“Am not!” Sam punched his fist into Paul’s narrow shoulder.
“Quit it,” grumbled Paul as he rubbed the puny but throbbing muscle beneath his t-shirt.
“I’m not scared.” Sam spoke softly, more to himself than in an attempt to convince his best friend of the truth he so wanted to believe. His wide eyes turned back to the gaping tunnel.
“Then go.” Paul nudged Sam in the back gently but he wobbled in his sneakers at the edge of the black pit.
“Where do you we’ll end up?”
Paul shook his head, sending long curls in need of a trim bouncing. “Dunno.”
Sam picked up a small rock in his stubby fingers. It rolled for a moment in his hand before he flung it into the depths. Both boys held their breaths and leaned forward.
The clink of stone against stone and the duller thud of hitting packed earth rumbled out of the darkness. The noises seemed to tumble out in a never ending roll that only gradually began to go quiet as the exploring rock fell further and further away. There was a sharper clang then a distant, but definitely wet splash like jumping into a pool. The rustling started just as the moist echoes reached the surface.
“What’s that?” Paul asked timidly while in tandem they scurried a few steps away from the fraying edge.
The rustling grew louder and louder, building with the darkness that filled the hole and the dusk that was settling over head.
Both boys had hands to their ears by the time the bats soared free with their clicks and the brush of wind on leather wings. The funk of dampness filled the air as the tiny creatures surged past the two huddled forms and up above the trees into an orange and navy sky.
As they turned to look at one another with the same wide eyes, the gaping mouths of the two boys coiled into nervous grins. They shuffled towards the hole again, peering into its dark depths.
“Maybe there’s a cave?”
“A secret lair!”
“Boys!” The clarion call from the house up the hill jolted both boys from their escalating guesses and up out of their squats. “Dinner!”
“Oh…” grumbled the pair with feigned regret.
Both turned forlornly towards as yet uninvestigated tunnel. They both kept their eyes locked on the dark pit in order to keep the other from seeing the relief that was filling their faces.
“Tomorrow,” suggested Sam with a nod.
“Yeah, tomorrow,” said Paul.
Their mutual and whole hearted agreement of putting their exploring off for another day went unspoken.
“Come on,” shrugged Sam.
Their sneakers spun on the loose leaves that littered the ground. They found traction with toes and fingers and dug into the soft soil. With churning legs they raced up towards the house set in the fading warmth of the setting sun. The mystery of the tunnel dwindled behind them with each step. It would return soon enough in the darkness of their dreams.