When I first started passing the quarry, it was a pleasure to see the sun strike at the far corner. Catching man-made facets. It was a long while before I realized that it was different every time. After all these years, I still have to tell myself not to go looking for that quarry, what is like our Eden. What bright things loom will surely follow me with stranger senses than sight, but I will not look. Not again.
The day I first mentioned it to Ada was also the first day I saw the rabbit proper. Strange rabbits were a common sight in the foothills. Sickly, lank, hollow eyes. Dad said the population might be sick. But that day, the looming maw of ears could be nothing so mundane. Coming around the bend, bag of firewood slung on my arm, I stopped for a second to look. Lines of clouds bubbling on the horizon met what little land I could see beyond the cavern, they were tinged with green and dark. Tornadic. Funny how they boiled just past the blue.
My sight was drawn to movement in the basin. Straining my eyes, I could just make out a lumbering little silhouette. A rabbit, or… no, not any rabbit. It hobbled on three legs. Crooked arms dragging behind it. Mottled holes in lieu of ears. It turned and looked at me.
All at once, I was hyperventilating. Dark sound in my ears, so faint I didn’t notice until I turned away and the rush left me. When I looked back the rabbit had left me, too. I wiped my forehead, starting hurriedly on the path. I think the clouds had lost their tint.
Ada was listening to the radio when I came into the shop. Sitting cross-legged, humming along while she idly moved a stub of a pencil over the expanse of butcher paper. Hands smudged grey on the edges as she worked. The paper bore a dark field, dusted with white on the tips of its grasses, a half-finished mountain looming on the other side. I sat on the bench and turned the volume down. She frowned and started to protest, but I cut her off.
“Have you been by the quarry lately?”
She shook her head.
“Not since we’ve been on break. Why, should I have?”
I looked down at my feet, feeling silly all at once.
“No, I just, um… I’ve just been going out by the school to hang out with Tom and them, and I’ve been going by there.”
I shrugged. Why was it so hard to think?
“I just, uh, I just saw some weird stuff there lately.”
Her eyes narrowed.
“What, like an alien or something?”
“Maybe. I saw some weird rabbit sort of thing today. I didn’t get a good look, but… It looked like someone’d cut it’s ears off. And its arms were, like, sort of too long, y’know?”
She raised an eyebrow, expression of mingled concern and incredulity.
“No, I don’t. Are you okay?”
“I mean, yeah. I just can’t figure that place out. There was that rabbit thing, and the clouds are, um, they’re different colors than what you’d think. Like green and pink. And I think the rocks are a little different some days than others.”
She looked more worried than anything now.
“Are you okay, Silas?”
I looked her in the eyes. I’d never seen her look like that.
“I just want you to see it with me.”
She knit her eyebrows and stood, walked over to me.
“Fine, yeah. Just, do you need to talk to Dad or anything?”
I shook my head.
“Nah, I know he’s already worried about me. I don’t want him thinking I’m schizophrenic, too. Just, come out and see it.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty early still. We can make it back before dark.”
I could feel dread mounting as we walked out into the foothills, Ada leading. Familiar ground took sinister turn as it led to some perceived destruction. Of what, I couldn’t tell. Was this path always so winding, so unmarked?
“Does it seem different out here to you?”
“In what way?” Ada said without looking back. I didn’t know myself.
“Just darker or something. More turns.”
“Not that I can tell.” She stopped and turned to face me. “Look, if you’re not good with this, we can turn back.”
I shook my head.
“No, I want you to see it. I’ll be fine.”
She nodded, kept going.
The clouds were dark brown overhead. Washed in the middle by wavering green sunlight. The basin, overgrown with a mass of overlapping trees, seemed to stretch farther than the eye could follow. I could see no other side.
“What the hell…” Ada said under her breath. She turned her wide eyes to me. “What’s up with this place?”
“I told you! I told you it was screwed up.” The panic started seeping in again, I swallowed it down in pieces.
“You okay?” She said.
I nodded, but I couldn’t speak. Something was putting pressure where my stomach brushed spine.
All at once, it was there. Some not-a-rabbit, even stranger than before. On the path in front of us. Gaping holes of eyes moving under twitching earpits. Ada shrieked. The feeling of passing out moved in my head but did not pull me down. It turned to me.
You are something new, it spoke. Words buzzing where my spine touched. You are something new. Ada grabbed my arm.
“Do you hear it?”, she whispered.
