Lucas grabbed the handle and pulled. Nothing. The large oak slab would not budge one inch.
“In here,” one of the ghosts called to his friends. I gulped; we were done for.
“Look, doggy door,” Yehudi shouted.
We all looked at the small door swinging in the breeze. Words weren’t needed. The cats rapidly exited one at a time followed by Daisy then me. I soon discovered that the door was meant for a much smaller dog than me. In that moment I was wishing that I had listened to Daddy and went on that diet he was always talking about. It took some effort to squeeze through, but I made it. Lucas poked his head into the opening and slowly began to push his way through the small exit halting halfway in and halfway out.
“I don’t fit,” he panted.
“C’mon Daisy, he needs our help,” I howled. Our gazes met and I could see the terror in Daisy’s eyes through the blurry tears that had formed in my own eyes. We each grabbed hold of one side of Lucas’s collar and began to pull.
“Oh, they have me, they are pulling me back in,” he barked out in panic.
“Harder, pull harder,” Rapi urged us on.
Daisy and I pulled with all our might. Lucas slowly began to edge towards us. Rapi jumped up and grabbed hold of part of Lucas’s collar and began to tug on the leather strap too until the large golden retriever popped free and crashed into us. All four of us tumbled down the stairs and onto the grass.
The ghosts stared at us through the window, anger flashed across their faces, but only for a minute, for then they evaporated in front of our eyes. The cats cheered, happy to have escaped with all nine of their lives intact.
“Okay, let’s go,” Rapi said, eager to get away from the house. We all turned to leave, and that’s when we saw it.
“Oh no, its … it’s a …”
“It’s a maze,” Callie grumbled looking up at the stone walls that surrounded us.
“Oh great,” I said brushing the dirt from my black and yellow skirt and straightening my bumble bee wings.
“We could go back in through the house and try the front door again,” Jasper offered up his solution.
“Oh no,” the rest of the cat’s groaned.
“Definitely no,” Daisy said, shaking her head.
Lucas strode up to the nearest wall and put his paw on it and pushed.
“It seems pretty sturdy, I don’t think we can knock it down or anything,” he said, his eyes still examining the structure for any weakness.
“Maybe we can go over it?” Rapi asked. ‘
“Not with a belly like yours,” I said absent mindedly. As soon as the words left my mouth, I felt a pang of guilt for having said it.
“I’m sorry Rapi, I didn’t mean it like that,” I stammered, but he just stared at me, the look of hurt in his eyes stung me deeply.
“What I was trying to say is that wall is as tall as Daddy, I don’t think any of us can jump that high,” I explained, hoping to smooth things over.
Rapi looked around at all of his friends.
“I see your point; we all have some pretty big bellies, don’t we?” he confessed.
“Uh hummmm,” Yehudi cleared her throat. When nobody looked, she did it again, much louder and with exaggeration. We all looked at her. The black and white tuxedo cat stood there rubbing her little tummy.
“I don’t have a big tummy, and I am a good jumper. Maybe I can jump over the wall and run for help, what do you think?”
Lucas and I looked at each other and shrugged.
“You know, that’s actually a pretty good idea Yehudi, lets give it a try,” I complimented the small cat.
Everyone began to whoop and cheer. Yehudi’s eyes grew big and bright. She backed up until her butt was touching the wall opposite of the one she was about to attempt to scale. She planned to get a good running start and leap as high as she could.
“Go! Go! Go,” we all began to cheer and urge her on. She took a deep breath and began to charge towards the six-foot stone barricade picking up speed. The wall drew closer with each stride forward until it was almost upon her. Using all the power in her legs, the black cat sprung up off the ground.
I held my breath, and I watched my friend Yehudi sail through the air with the grace of a ballerina. Never in my life have I been so proud of her. I cringed and closed my eyes when she collided with wall, making a splat noise.
Yehudi grunted on impact but had the presence of mind to reach out with her arms and grab the top of the wall. She held on for dear life and began to claw and scramble with her back feet.
“Go Yehudi Go! Go Yehudi Go!” we all began to chant, unable to believe that the little cat had gotten this close to success.
She dug in and fought with all her strength and was making up ground. She was almost there.
I looked up into the night sky and closed my eyes and prayed. When I opened them again, I saw a pair of big black wings beating against the sky slowly lowering a huge black crow down onto the wall next to Yehudi’s paws.
The little cat squeaked in surprise and lost her balance, but miraculously was able to hang on to the top of the wall with one arm. We all gasped. That little cat had some fight in her though. She swung her other arm up and gripped the top of the wall. Gaining a second wind she began to scale the stones like a champion rock climber. She threw one leg up on the top ledge and was about to claim victory when that crow leaned forward and gave her a vicious peck on the top of her head and flew away. The bird looked over his shoulder as he disappeared into the night sky, leaving a hideous laugh behind at the sight of Yehudi tumbling from the wall and crashing to the ground.
“Darn you bird!” I called after the feathered monster.
“Are you okay Yehudi,” Bella squealed in a mad dash to reach the fallen feline. We all surrounded her, Rapi grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and helped her to her feet.
