Against Future Emergency

"We don't go back here much. Very leaky, you know, especially in spring. A lot of water…"

I nodded, having barely heard him over the  blood rushing in my ears. The brickwork was different, older than the rest of the church, larger bricks and a different color. The floor was of cut stone slabs, expertly fitted.

"Can't say I understand why it's suddenly so important. Lots of these old churches sit on Roman foundations."

"Roman," I echoed, nodding. I came out of my reverie long enough to continue, "I'll be a while, sorry. No need to keep you from your work."

"As you like, Professor. I'll be seeing to the graveyard leaves if I'm needed." He trudged back up the steps into the upper, modern section of basement.

I'd seen it almost immediately, having known what to look for: the stone to press, the one with the mechanism behind it, but I waited until I heard the leaf-blower noise from outside. When the wall slid back and then aside, my flashlight played across a furnished room clear of cobwebs and damp.

An armored figure sitting within looked up and regarded me at his leisure, and then asked, "I am needed?"

Three Line Thursday: "Urban Spelunking"

Spend one night there, they said, just one winter night,
And your skepticism will fade to nothing like sun-weathered paint,
As the ghostly dead re-enact long-ended lives in every room.

Family Legend

She went to Reykjavík when she was twelve, that was the start of it. Her parents took her. For reasons passing understanding they let her stand on the lip of a volcanic vent and look into it. "Down there? That's the Earth burning," her Father told her, both of his index fingers fed through the belt loops on her pants.

In college she did Europe, like you do. She stayed a little longer than many, left a little bit more of herself behind than most. After graduation she did India, and instead of coming home she went on to Bangladesh, then up into Nepal. That's where she met my father.

He followed her to Cairo, then Alexandria, as enchanted with her as she was with the world. He took the picture half an hour before he gave her a ring he bought at a bazaar that morning, while she slept.


"Tell me what you see."

He peered at it, squinted, cocked his head to one side like a listening dog. Finally: "A cave. A dark cave, like down an abandoned mine where the tracks run out and there's no lights yet."

That card slipped up and away, revealing another one. "And this one?"

Again he regarded the picture for a long time, until he was nervous the doctor would think it overlong. "A… a dog?"

"Is that what you see, or is that what you think I want you to say?"

"Aw, Doc, I just want to get out of here, to go home. Can't you please just sign the paper to tell them I'm fixed?"

"It doesn't work like that, Robert."

"But why not?"

The first card reappeared. "What did you say this looked like to you, Robert?"

"A cave."

"What kind of cave did you say, though, specifically?"

"…like down in an abandoned mine. You know. And this, here, this square bit…" He pointed out something on the card, "This is a minecart, at the end of the tracks, where they run out."

"And where did you leave little Florence Gregory, Robert? Where did they find her body?"