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Nature Abhors a Vacuum
Stephen L. Nowland
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"Perhaps a dozen times... I don't really keep count. Hey, you're not scared are you?"
Despite knowing better, Aiden was thirteen now, practically a man, and would not stand
for being called a coward.
"Of course not; if you say there's nothing to be afraid of, then lead the way."
Pacian beamed, then turned and walked into the forest with Aiden close behind him.
The young man suppressed any feelings of trepidation he felt at leaving the sunlight
behind, and focused on keeping up with his friend.
For nearly twenty minutes they walked between the thick trunks, their footsteps
muffled by the fallen leaves of late autumn that lay in a thick blanket on the soft grass.
For a place that was forbidden to them, Cairnwood seemed like a pleasant place indeed,
though Aiden couldn’t shake the feeling that they weren’t supposed to be here.
The wind blew gently through the boughs and the sounds of birds could be heard in
the distance, all contributing to a sense of peace. Aiden was about to ask how much
further they had to go when he suddenly felt the sensation of floating in the air, quickly
followed by an explosion of pain on his chin that stunned him.
The next few moments were a blur as he tumbled and crashed downwards, before
finally coming to a stop on a hard, rocky surface. Bewildered and smarting from half a
dozen scrapes and bruises, Aiden struggled to clear his head, trying to figure out what
had just happened. The daylight had disappeared completely, except for a small shaft
coming from above to pierce the darkness around him; clearly he had fallen into a hole of
"Aiden! Aiden are you okay?" Pacian called from above. Slowly, Aiden raised
himself on shaky legs, relieved to find that he hadn't broken any bones in his fall.
"Yeah… I think so," he called up to his friend with a tremor in his voice. Aiden
judged it to be around twenty feet straight up, and he felt lucky to be alive at all.
Tentatively, he touched the walls but met nothing but loose dirt and rocks for hand holds
on the wall. "I don't think I can climb back out Pace. Go and get help!"
"Are you sure?” Pacian answered hesitantly.
"Yes! Go get help!"
"How about I go and get some rope?" his blond friend hedged. Aiden found this
apparent reluctance baffling, until it dawned on him that they had ditched their chores
and entered Cairnwood without permission, and Pacian was responsible. Knowing his
unreliable friend, he wasn't about to own up to any wrongdoing unless Aiden was in
danger. Apparently falling into a deep hole and injuring himself didn't qualify.
"Okay go and get some rope, but hurry back!" Aiden relented.
Pacian sprung into action. "I'll be back before you know it. Wait here!"
Aiden groaned inwardly at the poor attempt at humour, but at least help was on the
way. Aside from the light streaming in from above, there was only blackness before him.
Stretching out his arm, he encountered nothing solid, so apparently what he had thought
was a hole had in fact turned out to be some sort of cave. He slowly crouched down, too
scared to leave the shaft of light and trying not to think of the horrible things that could
be lurking out there in the darkness.
His aches and pains gradually subsiding, he sat shivering for nearly half an hour,
from both the cold and fear. The sun was well past its peak now, the angle of the light
becoming sharper by the moment, and fading as it went. Aiden fought rising panic as
each second of waiting seemed to last forever.