly rocks might be gold.”
“It’s possible, but not likely.” I looked around, admiring the spectacular underground scenery. The creek bubbled out of the ground on one side of the cavern and reentered the ground after about thirty feet, just before the tunnel ended. The rocks bordering the creek were even covered with a pale moss. "I wish I had my camera, this cave is unbelievable.”
“We can bring one with us tomorrow, when we come back.”
“That’s right. Let’s go then,” I turned to leave, but immediately stopped in my tracks. “Oh no, there are two tunnels. Which one did we come in?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t even know there were two tunnels.”
“Me either. I wish we would have noticed,” I sighed. “Well, we always kept to the left coming in, so we need to go to the right as we return. Let’s try the right tunnel.”
I glanced back at the creek one more time as we were leaving. Then stopped for the second time. “Look, there’s another tunnel.”
I pointed it out to Calvin and he shook his in disbelief. “It’s a good thing it’s not on this side, or we would be in real trouble.”
"Yeah, I agree."
We entered the tunnel and kept walking, seeing the mineral formations hanging from the ceiling, and rising from the floor, just like we had coming in. The tunnel kept going, and we kept walking, keeping to the right. Suddenly there was no more tunnel. We had chosen the wrong one.
“I’m cold, really, really, really cold. And I'm tired.” Calvin was shivering, and there were goose bumps on his arms. He coughed. A hacking cough that said he was going to have an asthma attack.
I was stupid. I had let Calvin walk into an extremely cold tunnel when he was covered with sweat. Exercise alone could be a trigger, but cold air and the quick cool down caused by sweating were also triggers. I had really messed up. My parents had trusted me, and I had broken their trust. It would be all my fault if anything happened to him.
“Where’s your inhaler?” I grabbed his pack and began to search.
“I left it home. I hadn’t had an asthma attack in two weeks and didn’t think I’d need it.”
I closed my eyes. “Then let’s go. We need to get out of here.”
I put my arm around him and we headed back to the cavern. I heard wheezing about half way there, the high pitched whistle of an asthma attack. I had to think fast. What could I do to ease his breathing? I had a scarf in my pack, maybe I could put it over his mouth and nose, like a mask, so he could breathe warmer air. We stopped long enough for me to put the scarf on his face. I used duct tape to tape it to his chin, then we continued our journey. I didn’t know if the scarf helped him breathe, but it made me feel better.
We were back in the cavern, resting, after what seemed like forever. I wrapped my arms around Calvin in an attempt to warm him up. He was shivering and his wheezing was even louder than before.
“Let’s go.” I said after a couple of minutes. “We don’t want your asthma to get worse.” Calvin kept stumbling, and I held him up, half dragging him, as we continued walking. When we finally arrived at the door, I didn't waste any time getting him out, and into the open air.
We collapsed on ground warmed by the hot afternoon sun, as soon as we escaped from the cave. Calvin stopped shivering after a few minutes, and his wheezing eased.
“Are you up to walking home?”
“No. I need to rest a while longer.”
I glanced at my watch. “Okay, but we need to go soon. “We’re going to be late as it is. Maybe I should go get Dad. He could carry you.”
“No, I don’t want them to know about the cave. They won’t let us go back, and we need to go back. We need to know why the cave has a door.”
“Okay, but next time we need to be prepared for the cold, and you need to have your inhaler. What will we tell Mom and Dad about your asthma? It won't go away before we get home.”
“We can tell them I ran out ahead of you. It wouldn’t be a lie. I did run ahead of you in the cavern.”
“Yeah, that might work.”
“Let’s go.” Calvin got up and headed for the house a few minutes later and I followed.
Our parents were waiting for us.
“Where were you? You’re late for dinner. You know dinner is at six.” Before I could answer, they heard Calvin wheezing and coughing, and were totally distracted from dinner. They bought his story of running ahead of me and scolded both of us. Calvin was better the next day, but our parents told us we couldn’t go exploring again for a week.
Like I said, it would have been better if the door had remained locked.