I walked out the door and closed it behind me. I squinted at the bright light outside.

It's so sunny out here, I thought, while shielding my eyes with my book.

I started walking. I guessed going to the park was my only option.

"Alex!" A voice called.

I turned and saw a young boy running towards me.

"Hi Toby," I said.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"I'm going to the park," I answered.

"Can I come?"

"What about your friends? Why don't you go with them?"

"They're all busy! But I can't go to the park by myself, my mom said so. But I can go with you because you're older than me."

"You're sure your mom is okay with that?"

"Uh-huh! She doesn't want me to go alone, but if I go with you then it's okay!"

"Fine then, you can come with me. But you need to be a bit quieter; you talk so loud it's giving me a headache."

"Sorry," Toby said in a quieter voice. "Okay then, let's go to the park."

"Okay," I said as we started walking to the park.

My eyes open. Oh, man my head hurts. What happened? Didn't I jump off that cliff? How the hell could I have survived that? And where am I?

Looking to my left I see that I'm lying in a cave with a very small entrance. How did I get here? It looks like I would just barely fit through that hole. It's way too dark in here to see much. I get up and start crawling towards the entrance. Suddenly, I get pulled back. As I'm being pulled away, I catch a glimpse of the creature from before flying around outside.

"Do you just have a death wish?" someone says in a scolding tone.

I turn around.

"Ludice?" I say.

He grabs me by the shoulders.

"You were unbelievably lucky to survive that fall," he says angrily, "don't risk your life again by going back out there!"

I've never seen him this angry before.

"And what were you thinking, jumping, anyway?" he continues. "You could have died and what the hell would that accomplish? I'd be completely lost if anything happened to you!"

As he says that, he pulls me into a tight hug.

"When I said I had your back I meant it. Don't ever scare me like that again."

As he holds me close to his chest, I feel something wet hit my forehead. Is he… crying?

"Ludice… it's okay." I say.

"No, it's not," he says, his voice shaking. "What if you died? Promise me you won't do something like that ever again. Please."

He's really upset about this. I had no clue he'd react this way if I got hurt.

"I promise," I say. This is a matter of trust. If Ludice still trusts me, I have to make sure that doesn't change.

"Thank you," he says softly as he releases me from his arms.

He starts rubbing his upper right eye, trying to clear the tears away.

"Ludice?" I say.


"When I jumped, you yelled something. You said, "Alex", didn't you?"

"Yeah, I- I don't know why, it just came out."

That's it, isn't it? My name. Just like in my dream. It has to be.

"Alex is my name. It's my name. I forgot my own damn name! But how did you know it when I didn't?"

"I don't know. I just seemed to remember it at that exact moment. I've never called you a name before."

"What? Why not?" How did I not notice that?

"They told me that you were known as the coder, but it always felt wrong for me to say that and you never mentioned your name, so I never called you anything."

"Well, I guess it wouldn't have mattered anyway, because I had no clue until just now. I'm still wondering how you knew though."

"Like I said, it just came to me."

"I see," I say.

Something still doesn't add up.

"I have some questions," I say.


"First, how did both of us survive the fall?"

"I'm not sure. When you jumped, I had no choice but to jump too. You hit the ground before me. When I hit the ground, it hurt, but not as much as it should have. I wasn't even bruised. I don't know why."

"Okay," I say. "Second, where are we?"

"After I hit the ground I got up and saw that you were unconscious. I knew we had to get going because those things were coming. I saw this cave and dragged you in. The creatures are too big to get in, but they're still out there waiting for us."

"So we're stuck then?"

"Yeah, at least until those creatures go away."

"Damn it."

We sit in silence for a few minutes.

"So can I call you Alex now?" Ludice asks.

"Huh?" I look up at him.

"Well, since we know your name is Alex now; I should call you that, right?"

"You can if you want to."

"Then I will, Alex."

It's so strange, hearing him say my name. I guess I'll get used to it. Suddenly, I remember something.

"Where's my bag?" I ask.

"Oh! It's over there." Ludice says, pointing to the other side of the cave. "I'm not sure if all of your stuff survived the fall."

