Plunk, plunk, plunk....
Tom squirmed. That sound. What was it? No, it couldn't be rain. The sky was so clear when they fell asleep on the trail last night. Sure enough! Big raindrops were hitting his face, his hair, his hands... Streams of water trickled down his neck and under the collar of his shirt.
Tom didn't want to move. His clothes felt too soggy and sticky. So he lay absolutely still for a few more minutes, trying to ignore all the wetness. Maybe it was just a bad dream.
Suddenly he heard a scream. Peter was hopping around swinging his arms like a jumping-jack. "It's raining! Everything is wet! I'm soaked."
"Just be quiet," yelled Colin. "I'm dripping too."
"Colin! What are you doing here? I thought you left..." Tom was both surprised and relieved.
"Well, I came back."
"What was the ritual like?" asked Peter.
"It was okay," answered Colin. "But I don't want to talk about it right now."
"So what are we going to do?" asked Peter. "We don't have food, our clothes are wet..."
"Look for some more blueberries," mumbled Tom.
"I've heard there are caves around here," said Colin. "Maybe we could find one. Then we could start a fire and get warm."
"How could we start a fire? Do you have any matches? Dry ones?" Peter sounded doubtful.
Tom ignored the question. "No point staying here anyway. Come on, let's see what we can find."
Slowly and painfully, he turned over. When he tried to stand up, his hands and knees made little craters in the wet ground. "Yuck," he said. Then he started to run. "Hurry you guys," he shouted over his shoulder. "Let's get out of this place."
Peter and Colin followed. Sasha, looking like a dirty mop, scampered behind the boys down the path, splashing through the rain and puddles. We must be almost to the bottom of the mountain, thought Tom after a while. Anyway, running feels warmer than just standing in one place--or lying in the mud.
Suddenly Sasha, who had been leading, took off to the right, barking furiously.
The boys stopped. "She must be chasing a squirrel," said Peter.
"There's a path going off here," said Colin.
"Sasha has disappeared," yelled Tom. "I saw her a moment ago, and now she's gone." He rushed to the place he last saw her. "I can hear her," he shouted, "but I can't figure out where she is!"
Now all three heard her. Her barking seemed to come from deep down in the earth.
"She must have fallen into a hole. C'mon. We have to find her."
"Here's the hole!" Suddenly they were all staring into a strange rectangular hole in the earth. A couple of large branches had been pulled over the opening as if someone wanted to hide it.
"Do you think it is a trap to catch wild animals?" asked Peter.
"We'll find out," answered Tom. He and Colin were already pulling the branches away. "Look, there's a ladder!" announced Colin. "Guess it isn't a trap. I'm going down to get the dog." He eased himself backwards down the ladder into the hole. After a quick wave, he disappeared.
"Where are you?" shouted Peter. He started down the ladder. Tom followed.
Go to Chapter 11