Chapter 3

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It was as if she'd blinked, and gone from day to night in an instant. Tara let out a quiet gasp- it was so dark. She felt around for the cavern wall, only to realise she couldn't find it with her fingertips. Her hand just passed through the cool air as far as she could reach without finding resistance. Even if she reached right upwards, up and up until her arm hurt... there was nothing. Had the cave somehow widened that much, in the short distance she had walked? When she turned her head to look back the way she'd come, she saw no light, and wondered at this for a few moments. How could the brightness of the day have disappeared so quickly behind her? Maybe the sudden change from light to dark had muddled her senses... She walked forward, her curiosity over the cavern itself overpowering that uncertainty.

After a time of this, she was surprised to notice that the ground felt... spongy, beneath her shoes. Grass, in a cave? Though, she no longer quite felt like she was in a cave... Kneeling down to examine the ground revealed that her guess had been right, regarding the grass, at least. The thin blades of grass were just visible in the dim light, as her eyes gradually adjusted. She stared hard, willing her vision to sharpen faster. The grass in front of her just seemed to stretch on and on, and she was beginning to notice something else, shapes extending from the ground ahead. Her eyes followed the tall, thin structures upwards, to where they began to split and spread outwards... for an instant she didn't recognise them for what they were, squinting- then she saw what was above, and her eyes widened.

There was no longer a roof above her- there was only sky, at first clouded over but now clearing, revealing a miraculous array of unfamiliar stars. Tara gazed upwards in amazement. The shapes reaching up from the earth were trees.

The realisation was swift and absolute; even for a child who had discarded all fairytales at the same time she'd left behind Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Tara had discovered another world. It was undeniable- the cavern was magic.

With the sky clearing, she could make sense of her surroundings by the light of those strange stars. There was something unusual about them, though she couldn't quite understand what it was. Her father often liked showing her the constellations when she was allowed to stay up late, and she had grown familiar with the pattern of stars in the sky above her house. These stars made different shapes altogether- she would have to bring her father here someday and show him, she thought. There was no doubt in her mind that she was going to show her family this place; they would surely love it.

She was in some kind of forest, trees scattered around her with their branches reaching tentatively up to the sky. It seemed wetter, here- maybe it had recently rained? They certainly weren't in drought, at least. Thick moss clung to the tree trunks, soft to the touch. It was different than any forest she'd known. Not dry like her hometown, prepared for merciless sun, nor as teeming with life as the rainforest she had once been to with her family on a holiday. It was quieter, here. She hadn't even seen a single bug.

Kenzie would be disappointed by that, she noted, though if anyone was going to be capable of finding whatever creatures lived here, it was likely to be him. When she brought them all here, her and Kenzie could climb the trees, their mother watching them, warning where not to place their feet. Though she couldn't do it anymore since her leg was hurt, their mother had once been an avid tree climber. Many of the trees here didn't have branches low enough to reach easily, she noticed- Kenzie might have to lift her up, then jump up himself. Maybe if Tara looked hard enough, she could find a smaller tree for her mother to climb...

Another time! Now, she wanted to go home and tell them of her discovery. Kenzie would be downright disappointed if she solved all of this place's mysteries before he could come and see them. It wasn't his fault that the high school started the holidays later than her school did. With the summer holidays starting for him tomorrow, they could explore as much as they wanted!

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