General Fiction posted August 1, 2020 Chapters:  ...6 7 -8- 9... 

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Things become real for everyone especially Liz

A chapter in the book Traffic

The Nightmare

by Liz O'Neill

Liz & Linda rescued 5 Native American teens from a trafficking operation. Then one of the girls rescued 5 more from a van. They are traveling through a cave.

Spring blossom continued her instructions to the group of how they were to negotiate the decline. "Hand me your packs before you begin. I'll be just on the other side." 

No one really wanted to be second or even third. They had to come up with the order of descent to ensure everyone's safety. Velvet Dove reclaimed her leadership position. She was the one who had safely gotten them to this point. 

There was something charismatic about her that drew everyone's attention. Looking around, she tried to think a fair solution. There's not sufficient room to toss any stones. That could be one way to determine who went first down the dingy rock drainlike hole. I'd have to determine the winner, or in this case, the non-winner of the game, differently. It's too complicated.

She pictured the setting with a large stone struck by each girl throwing a smaller stone.  The winner coming closest would be awarded a token. The problem with this scenario, no one would want to strike the stone. No one would want to be first here. Who want to be the poor guinea pig to descend the bowels of Hell. Not I. 

We could make it, the winner would be the last to descend.  One away from the target, would be next to the last and so on until they got to the stone farthest away from the rock. The poorest shot would be the 1st to go down the scraggy slide. 

Gratefully, there was no length of available space to accommodate such competition. The best alternative is alphabetical order. That, they would have to blame on their parents or some other name-sayer. 

Dragonfly and Eyes of the Owl standing weak-kneed hugging their packs, was not very reassuring. Velvet Dove was the only one who seemed the most relaxed. It was as if she figured by the time it was her turn, the slide would have been worn wider and leveled out. She would basically just have to step through and she was there.

What about those in-between? Liz and Linda were very aware where the L's fell, third and fourth. And they both knew this was only the beginning.

Spring Blossom nonchalantly squished her pack through the opening, raised her left leg, and stuck it into the hole, then the right. The others watched as both her legs and  waist disappeared. 

When her head vanished, everyone knew this was real. Acrobatic skills were going to be strained to the limit. Everyone secretly searched for a way to stall. 

The first two having dematerialized, Liz discussed with Linda the logistics of how she would assist her friend up to the opening's lip. "Runs the Field will help me." Then it struck her.  After all Velvet Dove had done for everyone to safely get them to this point, there would be no one left to help her. She was the last name in the alphabetical ordered list. She would be left up here alone.  

Just as Liz was internally fighting the notion of remaining behind, Spring Blossom's reassurance came up through the darkness. "I'll be up there to help the last girl."  

In unison, Liz and Linda sighed, "Wow, had Spring Blossom read my mind?  

Relieved, Linda whispered to Liz "I was feeling obliged to hang back to help Velvet Dove."

Liz laughed, "Me too. Not surprising we'd be thinking the same thing. They grinned, doing a half embrace quietly, nervously chuckling.

It was time. There was nothing either could do. The next link in their journey was facing them.  Liz was pleased Linda was more petite than she. And relieved Runs the Field, a strong athlete, would be giving her the heft. A terribly bitter lump landed in her stomach as her best friend was swallowed by the rock creature, in one gulp.

Her aberrant feeling of desolation momentarily blunted her faint-heartedness as Runs the Field gestured how the next effort would be executed. She smiled quietly to herself, thinking, there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel!  

As she ducked her head and was away from everyone Liz was nervously elated to detect the flickering of the lantern below. They waited for me.   

She scrunched her being as compactly as she could, situating her body in the side-stroke pose. Inching to her right side, her right arm extended toward the opening, her left, braced for paddling or in this case, clawing. She would use her kicking legs to drag herself painstakingly downward against the resistance surrounding her.

Such enjoyable behavior was usually carried out in sun-sparkled wide open sky-blue water. This grueling activity was occurring in sunless gravel-encrusted tightly enclosed surroundings.

 Zipping through her imagination were nightmarish flashes.  What if I get wedged in here. It's so narrow. There hardly any room to breathe. Would they eventually figure it out. Oh, I could yell for help, couldn't I?  

Carefully cranking her neck enabled her to see where the turns were. Gravel-like stones below her scuttling body must act as a buffer, or she would slip rapidly to the bottom as the hoveled inclined space widened.

Snug reassuring hands braced her ankles as she reached the end of the excruciating ordeal. Eyes widened, the wonders awaiting them were revealed. Hugging Linda with delight, as she was pulled to her feet, twirling taking in the panorama. 

Both chattered in awe. "I've heard of and seen pictures of stalagmites and stalactites but have never been in the same room with them. What an honor." 

Liz recalled the clue to identify the difference. The term stalactites has a 't' in it, that helped her remember they were icicle-shaped limestone growing from the top.  Amidst that beauty, stretching from ceiling to floor, a few sculpted columns blended in.  

 As more girls reached the base, their lanterns illuminated the unusual ribbon formations. Curiously-shaped pillars rose from the floor. "Those must be the stalagmites I've learned about."

