Chapter 4

 

Down to a Strange World

 


I’m hungry”, Rosie lamented, but by now nobody wanted to answer her. Desperately the hungry pig searched her pockets, but without success. Like always when she felt bored, Rosie started to fumble some object. She looked at the cable winch which was at the outside of the elevator. A little beneath it was a crank which she could not reach. What might the wedge beside it be good for?

 

Rosie pulled at it and the wedge moved a little. She pulled on and when Bernie and Susie shouted “Stop that, Rosie, or we’ll crash down!” it was already too late. The wedge bumped to the floor, slipped through the wire netting and fell down deep into the darkness. Now the lift began to move. First only a few centimetres, then there was no stopping. The lift raced downwards. The friends shrieked so loud that their voices drowned the squealing of the elevator. It fell and fell, bumped left and right against the walls. On and on the wild race went and none of them believed ever to see his home again. Then suddenly the lift lost speed. A loud gritting was to be heard.

 

The pit seems to narrow”, Bernie shouted. “Perhaps we are lucky.”

 

And if we have good luck”, Bertha shouted back, “it will be bad luck for Rosie. I’ll drag at her pig’s ears and make a knot around her fumble fingers with them so that she never will do mischief again.”

 

The elevator really slowed down, but now a new danger came up. Because of the enormous friction of the lift at the rock, the outer walls of the lift took fire. So our friends now would not be smashed to the ground, but if they could not get out of their prison soon, they would wretchedly burn.

 

They still slowed down, but there was much smoke and it became hotter and hotter in the lift. Each of them held some cloth or handkerchief to his mouth. The smoke was so thick that they hardly could breath. Mary was the first one to faint, then Susie, then Bernie and the two pigs. Suddenly the elevator stopped with a jar. Daisy, Elfrida and Jenny threw themselves against the lift door. When they tried for the third time they succeeded. With a loud clatter the door cashed down and they hurried out. When they could breath again, they ran back to the lift and dragged their unconscious friends.

 

When they had put out the fire with sand, they looked about them. It was cold and wet. A greenish light seemed to be all around them. “I’m frightened. It’s spooky here, I want to go home”, Rosie wailed, and as an exception Bertha agreed with her.

 

We are all lost, nobody will find us.”

 

Nonsense”, Elfrida replied, “there will be some way out. There certainly is an underground cave system.”

 

You mean there is something like the police down here?”

 

Lord, Rosie, of course not. Cave system means that there must be passages.”

 

But without traffic signs?”

 

You bet.”

 

Well, I might not be too clever, but how are we to get out here without traffic signs?”

 

You might use your brain for a change”, Jenny remarked. “For instance the draught down here may help us.”

 

Rosie did not give in. “Draught is no traffic sign, so what are you up to?”

 

If there is a draught, the air somehow moves, eh?”

 

That’s true, Jenny.”

 

Fine, so the air found a way out?”

 

That’s true, too.”

 

Jenny breathed a sigh of relief. “So we follow the draught and then we’ll get out here. Got that?”

 

If we’re not starved until then.”

 

If we stand here blabbing any longer, that may happen indeed”, Daisy said. “We should get gone.”

 

The children decided to take the way to the right. It seemed to lead a little upwards. It was hard going because they were tired and exhausted, and first of all very hungry. Moreover the passage was wet and slippery but Jenny took this for a good sign as it was an indication for water.

 

The greenish light seemed to fade a little, but nobody commented that. On the one hand because no one had any idea where it came from, on the other hand because they all were afraid it might be something sinister. Sometimes you pretend that something does not exist if you are afraid of it. However, more often than not this is the wrong thing to do. Daisy was the first one to notice the danger.

 

Whoops, look at, there’s an animal or something!”

 

Spellbound, their eyes followed the beam of Jenny’s torch. Some distance ahead, where the passage made a bend, something sinister was sitting. An animal like a giant lizard looked at them with glistening eyes.

 

Perhaps it’s harmless”, Mary whispered, but Rosie gasped: “For being harmless he’s got damned long, pointed teeth. Better let’s run away!”

 

They all paused undecidedly and watched helplessly how this dragon-like beast approached them step by thudding step.

 

If we run away he knows that we’re afraid of him, but he doesn’t seem to feel too confident”, Jenny whispered and held to her torch. Her hand was trembling and she was afraid to drop the torch. That would finish them.

 

Hand me the torch”, Elfrida suddenly said. “Bernie, stay as you are!”

 

Elfrida took the torch and positioned herself behind Bernie. She held the lamp to Bernie's back so that his shadow fell on the path of the beast. Now it paused and threateningly moved his head to and fro. In the middle of his forehead several spikes were clearly to be seen. Then it turned and disappeared. Bernie was the first one to speak.

 

Now I understand. To the dragon my shadow appeared really large and he thought I’m much bigger than him. So he was frightened.”

 

I hope he won’t be back too soon. Let’s walk into the other direction quickly.”

 

The others agreed with Daisy and they took the opposite direction. Now the passage led downwards, but they were not as fast as they hoped, for if someone slipped here, it was going to be a glissade. They after all did not know whether another dragon was sitting there.

 

The descent was dangerous. Everyone walked very cautiously but after a time they managed the unfamiliar ground better.

 

I would not have believed any living being to exist down here”, Susie began.

 

And why not?” Jenny said who knew much about animals and was the only one to understand bird-language. “There are animals living so deep in the oceans that they never see daylight. The water pressure of course is enormous and it’s pitch dark. No human being could live there, but these fishes do.”

 

You mean that they never see their parents? But that’s terrible!”

 

O Rosie, of course they can see. They have their own electric field by which they are radiating and so they make their own light.”

 

Silently they walked on and wondered what kinds of danger might wait for them. If there were animals in the ocean which did not mind eternal darkness, what could be possible deep down underground?