Grotto Header

Nimue's Grotto

Revelations of Recovery

by Hannah Smith

The curled, burnt orange leaves crunched underneath Luna's boots with every step. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest, and speeding up gradually with each breath she took. Her pace began to match her heartbeat, steadily growing faster and faster until she had broken into a run. She could hear her pulse in her ears, as well as her sporadic breaths and her staggering footsteps. And, of course, the leaves - a sound which always used to bring Luna comfort, especially in the days of her early childhood. She vividly remembered walking to school on her first day of kindergarten, the early leaves of autumn crackling beneath her pink light-up sneakers, her father's strong, warm hand firmly grasped in hers...

Her father, smiling down at her, telling her to be brave and that everything was going to be okay...

Her father.

He was the reason she was here, weaving in between the trees, whose branches seemed threatening plastered against the all-encompassing black of the night sky, especially without a moon and stars to serve as a backlight. She was here, putting her own life in jeopardy, so she could save him.

From who, or what? She didn't know. The barest hint of a plan she had didn't have a very good chance of actually working, and her confidence was shaking more and more with every minute she continued to run.

But she had to continue. Her father was gone. The missing report was filed over a month ago. They'd searched high and low in their tiny Maine town, and he was nowhere to be found. All his stuff was still neatly arranged in his bedroom. He hadn't run off. He wouldn't have, anyway. He wouldn't leave Luna alone, left to fend for herself. She was only fourteen. It was hard enough living without a mother - she couldn't bear to imagine living with no parents at all.

But she was, for the time being. She was completely alone. Her big house was empty - save for the cruelly distant cat Phoebe, who had an aversion to humans - and terrifying. She slept with every light in the house turned on - that is, on the nights that she actually slept. She felt like she did when she was younger, petrified at the thought of monsters lurking in closets. She always had enough sense to know that they didn't exist, but that didn't stop them from frightening her.

Now, Luna had real monsters to fear... the person - or thing - that took her father…which, for all she knew, could be coming for her next.

Her lungs were on fire. She couldn't run anymore. She collapsed onto the ground, letting the soft dirt break her fall. She managed to sit up, and drank some of the water that she had in her backpack. She was exhausted. She didn't know how long she had been running, but she knew that she was too far from home to turn back. Besides, even if she didn't really have a plan, she knew exactly what she was looking for.

It was here. Somewhere.

She had to find it.

She didn't know what it was, but it was the only lead she had in finding her father. She'd seen it about two weeks ago, during her first attempt at a search and rescue mission. Her father went missing after he went for a walk in the woods and didn't come back, so she thought she'd start there. She'd been walking and screaming her father's name for a long time, so long she'd lost track of everything. Her mind was clouded and she felt tears burning in the back of her eyes. She was about ready to give up when she stumbled upon it.

It was a bunch of rocks assembled, one after the other, to make a huge circle. It was glowing bright blue. The light that it was emanating was almost blinding.

Luna had been so confused when she saw it that she didn't really know what to think. But then a small squirrel merrily hopped past the rocks and inside the circle...

...and then instantly disappeared, right before her eyes.

Her eyes widened and she felt a panic rising in her stomach. She took off running, and didn't stop until she got home. She was so scared that night…she didn't eat or sleep or do anything, really. She just crumpled into a corner and sat there, wondering if she was going insane.

For a couple days afterward, that was her theory. It didn't really exist. It couldn't have. She was tired and confused, and the whole thing was probably just a dream that she had after falling asleep in the woods...

But the more she pondered it, the clearer her memory became. She'd never dreamt anything so vivid before. She knew it had to be real.

And the more she thought about it, the more she began to put the pieces together. Her father went missing in the forest…and that squirrel had disappeared the minute he stepped into the circle. Maybe that's how her father went missing.

She knew it was an extraordinarly long shot. She was trying to prove that a supernatural force had transported her father to an unknown location after he accidentally stepped into it, and she didn't even believe in magic.

Well, she didn't before. Now, after what she'd seen, she didn't really have a choice.

Luna stood up and brushed herself off. She knew she was getting closer; she could feel it.

She continued to walk, each step tentative and gentle. She swallowed, not knowing what she was afraid of and yet fearing everything simultaneously.

Finally, she found it. Each rock was illuminated a clear blue, just like last time. All the sounds of the forest seemed to stop. No leaves rustled. No wind blew. Everything was silent.

She approached the rocks. She exhaled a shaky, terrified breath.

"I'm coming, Dad."

She stepped in. She - and the world - disappeared.

About the Author

Hannah is 13 years old. She is passionate about writing and also love to read. Her favorite authors are John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and J.K. Rowling, to name a few. Although Hannah has written many short stories, this is her first attempt at flash fiction. Her only previous publication was fan mail to Reader's Digest. We are pleased to be able to provide her first fiction publication.