Alex The Inventor-Chapter 9 (Pt.2)
Book 1 of an Illustrated Sci-Fi Trilogy
Chapters 1 - 8 can be read at: Deep Sky Stories
Chapter 9 (Part 2) - The Other Boy
Looking through the thick green glass of the curved tube was an amazing experience all on its own because Alex could see all the layers of soil and rock passing by above and all around him. He and his companions were sliding slowly enough to allow them to catch glimpses here and there of life below the earth.There were, of course, the usual wriggling earthworms making their way slowly across the clear glass in search of food. Then - a surprise - a small, cozy den with a family of rabbits slumbered peacefully together against the glass wall. Alex felt soft gusts of warm air coming up the tube from somewhere below. This warm air must have attracted many little underground creatures who took advantage of it by cozying up against the outside of the glass.Next to pass by above his head was a swiftly burrowing mole, lying with its belly flat against the glass while digging with vigorous swimming motions through its element. The mole vanished suddenly into the dark, cool soil as its thin, sensitive nose led it away somewhere toward some morsel of food.
"Whoa", Alex breathed with delight, lost in the sudden wonder of a hidden world few people, except miners, could ever imagine seeing. A thick silence engulfed him as the soil above and all around muffled the sounds of the outer world completely. The only remaining sound was the soft shush-shush-shush that he and his unusual companions made as they slid down further and further in a graceful spiral into the unseen depths.Then, ever so gradually, a soft blue glow began to shine from somewhere farther below. Alex peered downward and all around, trying to discover the source of the glow, but to no avail. The deep blue glow grew brighter as the minutes passed though, and soon it blended with the green tint of the glass tunnel until it arched over Alex and cradled him in lush aqua-marine phosphorescence.The warm, welcoming air blew softly up in his face and Alex slid peacefully onward through the quiet beauty of the underworld. It was sometimes difficult to keep the others in sight since the tube curved constantly ahead of him, but they remained together nonetheless.The light grew steadily brighter as they traveled deeper until, before very long, it was all that Alex saw around him. He slid onward, shining his flashlight to and fro as the glass tunnel continued to curve gently downward before him. The rainbow reflections continued to dazzle his eyes hypnotically in a confusion of glittering colors all around him.The nearly complete silence within the tunnel made the new faint sound that much more noticeable to Alex when it occurred. The tone of the single note was like that of a distant wind-chime and Alex cocked his ear doubtfully, not certain if he really had heard anything at all. Yet another minute passed in silence before the first indication that there was anything unusual in the air.It began as a soft breathing sound which could easily have been mistaken for the continuous swishing as Alex slid ever downward. Soon after that though, a faint, ghostly voice whispered unusual words softly in his ear. It was only a single, quiet voice and though it was strange to hear, it was perhaps not as frightening as one might expect such a sound to be, for the distant and ghostly voice was that of a boy.Alex looked all around him as best he could and was about ready to regard the sound as merely a passing echo from somewhere else when an unexpected image appeared. It began as only a faint green glow which came from around the curve of the tunnel. But, as Alex approached it, the glow slowly grew from a vague and ghostly wraith into a more distinct image. The musical wind-chime sound grew louder and clearer until, as he came abreast of the pale shifting image, for a moment, Alex could have sworn that it looked like the face of a boy gazing back at him through the glass!Alex drew in a sharp breath and turned over onto his stomach so he could get a better look at the face as he slid by it. "Hey...", he whispered in the silence. Abruptly, the chiming ceased and the glow began to fade away. Yet before it vanished around the receding curve beyond him, Alex saw the ghostly young face turn and gaze curiously back at him. Did it? Was it really a face?Alex shook his head and shut his eyes for a moment, but when he looked again, all that he saw afterward was the soft, aqua-blue glow of the tunnel walls once more. The face - if it truly had been there at all - was gone, but the deep blue light shining up from the near-depths had grown much brighter.
