Chapter 2: Narrow Escape
Survival instincts kick into overdrive, my feet carrying me faster than they’ve ever moved before. We’re up the three flights of stairs in seconds with me taking up the rear. I reach our apartment and hurl myself through, slamming the door shut with a forceful bang. Mom springs into action without losing another moment. Facing our apartment door, she closes her eyes and mumbles the beginnings of an eerie chant. The colors in the room swirl and throb to the rhythm of her incantation which steadily picks up in pace. Her arms are at her side palms up. With each rise in tempo they are lifted into the air until she is holding them up over head with the heels of her hands touching, fingers cupped around a glowing orb of energy. The ball of light grows bigger until it bursts with a sharp shrill splattering iridescent shimmers onto the walls around us.
The silvery splats drip down like melting metal filling in the once invisible lines etched into the sheet rock. Foreign symbols line the walls shining brightly and then dimming out. “Dammit!” Mom curses. “It’s not working!”
My brother and I turn to one another in absolute shock and awe. The whole spectacle that just occurred before me too wild to make any sense of. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do and the fear of the unknown tackles me sending me into a trembling fit of nerves. “Mom,” I whimper pathetically. “I’m scared.”
She gives us a reassuring group hug, “I know baby,” she wipes a watery tear from my cheek “but listen to me.” She whispers, I need you two to follow me and be VERY quiet.” She looks to my brother, “No questions, no arguing, no crying.” She turns back to me on that note. “Trust me. Mommy loves you.”
Unsure of what to expect we nod our heads in agreement hoping with all my heart that we would all be okay. She leads us into her bedroom and opens her closet door. “Get in,” she says. We pause hesitantly when a loud “BOOM” resonates from the outside of the building. She repeats her direction with much more urgency this time, “Get in and crawl all the way to the back. When you get there lift the rug and find the latch. Climb down and keep going. Don’t stop until you feel the rock wall in front of you. Wait for me there.”
I’m on my knees and crawling through the darkness of my mother’s closet. At the far end of the space at the back-left corner I can feel an uplifted piece of rug. I tug on it and it comes up revealing wooden floor underneath. My hands fumble for the latch, the trembling has not yet ceased which is making the task a difficult one. Exasperated I yell to my brother, “There’s nothing here!” He rushes up beside me and swipes his palms across the floorboards meeting metal in one clean swoop, “Got it!” He exclaims excitedly.
“Hurry!” I urge him on, terrified. In my state of panic, I push him out the way to reach for the latch myself. The metal piece is flat against the floor, set in a groove in the wood so it would be indistinguishable at first glance. I scoop a finger under the ring and pull. The floorboards come up and a gust of cool air shoots out of the narrow tunnel beneath it. I look to my brother, “You first.”
He doesn’t argue. Without wasting time, he slides his feet into the gaping hole. He kicks his legs around and then hooks a foot onto some sort of makeshift ladder before descending into the unknown abyss. I glance over my shoulder one last time. “Maaa!” I shout, without a clue as to where she went in the midst of all the madness. “Mommmmy we got it, come on!”
I don’t hear her respond but I catch the sound of our front door being pounded on. My heart quickens its pace. I shut my eyes against the blackness and whisper a silent but fierce prayer. Something yanks hard on my leg. I almost lose my balance and topple into the tunnel. “Let’s go Mercy!” Leon snaps. “She’ll meet us there, come on!” I hesitate a second more drawing the symbol of the cross in the air like mom always taught us to do when we were scared, before dropping down into the icy shadows below.