I woke to a small hand shaking my shoulder. For a few quick moments I forgot where I was, I forgot everything that had happened in the last two days. Then I remember the inhabitants, Mila’s vision and the Inn we had found to stay in.
I blinked open my eyes and found myself inches from the face of Bridgit. Her bright blue eyes were wide and piercing into mine. She was kneeling beside my bed, so the only thing I could see was her eyes and forehead.
“What’s going on Bridgit?” I grumbled. I did not think she would be able to understand me, but I guess she did, because she responded with;
“I’m scared, can I sleep with you?” My vision adjusted a little bit more and I noticed that her eyes were watering.
“Of course you can.” I slid over to make room for her and Bridgit climbed under the covers beside me. The bed was so small that we were pushed up against each other and I could feel her heartbeat and how it was racing. I put my arm around her and listened as her breathing grew steadier and she finally fell asleep. Only minutes later I was asleep as well.
* * *
The next morning went past so quickly. Sophia showed up in our room at 4:50 a.m. to wake us up.
“You all have ten minutes to get ready and do whatever you need to do and meet down stairs.” She yelled into our room as she disappeared into the next room.
“Bridgit.” I whispered her name beside her ear as gently as I could but the child didn’t move. I put my hands on her shoulders and shook her. “It’s time to get up.” I told her.
She rolled out of the blanket and off of the bed. I watched for a moment as she walked across the room and to her brother who was sprawled out on the chair. Bridgit bent beside his ear, whispered a few words, too quietly for me to hear, and her brother stirred and opened his eyes. That’s when I stopped watching and decided to be productive.
I got up and flicked on the light switch. My vision started to blur and I had to blink to be able to adjust them. I went over to my bag, opened the zipper and pulled out my hot pink makeup bag. I also grabbed a pair of my black American Apparel leggings, a pink tank top, and my black, leather jacket.
I pulled my shirt over my head and started to change. I finished within a minute or so, put my old clothes back into my bag and went back to sit cross-legged on my bed. I opened my makeup bag and placed it beside me, pulling out a couple things that I would need, including a small mirror. I quickly put a small amount of foundation on my face and concealer under my eyes. I finished with a swipe of mascara on each eye and my favorite, sparkly, tan eye shadow.
“You ready to go?” Matthew asked, walking over and stopping at the end of the bed. Bridgit followed a small step behind him, almost like a shadow.
“Yup.” I responded quickly, closing the pink bag, hopping off the bed and grabbing my other bag before skipping out the door of our room.
When we got downstairs to the front desk we were the only ones.
“We’d like to sign out.” I told the man who was sitting at the desk. He was the same man who was sitting there when we arrived and I wondered to myself if he had been sitting there the whole time.
“Room number, please?” he asks me without looking up.
“Rooms 201, 202, and 203.”
“That’ll be $110.” He informed me.
I pulled my backpack off my right shoulder, and around in front of me. The zipper opened swiftly and smoothly when I pulled on it. I could see my navy blue wallet in my bag, I picked it up and pulled out 6 $20 bills. I handed them to the man and he handed me back a 10, still without looking up, even once.
That’s when Sophia and the others wandered down the stairs toward us.
“May I have your room keys please?” the man asked.
“I already paid.” I turned to Sophia, who was rummaging through her own backpack, to tell her.
“Thanks Sam, I’ll pay you back.” She informed me. I waved my hand at her, as if to say; whatever.
Sophia opened her hand and dumped the three room keys onto the desk. As they hit the desk they clattered. And we were off to the falls.
We all got back into the car we arrived in. Within ten minutes we were really close to the falls, close enough that when we opened the windows we could feel the mist coming from the water.
I was extremely surprised that we found a parking spot so close. We were able to walk from the parking spot to the tunnels under the falls in less than 5 minutes.
When we got there a man in a plastic, yellow rain coat was standing behind a podium. Above him was a sign with prices.
“How many?” He asked.
Katrina turned and counted everyone and then responded; “7 people.”
“That’ll be $53.68”
“Here you go.” Sophia passed the man a fifty and a five and waited with her hand out for the change. He dropped a couple coins into her hand and passed her 7 tickets, one for each of us.
The man gestured towards a tunnel and we followed Sophia through it. Inside the tunnel, the walls were stone and damp. Everything was dark gray. At the end of the tunnel was a small, square room. A single light bulb hung on the ceiling, flickering as it swung back and forth above our heads. The room was so small that we didn't all fit into it, Matthew and Kat were still standing in the mouth of the tunnel. An elevator was across from us, the doors themselves were metal, but on either side were windows, and you could see that the elevator was not there at the moment. Eventually the metal roof of the elevator appeared and slowly, the elevator raised until the doors opened. Inside stood a woman in clothes that made her look like she should be a flight attendant. An extremely fake and tired smile was plastered across her face. She was short, but not extremely short, her hair was brown and was arranged in a perfect bun on top of her head.