I didn’t answer. We stood with our eyes locked on the crooked thing, it’s face writhing like worm-ridden, its void of eyes passing us over. You are something new. It took a little step with one of its twisted feet.
Ada grabbed my arm, pulled at me. My eyes gaped, they struggled to take it in. Ada turned suddenly without a word and jumped down the cliffside.
“Silas, run!”, she called.
For a second, I was left alone with it. Its little nose folded further in, reduced to slits. It raised its foot for another step and I bolted after her, rushing over the ravine edge and trying to run down the slope. The crumbling ground shook as I ran, and my footing fled me almost instantly, I managed to pull my body into a roll as my back touched unstable earth. Ada was just getting her footing again when I hit the bottom. I tried to stand, but I fell sideways and slammed into a tree instead, the dark tangle turning circles around my vision. Ada put a hand to my bloodied arm.
“Silas, Silas! You okay? Silas?”
I choked out a feeble yes, holding a hand to my head.
“What is going on?”, she said. She looked up the slope and her face drained.
“Oh my God, it just keeps going!”
I looked up, too. The slope kept upward, far and away, no sign of where we’d come from. Ada sat down heavily and leaned against a tree, cradling her knees.
“What the hell is this?”, she whimpered, staring at the dirt.
I shook my head.
“I-I don’t know.”
She looked up at me. Hollow eyes. I held her gaze as second before turning to the yawning forest. The trees, even taller than they’d seemed from the slope, grew into a forest that swallowed all light. Void like rabbit’s eyes. Dark sound growing. I looked back down and met eyes with Ada.
“We’ve got to go, Ada.”
She nodded. We stood there for a few seconds longer, noise sounding, before I helped her up.
The overgrowth blotted all but atom-thin needles of green sun. The lines coming down were spread through the forest, flickering like some great wings were passing the sun overhead. There was no clear path, but the trunks were spaced apart so we could push our way through.
Presently, even the green sun began to fade. Ada and I spoke very little in the passing hours, we just kept stumbling towards some unknown. Sometimes, we would pass a wall of low tone sounding somewhere in the dark, centered in patches of forest that weren’t lit by anything. As the light died, I could hear Ada crying softly. It set me off, too. And finally, with a last flickering moment, the forest faded away to void.
Somehow, neither of us fell in the total dark. I kept my sister’s hand in mine until the space between them dribbled sweat on the forest floor. My legs ached, my throat burned with thirst, and the tips of my feet were blistered raw from pecking away at the systems of roots. The moonlight, fading slowly from green to red, gave little guide.
After what felt like days of walking, I almost fell over on the edge of something hard.
“Wh-what is it?” said Ada, trying to keep the shake from her voice.
I felt the ground. There was a shelf of rough stone where my hand touched.
“I think it’s a wall.” I kept running my hands over it and, finding no far edge, I stepped up onto it and tapped forward with the tip of my foot.
“It’s a slab, like a foundation.”, I said, helping Ada up onto it.
We walked a little farther, pulling together, feeling the even stone underfoot and a deep cold rising from it. I raised my free hand out to feel and, after a few steps, I brushed against brick again.
“Wall.”, I muttered, walking sideways. Soon, my fingers gave way to open air.
“There’s some kind of entryway here.” Silence. I sighed, I felt myself drain from my mouth.
“We have to go in, Ada.”
“I know.”, she said after a moment. The silence held a second longer before she spoke.
“O-o-okay, I’m good. Let’s go.”
The cold was deeper and the ground gave a bit as we walked. It felt like carpet the way it tugged the bottoms of my shoes, but in the moments my feet were planted I could feel it move. Outside the structure, there had been the tiniest glints of moonlight here and there, but inside it the darkness was absolute. After a while we came to the far wall, identical to the first, but something was different in the doorway. The faintest hint of red light defined the next room. I could make out the silhouette of something hunched in the middle.
Ada started babbling, her grip tightening around my hand so I thought she would break it. I felt the bottom go out of my stomach, the waves of nausea coming over me and the urge to pass out on the cold floor. I was aware that there were more in the room, blended with the dark, the tips of their rolling shoulders and heads just visible in the baptism of red. They started towards us. I felt myself relax as darkness took me and my hand went limp in Ada’s.
I came to with Ada’s bloodred face smiling over me.
“Silas! Silas! It’s okay! We’ll be okay!”
