Kenny’s got my hand and he’s holding it tight. I have a hard time keeping up with his long strides, but I know he won’t leave me behind. I’m lost already, but Kenny isn’t, he says we’re going to the river. He didn’t say where we’ll go when we get there. I hope he isn’t thinking of trying to swim.
There’s always something on the ground to trip me up, so I don’t look up as we run, but I can hear the rushing of water. We’re close.
It’s louder that I thought it would be.
The ground is getting rocky, and tree roots arch out like they didn’t expect the dirt to end. My ears are filled with a terrible roaring sound, and there is mist in the air. I look up for just a moment, my breath catching at the sight of rocky cliffs and the waterfall pouring over them.
“Careful Meg,” Kenny tells me, “rocks are slippery. We can’t rush.”
My legs feel like jelly. We’ve been rushing the whole way here, but I don’t want to slip on the rocks. I hold tight to Kenny’s hand and follow him as we get closer to the rushing, pounding, roaring waterfall.
The spray of mist is all around me, soaking my hair and clothes as Kenny pulls me right behind the curtain of water. I can’t hear what he’s saying to me, but I can see now that the rock cliff has a cave behind the waterfall, and it’s the best hiding spot for us. As we go deeper, the crashing of water dims to a small, constant noise and I can once again hear other things.
The cave ends in a rounded out room that is lit up by the faint glow of some sort of lacy moss hanging from the ceiling. The room is not as cold as I expected it to be, as if the rock around us has soaked in the sunlight and had nowhere else to put its warmth. I finally let my hand slip out of Kenny’s grip while we look around.
Lining most of the wall are yellow flowers that look like roses, except they couldn’t be. They are growing straight out of rock and away from the sun, but they don’t look any different and smell exactly like roses. The floor is yellow from their petals falling and resting on the damp stone year after year.
There’s an old bookshelf leaning slightly to the left, and it holds a collection of rocks and unused candlesticks and keys of all shapes and sizes. A pleasant steady beat of a ticking clock echoes around us, punctuated by the occasional drip of water from the cave ceiling.
I start exploring the rose bushes, brushing my fingers over their soft yellow petals, my heart slowing to a normal beat. Kenny is looking at the shelves, rummaging through the collectibles and then at the case itself, reaching his hand to feel the top and twisting around to peer behind it.
I want to have these flowers in my hair. They smell like sugar and springtime and laughter, and I so want those things to stay with me always. I check the stems for thorns, but there doesn’t seem to be any.
Kenny moves on to looking through the bushes, but he doesn’t seem to be looking at the flowers. I sit cross-legged on the cave floor and start picking roses. Their stems are too thick to weave into my hair, but maybe I can keep a bouquet with me when it’s safe to leave.
“We shouldn’t stay here.”
I look up and Kenny is standing next to me, looking worried. I hold the flowers I’ve picked in one hand while I use the other to stand up too. “We can’t go, they’re still looking for us.”
“I don’t like it here, we need to go.” his eyes are darting around, as if he can hear our pursuers in the echoes of our voices.
“We can’t go yet.” I say, “They’ll catch us for sure.”
“Meg! Look around, what do you see?”
Frowning, I look around. Kenny didn’t get scared. The closest he got to scared was when we had to run. This is a good hiding spot, why would he want to go back out while they are looking for us? “I see smooth cave walls, dangling moss, yellow roses, and a bookshelf.”
“What do you hear?” Kenny is watching me now, and I can see that he’s properly scared. It’s making me uneasy.
I sigh and close my eyes, trying to shake the feeling and listen for whatever has Kenny spooked. “I hear the waterfall, my voice,” I tilt my head, listening hard. “A clock ticking, and your feet shuffling on the ground.”
“Where’s the clock, Meg?”
I turned towards the bookcase and open my eyes, frowning at the shelves. That’s where I’d put a clock, if I had one. There isn’t anywhere else to put one but the cave floor.
“It’s so loud, it has to be right next to us. But there isn’t one.”
I turn back to Kenny. “Well maybe it’s–”
He isn’t there. My heart stops dead as I spin in a circle. “Kenny?”
“Where’s the clock, Meg?”
I turn again, his voice an echo bouncing from every wall. I hadn’t heard his feet move. He had been right next to me, and even now his voice is right by my ear.
I reach out my hand, but he isn’t where he’s supposed to be. All I see are yellow roses and lacey moss. All I feel is rock beneath my feet and flower stems pressing my skin as I squeeze them tightly. “Kenny?”
His voice is still here. “Where’s the clock?”
The clock is gone.
I need to leave, but I don’t. I’m not sure I can.
Kenny is gone.