Yehudi took a step and winced in pain, then hobbled a little on her next step. I looked over at Lucas, who had a real look of concern about him.
“What do you think,” I whispered to him.
“Dunno,” he answered quietly under his breath.
Yehudi stretched, then tottered a few more steps, stretched again and began to regain her normal gate.
“I’m okay,” the little cat squeaked.
Everyone exhaled, letting their concerns drift away on the night air. What a beautiful night it was. The sky was clear with a huge full moon hanging almost directly overhead, the shafts of silver moonlight lit up the labyrinth in front of us.
“I can try again,” Yehudi said bravely, determination showed in the way she was carrying herself.
“No, you almost hurt yourself,” Daisy objected.
“And you gave us all a big scare,” Callie added, putting words to how we all felt.
Yehudi hung her head.
“Don’t be disappointed, you were awesome,” I reminded her.
A hush descended upon us when the realization sunk in that we were down to two options. It was either back in the house with the ghosts or forge ahead into the dark maze.
“I guess we go this way,” Lucas said, nodding towards the mysterious puzzle that was laid out before us on the mansion grounds.
“I guess so,” Jasper agreed.
“What kind of nutjob would do something like this, I mean really? And how would you mow it,” Rapi grumbled as we set off into the unknown.
We walked about two hundred feet and came to another solid wall, leaving us a choice to travel to the left or the right. On the left was a large plastic spider tangled in a web smiling at us, to the right a scarecrow in a plaid shirt, with a pumpkin head was resting in an old wooden rocking chair.
“Which way,” Bella asked.
“I .. I .. I am afraid of spiders,” Rapi stuttered.
“Me too,” Jasper confessed.
“I’m afraid of everything,” I admitted, my tail tucked firmly between my legs proved my point.
“No spiders please,” Daisy added her two cents.
“Okay, towards the scarecrow then, follow me,” Lucas barked out to the rest of us.
The big golden retriever started down the path with the rest of us cowering in a tight pack right behind him. We went further down the passageway. After about a hundred feet we saw that the wall ended abruptly and turned to the right.
We were almost there when a set of lights flickered to life in the eye sockets of the jack o ’lantern that the scarecrow wore for a head.
“Did you see that” I whimpered
“I did,” Rapi groaned next to me.
We all stopped in our tracks and stared at the scarecrows head.
“It was probably lit the whole time, and we didn’t see it until we got closer because of the angles or something,” Lucas explained.
I thought about it and what he was saying made sense.
“I think Lucas is right,” I shared my newfound confidence with my friends.
“Move forward?” Lucas asked.
Everyone agreed, though there was trepidation in the air.
We took one step forward, then another. I felt the tightness in my back muscles begin to relax again.
Just then, the scarecrows head turned to stare right at me, and he rose to an upright position.
“Jeepers,” I yelled and peed for the second time this night.
Everyone made an abrupt about face and beat a hasty retreat down the passageway with Daisy in the lead.
“Spider,” a frantic cat voice called from behind me.
“Go straight,” Lucas yelled from the back of the pack, his voice overpowering the frightened feline screams.
Daisy followed Lucas’s instruction and barreled past the spider and around the corner. We made a series of quick zigs and zags and were heading down a long straightaway. In the distance we could see a wall blocking the path we were on.
“Lucas?” Daisy cried out.
“Make a left,” the golden retriever called back.
Daisy slowed down to navigate the turn with the rest of us hot on her heels. The scarecrow was still behind us but losing ground. Daisy had skidded to a stop in front of me. The action was so quick and unexpected that I ran right into her. We both let out a loud yelp at the impact.
“Another Scarecrow,” Rapi yelled.
Daisy and I both piled into the scarecrow, knocking it off its feet as well.
“The scarecrow got Daisy and Cindee,” Jasper screamed.
The cats rapidly reversed course and took off down the right-hand corridor, leaving Daisy and I to scramble to our feet.
“You okay?” Lucas asked having caught up with us.
“Fine, let’s go,” Daisy barked back, wasting no time following the cats down into the inky blackness of the night.
In no time we caught up to the cats who moved over to the left so that Lucas could zoom to the front. The moon continued on its journey across the sky aiding us in maneuvering the twists and turns of the labyrinth with Lucas in the lead and Daisy and I at the back, ready to sound the alarm should we see ghosts or scarecrows.
Now we were in a part of the maze that had a series of rapid lefts and rights in succession, which was making me kind of dizzy. Out of the darkness we heard Lucas yell.
“Whats that?” I asked Daisy.
Before she could answer, the cats began to cry out in cacophony of terror. I turned to look over my shoulder to make sure there were no scarecrows behind us. Daisy screamed in front of me.
Friends, I didn’t have a chance to even turn my head.
The ground opened up and swallowed me. My feet slipped out from under me and I began a rapid descent on my back. I watched in terror as blackness descended above me, blotting out the night sky. All I could do was scream with every fiber of my being. I was careening in a downwards spiral deep into the belly of an inky pitch-dark void and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
… to be continued next Tuesday.