I sat up. The same room we were in but brighter lit. The figures gathered around were bathed in red and shadow, sat in a circle on the floor. Nearly the form of people, but joined by lines of flesh between them, they were draped in finery that glittered around their arms and flowing garments. The lead of them was taller than the rest, sat just in front of me, and I saw that the circle of them was compassed by objects. Statues grown from shrubbery, diamond-facet tubes lined with protrusions, liquid metal pooled about like affects in a pharaoh’s tomb. The tallest spoke to me in the same way as the rabbit, to the base of my spine.
Do not fear, child. You are witness now to something beyond you.
I blinked, opening my mouth to speak but finding nothing. Ada was grinning ear to ear.
“I’ve been talking to her, Silas, they’re from somewhere else. Like another dimension or, or something like that. There’s been like, sort of, um…”
A collision, the form said.
“A collision. Between our worlds. She says it will pass soon and we’ll be back in the quarry.”
I shook my head.
“I-I don’t understand. Why… w-why us? Why this place?”
“They don’t know either. They could see it coming, but they don’t know why.”
I turned to the form.
It will be a span of time before you are returned. I cannot say what that span will be in your terms, but it will be short. Until that time, join us here. Our ritual will commence.
“Ritual?” I turned to Ada. She shook her head, started to say somethng.
The light grew brighter. The forms did what seemed like standing. I could see the jewelry around them faze in and out of their bodies like liquid. All at once, a noise was building. Not like the rabbit’s noise, but something otherworldly. Beautiful beyond words. The cleanest of all tones, the raw screaming of pleasure and time. They danced, and their dance bid us join them.
Thirst gone, I was swept in them. They turned as individuals, twisting limb in their circle and stretching to fractal bodies. I looked up and saw, hanging, the vibrant red sun radiating down on us and I felt them, I felt the fractal grow without me and warm me. Senses man would not be given for a trillion years more were open to me. I saw Ada inside-out, her beating heart, her leaping muscles going as she danced. We moved like in honey. We turned form in the crimson sway. The building fell away, the forest, I saw grand palaces and cities beyond them. Every form of this place moving in unison, and me and Ada with them.
We danced for years there, danced and sang and put our voices to the swell of many for an instant of eternity. Time blended, I wanted to feel them around forever and ever, but it passed abruptly. In the last moment, I felt the tallest form smile in every fold of me, and I smiled back even as the layers dissipated.
We were left in the clearing, the edges of the quarry standing resolute and the clear yellow sun hanging distant. Laughing, crying in joy, Ada and I laid in the basin and waited for the warmth to pass us.
“Ada, oh man, Ada, I feel a million years old!”
“I think we are! I think we’ve been there that long.”
I smiled, fighting laughter, tears flowing down as I looked around. The quarry was the same as when we’d first moved out, a little wash of man-made valley.
“We’ve got to go back to school. See Dad again, listen to the radio, draw, read… Silas, how are we going to go back?”, she said, still smiling.
“I dunno. We just will.”
Walking along the ridge, I turned back when we reached the top. The sun struck at the far corner, catching the facets it always had. Ada and I looked out at the valley somberly for a long while before we glanced at each other. She nodded and I nodded back, and we started down the path home.
The trail didn’t look overgrown for all our time in that other place. We found out later that not a lot of time had passed for our world, only a few weeks. Certainly not the eons we’d seen. The way back was short, but it felt like forever before we crested the hill and saw the shop door standing open. Ada looked back at me with eyebrows raised. I shrugged. We kept walking, down into the yard and up to the doorway. With bated breath, we pushed the door the rest of the way open and stepped in.
Dad sat hunched in the shop chair, looking over the landscape Ada had been working on when we left, his back to us. His head raised up, and he jerked around. Took a long breath in. Tears streaming on his quivering jaw.
“Dad, I-“, Ada started, but he stood so quickly that the chair tipped over and rushed to us, pulling us into an embrace. It was the first time in a while I’d seen Dad cry. When he finally pulled away to look at us, I saw his eyes pass from hollowed husk to brimming with life. It filled his face like it had us in that other wilderness.
We acclimated to normal life easier than you’d think. I felt so much older, happier, like every burden was drained away. Ada and I talked about it for hours where we could. As time went on, the memory never faded, but life rose to meet it. As I said, I have to fight the urge to go back down to the quarry. I know that it is dead to that place now. That we are sealed here in life until we pass on.