What Lies Beneath

By Kathleen Doll Cristofaro (West Chester, PA)

My sister, Sally and I stumbled upon the half hidden doorway as we were looking for frogs in the forest. The door not only looked ancient but it seemed to dare us to explore what was lying beyond its threshold. “You go first” my sister Sally teased me as she gave me a push through the small doorway. “If there’s a hungry troll living in this cave he can eat you first while I make my escape.” Just before the creaky door slammed behind us we saw the room led into a narrow tunnel.

 “Why do you have to be so mean sometimes?” I asked as I held my hands out in front of me in the darkness. “And Sally, of course Mr. Troll would eat me first because I am your sweet as sugar sister.” I said with a laugh. Though it was dark in the little cramped room I was sure that Sally was standing behind me with a sour expression on her face and maybe even sticking her tongue out at me too.   

 “What’s the matter Patrice? Are you scared?” Sally taunted me as she sensed my hesitation to walk any further. I suddenly wished we were in the sunlit forest. I was afraid of the dark but pretended not to be as I took a deep breath and gave a loud whistle. The musical sound bounced off the walls with an eerie echo. I shrugged off my fears, “Hey Sally, maybe this tunnel leads to a flask of magical fairy dust. Then we’ll have powers to fly around the moon instead of only pretending at home when we jump off our beds.” I heard Sally’s shallow breath speed up as she whispered “I’m scared.” “Oh don’t be so silly Sally and remember this adventure was your idea.” Then I added hopefully, “Since this tunnel is so narrow let’s trail our hand on either side of us. Then no werewolves will be able to get past us. How’s that for a plan?” My proud feeling quickly left as I heard Sally snicker. “Oh Patrice, do you hear yourself?  The monsters won’t be able to get past us which means that you and I won’t be able to get past them either. Real good idea Scarecrow.”  I shuffled my feet forward and away from Sally hoping she wouldn’t notice my sulking silence of hurt feelings.

We fell into step with each other for a bit until suddenly we both broke out into screams. We had walked right into a curtain of wispy spider webs that attached themselves to our clothes, hair, hands, face….Yuck!  We brushed ourselves off as our hearts pounded.  I was surprised to feel Sally’s sweaty hand reach out and grab mine tightly. Then she reached over with her other hand and pinched my arm. “Ouch! What did you do that for?” Sally only laughed.  After taking a few steps I stopped and yanked her close to me. “What was that?” I whispered in a shaky voice.   “What? What?” Sally whined.  “I didn’t hear anything.  Do you think it’s a Gargoyle or a possum?” “Shhhhhh! Listen!” I demanded.  Only when I was positive that Sally was straining to hear, I leaned over and shouted “BBBBBOOOOOOOOO! loudly into her ear.” 

 Sally jumped higher than a frog and pushed away from me so fast that we both lost our balance. Even after bumping my head on the wall but I couldn’t stop laughing.  I heard Sally crawling towards me, “You are simply awful to have done that Patrice.” Sally snuffled.  I immediately regretted my joke as I could tell she was close to tears.  “Sally I’m sorry.  Are you okay?” I asked with concern.  “Okay, sure.” She answered.  “I guess I won’t pinch your arm anymore. I’m sorry too.” she admitted as she helped me up.  “We better retrace our steps back to the door before Mom starts getting worried.” I said.  Then I heard Sally chuckle, “It’s okay Patrice, I’ll just tell Mommy you forced me to come down here with you.”  I was glad my sister could not see me make a face at her in the dark. 

“Look!” Sally shouted excitedly.  Coming to the end of tunnel we found ourselves in a small room.  A dim ray of light suddenly surrounded us.  We could barely make out that this was the end of the tunnel. But where was the glow coming from?  “It’s Magic,” was all I could figure to say. Then I saw the terror on Sally’s face as she pointed to something over my shoulder. “A monster!” she yelped.  I turned and gasped.  “Oh my goodness, it’s a Witch!” We screamed as we held onto each other.  Then right before our eyes the image changed. 

The Monster was gone and in her place a pretty lady stood across the room from us.   In awe I pointed. “Oh, she’s beautiful!” at the same time Sally said “WOW, it’s an Angel.” 

