(Here’s something new I’m trying: In order to read more about Maria, Curly, or Lou, click on their names up here or at the end of the story and a new page will open with more information about each of them.)
Everything around her seemed to be moving all at once; the ceiling of the cave was collapsing; rocks of all sizes were peeling off the walls and the floor shook so badly Maria could hardly stand. Fine dust started to fill her eyes and mouth and all around her was a deafening roar.
She screamed out, “Curly! Where are you! Curly!” Weaving in and out of the larger boulders and twisting back and forth to miss the rocks that fell from the ceiling, she ran as fast as she could to where she had last seen her small bot. “Curly!”
“Over here Mari, my arm fell off.”
Maria spun around to where she thought she had heard Curly. “Where are you! I don’t see you!”
“I’m over here.”
Through the thickening dust she saw a small white light blinking. “Okay, I see you now!” She ran towards him; a rock barely missed her head as it dropped to the floor. When she finally reached him, he was down on his knees reaching under a small pile of rocks.
“Hurry Curly, we don’t have much time!”
“Wait, I have to get my arm.”
“Leave it, we need to go!” She glanced toward the cave entrance only to see that it was becoming blocked by more falling debris. She said, more firmly this time, “Grab my hand, let’s go!”
“Oh, you’re so stubborn!” She pulled the neck of her t-shirt up around her mouth to try and block some of the dust while keeping an eye on the cave entrance. She was about to yell at him again when she heard him say, “I got it.” Curly lifted his arm up waved it back and forth so Maria could see.
“Good job Curly, but we have to go!” She grabbed his good arm and tried to pull him up, but he was way too heavy. She let go and yelled, “C’mon!”
She started for the entrance when a large piece of the ceiling broke free and slammed down onto her leg, knocking her to the floor and pinning her in place. She whispered to herself, “Not again.”
Curly reached her and knelt at her side. “Are you hurt Mari?”
“No Curly, I don’t think so.” She pushed at the rock, but it didn’t budge. “Just stuck.”
Suddenly the trembling stopped, and everything went quiet. They looked at each other.
Then a different sound, like a large animal howling echoed from out of a tunnel at the back of the cave. They both turned to look.
Appearing from around a bend in the tunnel and running straight at them was a creature about the size of a large dog. Its large mouth hung open revealing two rows of razor-sharp bone in place of teeth. It had a body of a deer complete with hooves on its rear legs but paws on the front. Its tail was long, covered in fur and ended with a tuft of dark hair, like a lion’s. Its head was probably its most striking feature; it was the size and shape of a large badger complete with dark colored markings which continued down along a powerful looking neck. It was running at full speed while jumping from rock to rock.
Maria shook her head when she noticed it do a totally unnecessary, front flip.
Curly pointed with his good arm and said, “Wow, here come Lou. Look at him go.”
Maria rolled her eyes and yelled to Lou, “It’s about time!”
The creature slid to a stop next to Curly.
Curly looked up at him and said, “Hi Lou.”
“Hey, Curly.” Suddenly the floor started to tremble again, and a loud roaring noise came from deep within the cave.
Lou looked to the back of the cave then turned to Maria and said, “Uh, I think we need to get out of here.”
“Uh, duh (she pointed at her leg), but… hello, my legs pinned!”
The roaring increased and the trembling became more intense.
Lou shouted, “That’s the new leg, isn’t it?”
“Oh man, if it’s broken, your dad’s going to go ballistic!”
The roar from the tunnel became deafening as dust and debris blew around a bend in the tunnel and out into the cave.
Maria yelled, “Just get me out of here!”
Lou stood on his back legs and grabbed the rock that pinned her leg. He easily picked it up and threw it to the side. He helped Maria up, got down on all fours and yelled to Curly, “Get on!”
Curly grabbed a tuft of hair at the base of Lou’s neck and threw his leg over. He was surprisingly agile for his weight and size.
Maria and Lou ran for the cave entrance as the dust cloud burst out of the tunnel. The force of the air in front of the cloud knocked them off their feet and through the opening. They came to rest in a jumbled pile of human, animal and robot.
Curly slid off of Lou, who shook, sending more dust and dirt towards Maria. She waved her hands in a futile attempt to keep any of it from hitting her.
Hey! Thanks a lot.”
“No problem, I—”
Curly waved his arm in the air and said, “Hey Lou, my arm broke again, look.”
Lou stood on his hind legs and put his front paws on his hips. “I see that Curly. You better hold on to that so Mari can fix it later.”
“I will.” He tried pushing it back into its socket, but it just fell out again.
Lou turned to Maria who was leaning up against a large boulder, running her hands across her leg. “Is it okay?”
“Yeah, I think so.” She lifted the artificial leg and bent it a couple of times at the knee and flexed her foot back and forth. “It looks okay.” She rested it back on the ground, stood up and tried putting some weight on it. It hurt a little at the place where it was connected to her thigh, but it wasn’t anything more than what she was used to. She looked at both of them and said, “You guys better not tell dad about this, either of you!” She pointed at Lou then at Curly. “You hear that Curly!”
Curly held his broken arm by one end and was swishing it back and forth like a sword. “I won’t tell Mari, really I won’t.”
“Okay Curly, thank you.” She turned back to Lou, gave him a sly smile and asked, “Did you get it?”
Lou smiled back, “Oh yeah, I got it.” He stood up and pulled around a leather pouch that was attached to a leather strap that hung from his neck. He opened it up and pulled out a figure of a Llama carved in stone.
She smiled broadly as she took it from him and rotated it back and forth in her hand. “This is it! The last one! You know what this means?”
Curly said, “There are no more?”
“We’re heading to Keeper school!” shouted Lou.
All three of them came together and high-fived each other, Curly used his broken arm.