Linda was happy to know the names of things especially related to food. Both she and Liz loved their sweets. "Those are called Brown sugar meringue cookies and it's like frosting-icing glazing everything." In unison, "Yum."  

Liz secretly petitioned the Universe.  I hope the others will think this is a suitable spot to rest. I am spent. I'm sure Linda is very achy-breaky. What an exhausting day.


Sammy nudged Liz before the alarm went off. The unfamiliar song on the radio was a distraction. She tried to ignore it as she hoped to shake off the terrible residual dark heavy feeling from her nightmare.

She couldn't remember anything about it but it had left her with a myriad of emotions. I hope it wasn't some kind of premonition.  The horrible feeling persisted as she tumbled for the button. Silence.

She had gone to bed rather disturbed. Maybe it's from what I read. She'd read about the Native Americans. It always depressed her to face the realities of how the colonists had invaded their land and homes. 

Their new government as far back as the 1800's played cat and mouse with the Native Americans pushing them farther into Canada. Those they captured were made slaves and plunked on 326 Reservations with no further attention except to constantly hassle. And it is still going on today. A forgotten people. Many believe there are no more of them because they never see them.

If only I could go back to sleep to dream something more cheerful. Now I wonder if Linda and I should still go. But it's too late. We've been planning this trip for months. She and Linda, her best friend, were going to visit big sky Montana where the Crow Nation reservation was located.
Their friend Em was from big sky, Montana as she called it. They were actually going to see what made her face glow when she talked about life there. Besides, arrangements have been made for Rebecca to visit her Maine Coon cat, Sammy.

"Ugh", How she detested getting up early. She'd closed her book and had forced herself to go to bed before the usual time last night. No matter what time she went to bed, she just did not like getting up early. Linda, on the other hand, would be enthusiastically waiting on her deck with two backpacks.

She'd better have that glass of water, a cup of coffee and a clear trail to the bathroom when I get there. These were Linda's ways of welcoming Liz after her hour-long drive. Caffeine and hydration, standard staples. 

 There she is, as I predicted. So loyal. Linda descended the stairs, threw her packs into Liz's Honda Fit then returned to the house. They briefly reviewed their itinerary. One last trip to the bathroom for both and they were on their way.

Linda loved driving Liz's car that resembled her steel-gray Toyota. They both thought the front dashboard felt like a spaceship with all of its lights and gauges. Alert at that hour, Linda would begin the journey. 

Liz almost told her about the troublesome nightmare but thought better of it. Linda was not into much of that psychic stuff. I don't want to start the day off like that. Why bring her down? It'll slowly fade away anyway.  

The rocking of the car and lack of sleep activated Liz's slight case of narcolepsy that causes people to fade into the REM state where they dream. It was a peaceful feeling in contrast to her dispiriting nightmare. Wrapped in warmth and serenity, the shadowy haunting dissolved.

Many times, drivers had wanted to wake Liz because she was supposed to be their navigator. She thought it was Linda tapping her on the shoulder needing her attention. 

The same music she'd heard as she was waking that morning crept into her consciousness. Groggy chanting echoed on the radio. She reached to change the station and turn the blasted heat down.

Reaching to turn the heat down she opened her eyes to see herself grasping at nothingness. Linda was there, just not in the car. She was tapping her on the shoulder, just not in the car. 

She was no longer sitting on a cushy car seat. She was back in the cave. The echoes and reverberations of the pain, held within each girl, was transformed into chanting & praying.

Linda filled her in, "They began their prayer just before you dozed off seated here against this column. It was so warm, I think everyone was lolled off to sleep. As they woke up, they got back to their chanting."

It was taking Liz a long intense moment to realize where she was. Linda had not left the cavern nor the chanting so she could never grasp what was going on in Liz's jumbled mind. What I'd hoped was real life, was a dream and what I thought was a nightmare is real.


Character list of the women who rescued the girls from the house, she loaned her knife to Velvet Dove, She has a cat named Sammy of the women who rescued the girls from the house, one Liz's best friends

**Van girls of the teens in the van, friends with Star of the teens in the van, friends with Sky, her pack had the van girls' shoes of the teens in the van, friends with Sage and Dragonfly, was frightened when Velvet Dove came scratching at the van window of the teens in the van, friends with Turtle and Dragonfly of the teens in the van, friends with Sage and Turtle

**House girls

Spring Blossom......first at the house window, helped remove the window block. cave leader

Strong Heart....kicked at window to get iron grate off

Eyes of the Owl....made sure the plan of deception was solid, got into closet for packs with shoes, saw her best friend Rabbit's pack, made sure everyone from the house had shoes

Velvet Dove.....Planned the deception, rescued the girls from the van....made sure the van girls had their shoes and packs, her pack had the house shoes in it, had a very reassuring voice

Runs the Field....ran up the hill for the deception

I'd like to acknowledge Brittany H.for their fascinating picture. This is one section of many adventures experienced by Liz & Linda walking through fog and haze, away from their stranded car toward civilization and a garage. They are in Montana close to the Crow Nation Reservation. There is an epidemic of cases of Native American women and children being abducted, missing or murdered.

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