“It’s a rabbit hole,” Dinah told her little brother excitedly, pointing to the child-sized maw they found at the bottom of their garden.
“It was not there before,” she said, her eyes bright with adventure. “Let’s explore it!”
Tom was wary. “It might cave in on us, or worse, lead us to Wonderland,” he protested.
“That’s just a story, silly!” Dinah chided, and wiggled head-first into the hole with her glow-in-the-dark light.
Tom tried grabbing her but she was too fast. He raced home to tell their mother.
Dinah must have been crawling for five minutes when the hole widened into a large cavern the size of a small room.
In the distance, she could hear her mother and her brother calling, but for the first time in her young life, she felt compelled to disobey and forge on, the pull of adventure a greater force than anything else she had ever experienced.
Soft rays of sunlight from above filtered in like trickles of rain. Dinah was enthralled. Could this be the home of fairies?
Mom used to tell her stories about the fairies in the garden but she had never seen one before. Tom said they were not real, but Tom was wrong about many things.
In the cavern, there were two tunnels leading to parts unknown. Left and right. Dinah pondered which one she should explore.
The left, she decided, and considerately made a mark at the entrance of that exit for Tom, whom she heard wiggling through the hole.
Left. Dinah dove into the hole, exhilarated with the promise of adventure.
Then, in the hole beside her, she heard a tired and exasperated grunt and the sound of something very heavy dragging on the ground.
Quick as a switch, her exhilaration turned to fear and dread. She wiggled at light speed backwards into the clearing.
Tom stuck his head out and before he could reprimand her, she shouted urgently, “Get out! Something big and bad is coming!”
Tom saw the terror in her eyes and began crawling backwards at top speed.
Dinah had one eye on the right tunnel. She swiftly eased herself into the hole leading out, legs first so she could defend herself if it tried to attack her.
She never moved backwards faster in her life. Even faster, when she heard the monster grunt as it entered the clearing.
The five minute journey felt like a century. The thing drew closer and closer, its long thick body clearly designed for moving through tunnels, unlike hers.
The dragging sound it made grew sick and sinister. Dinah wanted to cry but she knew she had to be brave or she would die. Painfully.
It was closer now. She could smell something rank and rotten, like week-old banana skins and bat droppings.
The monster was almost upon her. She could see the outline of its bulbous gray form and gigantic mouth full of sharp teeth all around. They were worm vampires, she concluded.
Suddenly she felt herself yanked out into the daylight and into Mom’s embrace.
“You must be careful, Dinah!” Mom exclaimed. “You could have been eaten!”
The worm’s head emerged from the hole, seeking for prey. Without hesitation, the three fireflies quickly flew away.
Christina Sng is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A COLLECTION OF NIGHTMARES (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2017). Her fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Grievous Angel, New Myths, and Space and Time. Visit her at http://www.christinasng.com and connect on social media @christinasng.