“Welcome,” the woman started. “to Niagara Falls.”
We all followed Sophia into the elevator. It was made completely of metal and was just a little bit bigger than the stone room. We crammed ourselves in and the woman turned a golden key by the doors and they closed.
“You are about to venture under the falls.” The woman started talking again. Her speech seemed very formal and dull, like it was just something that she had to memorize, nothing more. “The tunnels are hundreds of years old and there are interesting stories and facts that you will be able to read. The tunnels are made completely of stone and are usually damp, which makes them slippery, so be careful. It is guaranteed that when you find your way to the platform you will get wet, it is suggested that you wear rain coats.” she stopped talking and pushed a button on the wall behind her and turned back to us.
The elevator started to move, it moved for minutes before finally stopping. The doors opened into a large, rectangular room. Straight across from the elevator another stone tunnel started. In the middle of the room stood a line that was sectioned off, though there weren't actually any people in the line. Against the right wall was a green screen and a man standing behind a camera. On the opposite wall stood a long, wooden desk. A computer was easily visible on it, and another man was sitting behind the computer looking really into what he was working on. One by one, we stepped out of the elevator. The man behind the camera led us over to stand in front of the green screen and retook his place behind the camera, once again. We arranged ourselves, waiting for him to take a picture and continued on to a pedestal where a third man stood. He asked for our tickets and then waved us through the doorway.
“The statue said that it'll be like a plaque on the wall, so everyone keeps your eyes open. It's really early so there shouldn't be very many people, if any, but still just be careful.” Sofia told us.
We started walking along the hallways in small groups, scattered and all stumbling around sleepily. Bridgit was walking only a few feet away from me, he head hanging, watching her feet on the gray stone. All of a sudden she had toppled over and was sitting on the ground. Across from her stood a boy who looked like he was around her age. His face was bright red and he reached out his hand to her.
“I'm so sorry!” I heard him exclaim.
“Don't worry about it.” Bridgit giggled.
Giggled? I've never heard Bridgit giggle before! I thought to myself.
I stopped walking and watched the scene from a few feet away.
“My name is Noah.” The boy announced. Bridgit reached up and took his hand, and he pulled her to her feet. They stood only inches apart, both of them blushing. Neither of them stepped away from the other, they stayed facing each other in silence until Bridgit whispered;
“My name is Bridgit.”
“That's a beautiful name.”
“Thank you!” I had never seen Bridgit smile so brightly.
Sophia walked up from behind me and touched y shoulder.
“Sam what's going on?” she asked me, not taking her eyes off of Bridgit and Noah, who couldn't keep their eyes off each other.
“Bridgit just made a new friend.” I told her with a laugh.
Sophia looked at me, her eyebrows furrowed together and lines had appeared on hr forhead, she looked sick and worried. “Sam.” she whispered, looking directly into my eyes. “My head hurts.” Was the last thing she said before her eyes closed and she fell onto the stone floor.
Again? I asked myself.
A few short moments later, Sophia's eyes opened and she sat up. Everyone else had been too distracted to notice what was happening. I knelt down beside her and she whispered to me.
“That boy.” was all she said, pointing towards Noah. I locked eyes with Sophia for a short moment then called out;
“Bridgit! Can you come here for a second?” She looked over at where I knelt and then looked back to Noah. I saw her lips move as she spoke to him and then she scurried over to Sophia and I.
“Your new friend.” i whispered. “He's inhabited.”
“I think you should be the one to explain it to him.” Sophia spoke only to the little girl. “He doesn't know any of us and you guys seem to be getting along well. But we're still here if you need our help explaining anything.”
“I think he'll believe me and come with us. Plus, he said that he's lost and can't find his parents, so it'll be easy for him to just slip away with us. They'll just think he got lost.” Bridgit informed us.
“Perfect, I say you tell him now and then you both work on finding the plaque.” I told her, and Bridgit turned on her heels and skipped back over to where the curious little boy was watching her from.
I stood and reached out my hand to Sophia, who was still sitting on the stone floor. She placed her hand in mine and i pulled her to her feet as well.
We continued to walk together, neither one of us saying a word. Our footsteps echoed, the sound bouncing around the tunnel. Left, right, left, right. We made our way past Bridgit and Noah. The large smile and obvious blush had disappeared from his face and now both children were whispering quickly. Their faces serious and bodies stiff.
“Guys over here!” Daniel called from a little farther up than everyone else. When I reached him almost everyone else was already there. He was kneeling and staring at a rusted old plaque on the wall that was at the height of my knees. The plaque looked way older than any of the others we had seen and the words were not English and french, they were Greek. “Do you think this is it?” Daniel asked.
“Of course it is, what else would it be?” Dylan rolled his eyes at his friend.
“Can you read it, Sam?” Sophia directed everyone's attention to me. I walked closer to the wall and Daniel moved, so i took his spot, kneeling in front of the plaque.
“All shall pass but one, give innocence to the gods, and enter the dark.” I read.