Looking back, its hard to imagine what my life might have become if I hadnt thrown an old coat over my nightgown, shoved my bare feet into a pair of furry pink snow boots, and run outside for a closer look. Ive found that such opportunities are few and far between. If you miss themor like most people simply fail to recognize themtheres no guarantee that another chance will ever come your way.
At the edge of the hole, I bent down on my hands and knees and peered into the abyss. The mist had turned to an icy rain that seeped into the lining of my boots and trickled over my toes. Mud oozed between my fingers, and in one of the hundreds of dark apartments that had turned a blind eye to the scene below, a dog howled a muffled warning. The orange rope still dangled inside the hole, its knotted end slowly sinking into the mud at the bottom.
The pit itself was far larger than I had imagined, and there was little to see where the earth had given way. But the hole had opened into an underground chamber that extended off to one side, the ground above it still solidly in place. In an oddly generous gesture, the creature had left a flashlight behind. It stood upright on a table and cast a column of light that illuminated a little room, half of it destroyed by Washington Irving, the other half still perfectly intact.
To those of you who are sticklers for safety and approach life with all the caution of amateur beekeepers, I can offer no excuse for what I did then. Ill admit that a more mature human being would never have let her curiosity take control.
Thankfully, I was still twelve and fully prepared to meet the challenge at hand.
Excerpted from Kiki Strike, (c) 2006 by Kirsten Miller. Reproduced with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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