Something was waiting for Riley in the dark.
“That’s not fair,” they said. “You know I don’t have good vision in dark places. Get out where I can see you.”
The form shifted, but didn’t acquiesce. Whether from shyness or stubbornness, Riley would just have to figure out themself.
“Look. I can’t help you if you don’t let me get a good look at you. You know?” It wasn’t like they needed to get home or anything, before their parents could see whatever their brother had gotten up to in the meantime.
A hand reached the very edge of the shadows, beckoning them closer. It dripped ash.
Steeling themself, Riley stepped in.
The night was not dark or stormy. If it had been, perhaps they would have been more careful. As it was, the three of them stumbled right into the hole and fell.
The eldest’s lantern broke, the middle’s extinguished, but the youngest’s light still shone. Mainly because she broke its fall by bashing her own head against the ground. The world swayed around her.
“Are you all right?” the middle sibling asked. He brushed his hands over her hair, coming away with blood. He grimaced.
“Take her light,” the eldest instructed. He did so. She wanted to protest, but her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth.
Her eldest sibling picked her up. Cradled in their arms, she felt all arguments fall from her mind, replaced by a new sense of clarity.
“Can we climb back up?”
“Not like this. We search for another way.”
It’s just a hole, she wanted to say. But as she felt them walk, continue to walk away, she realized it couldn’t be a mere hole in the ground.
They had found the entrance to the Vault.
A dark and stormy night dimmed in comparison to what it was at that very moment.
“I can’t see.”
“Well you’re standing on my foot.”
Hastily, he shifted his foot off of theirs. “Why is it so dark?”
“When the sun’s blocked on the other side of the planet, where would the light come from?”
No moon, no stars. His mind scrambled to understand, wiping his hair blackened by soot away from his eyes with the back of his hand. “Now what?”
To give them credit, they never sounded annoyed by his questions. “Keep warm. Nothing more we can do.”
That was always the worst thing to hear. Nothing he could do. The fire gave them warmth, but it was still dark.