Suddenly the room was pitched back into darkness but not before we got our bearings and ran down the tunnel path in the direction of the door.  “Sally. Wait for me.”  I shouted as I scrambled after her.  We both got to the small wooden door at the same time and before we could even turn the knob, it opened.  We tripped over the threshold and fell into a heap at the feet of our Mom.  “I thought that was where you both escaped to. I sure hope you left some dust and cobwebs down there for the next set of curious kids.” Mommy said as she knelt down beside us and wiped our faces with her lilac scented handkerchief. Mommy pulled us both into her lap with a laugh.  We were so happy to be back in the sunlight that Sally and I threw our arms around each other and Mommy too.    

An amused smile played across the Mother’s freckled face as she looked at her precious daughters, Sally and Patrice. “So girls, what did you see past the tunnel?”  Both Sally and Patrice looked at each other in a silent dare until Patrice spoke up.  “I saw a Witch!  Then she shifted and suddenly a beautiful lady appeared.  Then the light started going out and Sally was so scared that she took off running and I ran too but only to make sure she was safe.”

Sally made a face at Patrice then looked she picked up the story when she was sure she had their Mothers’ attention. “I saw an ugly monster then somehow she turned into the most beautiful angel this side of the clouds. Then I thought I heard you calling so I ran, not because I was afraid like Patrice was.”

Mom was quiet for a moment and hugged us both in her arms as we sat together.  “You both saw something ugly, which turned into something pretty, right? Do you girls have an explanation for that?” their mother asked with smile in her voice. “It was a wizard playing tricks on our eyes?” Patrice volunteered. “Maybe it was a trapped Genie.” Sally offered.  “Nope, it was neither of those.” The sisters were surprised to hear their Mom say. 

Patrice’s eyes filled with tears. “Pinkie Swear Mommy.  I really did see a lady, and she was almost as pretty as you too. Her eyes had a sparkle of playful tenderness in them and her smile is like yours sometimes, nice but sad too.” “What a perfect description Patrice.” Sally said. “That is the same lady I saw too.  Do you think she’s a captured guardian angel? Where do you think she came from? Do you think that Witch ate her?  Should we go back and try to free her?  Is her Mom looking for her? Do you think she is afraid of spiders too?”

Patrice swiped her tears away “Well, I hope the spiders spun a web on that ugly witch. Oh she was awful, right Sally?” Patrice’s sister huddled closer to their Mom as she nodded for Patrice to continue.  “Her mouth was drawn out in such an ugly fashion and her eyes were like icy slivers of meanness.  I hope she never comes out of that dark place.  I think the Angel rescued us so the ugly one won’t follow after us. Right, Mommy?” 

“Well girls, let me tell you a secret. I actually know what lies beneath because that door has been there for centuries. When your Grandma Pasqualina was young she set out to explore that old cave too. Even your very own Mother has the same story too. We all saw the same pretty lady and the ugly lady too.  Funny thing is though it was years ago, I think I was about the same age as you both are now.  Can you tell me what you found out about what lies beneath? I’ll give you a hint. You see this everyday and whatever you put into it, it gives right back.  What is it? Guess.”  Sally and Patrice looked at each other with huge eyes waiting for their Mom to give them the answer.

“The truth is we all either see the same thing or something different.  But there is only one answer for all of us.  We all saw the angel because in this lifetime that is what each of us will become to others at times.  We all also saw the witch which is a reminder that there is a potential to be ugly but it does not stay if you are full of goodness.  Now how about you girls show me how to catch a frog.  Come on my little sweet little Angels.”  Mommy said.

As Mommy swung us off her lap, Sally got to her feet and planted a little kiss on Mommy’s cheek then leaned over and gave me one too.  As we got to our feet Mommy took Sally’s hand and mine into her own as we happily skipped down the forest trail. 

 Later that night as I chatted with the Moon I told him the secret I learned that afternoon. What lies beyond that door is a small room holding the very best of what lies beneath. It is more than imagination and fears. I knew the answer to Mommy’s question but I wanted the secret to remain guarded. There is good and bad in all of us but we must hope to always be our best down to the skin of our souls. It was hard to believe that what lies beneath is nothing more than our true selves reflected in a Magic Mirror……….

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