"Jeez!", he yelled and ducked his head instinctively. The glow was cut off abruptly as the solid blackness of a section of iron pipe came up and closed around him from below. The blackness only lasted for a few seconds though and a circular overhead light appeared ahead, the slope of the tube slowly leveled out and they all slid to a stop on a solid, metal floor.Alex sat up, looked around him and then at the dead end of the tunnel. Directly in front of them and blocking their path, was a heavy steel door which was round and had thick bars radiating out from its center like spokes. Each shiny spoke was a locking bolt that had been slid into place in the circular metal frame that the door was set into.As impressive as the vault door looked, half of Alex's mind was still back up in the tunnel where that vague apparition had appeared. What had he actually seen though? Alex stood up with Rainah. He looked back up the dimly lit tunnel and was considering asking her about the confusing image when, from around the final turn in the tube-slide, came the creature who was Rainah's Guardian. With a last bump, the creature came to a stop and lay on its back, looking up at him, with six spindly legs wriggling awkwardly in the air.In its present position, the creature did not at all look dignified or as threatening as it had seemed to when Alex first encountered it. As it regained its footing though, Alex could see that there was a dangerous beauty in its sleek form and movement. It was, like Dart, a Dragonfly, but thereafter, the similarities ended.There was a cat-like suppleness in its walk as it passed Alex by, ignoring him with ill-concealed disdain. It was only slightly smaller than Dart, Alex figured, and as he watched, it sidled up to Rainah protectively. It touched its tail against her briefly and gave Dart a fastidious nudge which he seemed to accept as a matter of course.The new Dragonfly's coloring was a rich deep green, with black wings that contrasted sharply with Dart's shinier chrome body and rainbow wings. They chirruped back and forth to each other with a familiarity born from long companionship while they waited patiently near the steel door with Rainah.The blue light that Alex had seen during his journey down through the tunnel shone bright and clear from behind a thick, round window set in the heavy vault door. With startling suddenness, another circular door began slowly closing behind them, hissing loudly like a gas station air hose, effectively closing off the tunnel and sealing them in the small room they were in. Alex jumped and whirled around with a shiver because at that same moment, a light blue cloud of cool mist was sprayed into the room, completely obscuring the others in the group!"I'm sorry, I should have warned you, Alex", said Rainah from somewhere nearby, "do not be afraid, this is only a precaution that the Gardener uses to prevent contamination."
"Why would I get contaminated", he replied with a worried tone.
"Not you, Earther", said a new and haughty voice from the obscuring blue mist, "it is what is inside that is important."
"Silence, Jade", said Rainah. She stepped through the thick fog and took Alex's hand, leading him up to the door so he wouldn't feel quite so anxious. "It is nearly finished", she said, "we need to keep the inside of the greenhouse free of germs from the outside…and you will also find that the climate inside is quite different from what you are accustomed to."
"There's a greenhouse down here", Alex asked in bewilderment. Rainah didn't answer, instead she led Alex to the left, toward a smaller door set in the side wall of the room. She reached up and gave a light touch to the top of the rectangle and the thin plastic door snapped down into a hollow under the floor. Alex's eyes grew wide when he saw the arms and legs dangling limply in the closet. The gloves and boots lay on the floor below the spacesuit and the clear, plastic dome of the bubble-helmet rested on a shelf above it. The exciting, pungent smell of neoprene and rubber came out of the small storage compartment.
"Whoa", Alex exclaimed, sensing adventure just behind the round steel door. Rainah took down the suit and helped him put each part on. First the suit went on, which fit Alex quite well, then the boots, gloves and lastly the bubble-helmet. Alex lifted his now gloved hand up and slowly flexed his fingers inside the thick white rubber, then put both hands on the smooth Plexiglas dome surrounding his head. Everything outside the bubble now sounded quieter and muffled until he felt Rainah push a button on the outside of the helmet, just under his chin. It must have been for an intercom because Alex immediately heard everything normally again.
"Can you hear me now", she asked with a friendly grin. Alex gave Rainah a thumbs-up, grinning with amazed excitement! He was completely overwhelmed by this strange new chain of events. First a dangerous escape from the Others through the dark, narrow crevice, then down a fantastic spiral glass tunnel with all the sights along the way, and now this, an underground greenhouse! But for what purpose was it built?
And not to forget Rainah's Guardian Dragonfly who liked him not at all. "Well, are you ready", Rainah asked, for she was clearly alive with new excitement as well. She looked like she couldn't wait to show Alex something fantastic. Her deep blue eyes flashed and sparkled with a giddiness that was quite out of character from her usual solemn seriousness. Alex glanced inside the now empty closet and said, "Wait, where's your spacesuit?" In response, Rainah merely giggled quietly with pixie-like mischief.
"I don't need one", she answered back, "Haven’t you figured it out yet, Alex?" But he had actually; it had just been so strange a thought to get his mind around, up until that moment. Rainah was, indeed, from another world, and now, it seemed that Alex was about to see a small portion of her world. Here, right below his scrapyard, not a mile away from his old rundown cozy home. "Ready", she asked once more.
"Yes", was all Alex could say. Rainah unlocked the door.
About the Creator
G. F. Brynn is a self-taught writer & illustrator whose sci-fi stories weave a rich blend of youthful adventurism with ancient myth-fantasy. The characters move in a world in which the divide between dream and reality is thinly shaded.
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