I stand up and hit my head on something.

"Ow!" I say, ducking down. It's so dark I didn't notice that the ceiling was so close.

"Are you okay?" Ludice asks.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"I didn't tell you that this cave isn't quite big enough to stand in."

"I see," I say, rubbing my head. "How were you able to drag me in here anyway? I must have been pretty heavy."

"Must have just been the adrenaline rush," he replies quickly.

"I guess so."

I crawl over to my bag and open it.

Pulling out my flashlight I say, "What would be the chance that this thing still works?"

I flick the switch and it actually works.

"Awesome," I say pointing it at Ludice.

"Don't shine that in my eyes," he says, trying to cover his face.

Strange. Something seems off about his mouth. His teeth look… sharper than normal.

"Hey, I think something's up with your teeth," I say, moving closer.

Ludice covers his mouth with his hands instantly.

"What are you saying? There's nothing wrong with my teeth."

"Come on, just let me look," I say, moving his hands away. Huh? Now they look completely normal.

"Never mind," I say, a bit embarrassed. "It must have just been my imagination."

"Oh. Good," Ludice says with a look of relief.

"So, do you think those things have left yet?" I ask.

"I dunno, let me check," he replies, crawling over to the entrance. He stays there for a minute before saying, "Looks like the coast is clear. We can get going now."

"Great!" I say, putting my flashlight away. I see Ludice crawl out ahead of me. I push my bag through the entrance and then follow behind him.

As I stand up and brush the dirt off myself, I look up.

"Hey look, there's the stream again!" I say excitedly.

"Yeah," Ludice says. "Only it's a lot farther away."

"Yeah. Well, at least there was a cave in the side of this cliff. We got pretty lucky."

Looking out in the direction we were headed, I see nothing but a wasteland and a huge hole in the ground. I look at Ludice. He looks just as confused. I pick up my bag and we both start to walk over to the hole.

"Well, I guess we've got a choice now," I say. "We can either keep walking until we find something or see what's in this hole."

As we reach the hole we look down into it. It's all dark down there.

"No way," Ludice says. "I'm not letting you fall again. Let's keep walking."

I look up at him. I want to protest, but I know he's right. It'd be better if we didn't have to keep risking our lives, especially if there's another option.


We keep on walking until…

"Ow!" I yell, as I feel my face smack into something. I fall back. What was that? I don't see anything.

"Alex, what happened?" Ludice asks, kneeling next to me.

"I don't know. I just hit something."

"No way. There's nothing here, how can that be?"

He stands up and walks forward with his hands out in front of him. Suddenly, he stops.

"I don't believe it," he says. "There's a wall here!

I stand up and walk forward the same way he did. My hands touch something solid.

"An invisible wall?" I say. I move to the side trying to find a way around. There isn't one.

"There's no way around, is there?" Ludice questions nervously.

"I guess not," I say, turning back to look at the hole. "I guess that lowers our options down to one."

"No way!" Ludice shouts suddenly. I look at him, surprised.

"I'm not risking something happening down there!" he says.

"Well, we've got no other choice," I say in a frustrated tone. "Let's at least check it out!"

I run back to the hole with Ludice following.

"It's too dark to even see anything in there!" he says worriedly. "There's no way to climb down."

I reach into my bag and pull out my flashlight, shining it into the hole. I can't see the bottom, but he's got a point. There's nothing we could use as a way to climb down, the walls are completely clear of anything resembling a foothold.

"There's no way we can get down there," he says.

Suddenly, a rumbling noise begins and the ground starts to shake. There's something moving in the hole. The dirt inside is moving! It's forming into… stairs?

It's almost like something heard Ludice's complaint.

"Impossible," Ludice says, shocked.

"After everything we've been through, I don't think anything's impossible anymore."

"I guess you're right," he says dismally.

"Let's get going."

Ludice looks at me with a scared expression.

I grab his hand.

"Ludice, I know you're scared, but please don't worry. I'll be with you every step of the way. I promise."

He looks at me, eyes shining with newfound confidence.

"Okay, Alex. Let's go."

He holds my hand tighter as we walk down into the dark hole.