“I’m telling you, that wasn’t there before!” Arly said. “I’m not crazy!”
They’d gone into the cave and made their way to the drop-off, where Saint had tied the rope around a big stalagmite—(“Is that safe?” Roth had asked. “Shouldn’t you secure that with something? Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be done?” “You worry too much,” Saint had replied.)—and rappelled down. Pete had gone next, then Arly. Now, standing on the uneven cavern floor, Arly couldn’t believe what she saw revealed by their flashlights. “That wasn’t there before!” she repeated.
An opening, about four feet in diameter, gaped like a maw in the stone wall before them, just below head level. Arly could feel a cool, damp breeze blowing out of it like a breath.
“Somebody’s been down here since the last time you were,” Pete suggested. “Blasted that opening.”
“No dice, homme.” Saint made his way over to the opening. “Look at how smooth this rock is. Polished. This has been here a long time.”
“That can’t be!” Arly said. “I was down here a few years ago and this room was a dead end!”
“What’s going on down there?” Garrett Roth, against his protests, had been forced by Saint to stay above, keeping an eye on the rope to make sure it didn’t become untied or slip. (“We’d be in a sure ‘nough pickle, then,” Saint had said.)
“There’s a hole in the bottom a’ the sea,” Saint called up to him. “You sit tight there, boss.”
Arly stood shaking her head. “This isn’t possible.”
“It must have been covered over last time,” Pete said, “covered up, so you couldn’t see it.”
“I’m telling you, Pete. We were down here for a long time. That there was a solid wall. I’m sure of it.”
“A mystery for another day,” Saint said. “I’m goin’ in. Y’all might wan’ stay here.”
“Like hell!” Arly said. “I plan to figure this out.”
“Guess you’re comin’ too?” Saint asked Pete.
“Yeah.” Pete nodded. “I’m going if she goes.”
“Alright, then. Y’all follow me.”
The beams of their flashlights, shining through the opening, lost themselves in darkness in the tunnel beyond. Arly followed Saint, who stopped on the other side of the opening to help her through. Once she’d crawled through the hole, she found the cave floor on the other side to be flat and smooth, as were the walls and ceiling. They were in a tunnel, and this almost a perfect circle, as if it had been bored through the solid rock. The ceiling, about three feet above their heads, had no stalactites, nor were there stalagmites on the floor, nothing rough or uneven. The tunnel went on straight ahead of them, beyond the reach of their flashlights.
“What is this?” Arly asked.
“I don’t like it either,” Saint said. “Feels unnatural.”
Pete, without any help, clambered out of the opening. “I never used to feel claustrophobic,” he said.
Saint stood, staring and silent.
“What is it?” Arly asked.
“About what?” Pete asked.
“Occam’s Razor,” Saint replied.
“Basic rule a’ scientific deduction, boss. You bein’ an educated type, I’d figure you’ve heard of it.”
“The simplest explanation is the right explanation?” Arly said.
“Right. But when you combine that with what ol’ Sherlock Holmes used ta’ say, the simplest explanation can still be pretty far out there.”
“What are you talking about?” Pete said.
“Don’ you feel it?” Saint said.
“No,” Arly said. “I know what you mean. I feel it too.”
“Feel what?” Pete said.
“She’s Injun, boss. It’s in her blood. An’ I got a touch a’ the gift from my Granmere. That’s how we can tell.”
“That hole in the cave wall,” Arly said, “I told you it wasn’t there before. That’s because it wasn’t.”
“What?” Pete sounded annoyed as much as perplexed. “Will you two cut it out with the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy crap and tell me what you’re talking about.”
“Numerous Indian tribes say that they entered the world through a hole in the earth,” Arly said.
“From another world,” Saint finished for her.
It took Pete a few seconds, then: “You’re not serious.”
“We’ve done stepped on through to the other side, boss.”
“I think he’s right,” Arly said.
“You, too? Come on, Arly.”
“There are things known an’ things unknown, an’ in between are the doors,” Saint said. “Reckon ol’ Jim Morrison had it right. Reckon we just found ourselves one a’ them doors.”