Suggested By: Clari Noel
Name: Brad Duncanson
Place: A hidden walkway inside of big trunk
Time: the year 4093
Object: Frozen orange juice
The needless warnings echoed in the dusty, musty darkness. Brad rolled his eyes and adjusted his headlamp. It had to be here somewhere... He scanned the crags around and checked the compass. They were headed southwest into the uncharted region of Rien-à-Voir-Ici in northern France—the most ironic name for a mountain ever invented, thought Brad. The name literally meant "Nothing to see here," and nothing could have been further from the truth. The pathway to get to the cave was through a forest of trees so thick and tall that the morning dew hung in a constant blanket of moisture clear into the afternoon. Brad and the other spelunkers got the distinct impression of impossible age—which happened to be exactly what Brad Duncanson was looking for: the First Tree, one rumored to have been growing here in a cavern beneath France since the earliest days of the world, if not the Day of Creation itself. Geologists had traced the origins of the matter in this cave as far back as the year 4093 BC—and Brad wanted to be the first person to lead a team down to its furthest point, just to see what was there. Inside, the ancient cave system was a maze of rocks massive and small, irregularly shaped, and singularly formed by the environment. There was certainly much to see!
The tunnel stretched onward as the ceiling and floor neared each other, creating some very difficult passages on account of all the loose boulders.
One of the explorers tripped and two others had to catch her before she smacked into a sharp protrusion. She regained her footing and immediately grumbled, "Can't believe we come so bliddy far down just to find a blooming tree!"
Something glinted in his field of vision, and Brad froze in the exact same position he had been, craning his neck to see what it was: a message, left in spray paint on the cavern wall that screamed "Turn Back!" in a disused early dialect of French. Brad sneered in disgust and kept walking. Who would come all the way down here just to tag a natural wonder such as this?
Ironic as the location had been, another point of irony arose: the deeper they went, the more spray painted warnings they saw.
What kind of sick joke was this? Brad detected a change in the air pressure as they moved on.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
A deafening screech made them all cower and cover their heads, as if the sound waves would cause a cave-in. A flashing red light bathed the area. Brad, hands clenched over his head, inched forward to find the source. His eyes found the strobing LEDs while his hand searched out the small plastic "motion detector", the sort that came in a Super Spy Jr. Kit. He found the toggle switch in the back and turned the device off. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief in the silence.
"Sacre chatts!" Cried the local on the team, "what was that about?"
Brad shrugged, but he kept crawling. He slid his hands along the rock—
Then suddenly, his hands brushed something softer and warmer than rock. He placed his hand over the area, and felt it creak just slightly. Wood! Brad pushed harder. A series of cracks resounded. Excitedly, Brad turned to the rest of the group, lined up behind him on their hands and knees.
"Push!" He called.
The hiker behind him latched onto his boots, and Brad braced both hands on the wood as he used the momentum to carry him forward. The wood panel split, and Brad tumbled onto a smooth walkway. He rolled into his feet.
They were inside a tree; wooden walls reached high into the ceiling above them. The walkway was tall enough for them to stand, and it stretched far beyond the reach of their headlamps. Brad moved forward cautiously. Was this the Tree they sought?
The walkway emptied into a massive chamber at the heart of the tree. Brad froze and looked around to get his bearings.
"Whoa," he breathed.
"Sacre chatts!" Muttered the Frenchman.
The chamber was a veritable museum of every decade ever, all jumbled together in a mind-blowing juxtaposition: a flintlock musket rested against a transistor radio; a medieval chalice stood upon an original Beatles record. A department store dress form wore corduroy bell-bottoms and an authentic-looking Viking helm. Brad found a small stone crock tucked in a cool corner, like a refrigerating method from before the discovery of freon, and inside was a can of frozen orange juice concentrate.
The sheer amount of stuff all packed in the cavern made everyone dizzy so that no one paid much attention to the scraping noise echoing from the back of the cave. Brad shook his head. "What is this place?" He murmured.
A soft grunt behind him caused him to turn around.
His entire team sprawled on the ground, unconscious. The last figure standing was a squat, dark little man with strange beady eyes, glaring at him.
"Intruders!" He growled in French. "Thieves! How did you find this place? What are you doing here?"
Brad could not fathom how a short little man could incapacitate an entire crowd in such a short time with virtually no noise.
"Wh-who are you?" He stammered.
The dwarf looked at him, leaning on the old, bent spade in his hand like a cane. "I am Pierre," he replied. "Who are you?"