Resentful and angry, Sasha is determined to match her cousins’ dislike with her own – until the twins’ latest prank goes disastrously wrong and Bree is lost in an unexplored cave beneath the family farm…
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Genre/s: urban fantasy
Length: short story
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Sasha rammed her feet into the thick grass as she climbed the steep side of the hill. Her breath was coming in pants through clenched teeth, and sweat slicked her skin beneath her shirt, even though the winter wind was cold against her face.
She hated her cousins for taking her out for a long walk across the hills around their farm and leaving her out here in the middle of nowhere.
But she hated her mother even more for leaving her behind while she and the New Bloke went off on their honeymoon to Seattle in America to meet the New Bloke’s family.
For six weeks.
Sasha knew the New Bloke didn’t like her, even though he was a master at hiding his feelings in front of Mum. She didn’t like him much either. He was smarmy and rich and his smile didn’t reach his eyes. He called her kiddo, in the most condescending voice ever, even though she was nearly sixteen.
So she called him the New Bloke, both to herself and to Mum.
And to him, after they’d told her they’d be leaving her with Uncle Warren and Auntie Amiria on their dairy farm at Waitomo.
Sasha reached the top of the hill and stood, breathing in the crisp, clean air. The sun beat down from a clear sky, and the hills around were carpeted in thick grass with huge grey rocks sticking out here and there, or clothed in dense bushland. Uncle Warren had said the rocks were limestone outcroppings. Waitomo Caves Village was built on limestone bedrock, and there were a huge expanse of caves under it and the farms around it, carved out over millions of years by water trickling through cracks in the limestone. Uncle Warren had told her there were over three hundred documented caves, and more were being found all the time. Some of them were just shallow holes in the landscape, but others reached hundreds of metres underground, dark and twisting and filled with insects or bats. Some even had underground streams and lakes that Uncle Warren called ‘black water’.
Her aunt and uncle had both told her not to go into any caves on her own, unless they were the shallow hollow-in-the-side-of-the-hill kind.
Sasha shaded her eyes against the afternoon sun and looked around, trying to spot her uncle’s farmhouse. It was large and sprawling with a dark grey roof. Sheds had been built about half a kilometre away from the house, and fences squared off the seven paddocks from one another. When she’d set off with Drew and Breeanna after lunch, with Auntie Amiria waving them off cheerfully, they’d walked past hundreds of cows dotting the paddocks.
Now all she could see were green hills and greener trees and grey stone.
Fear twisted at Sasha’s stomach, followed swiftly by anger. Drew and Bree had done this on purpose, led her for an hour’s walk up and down and around and across a stream to see the small cave Aunt Amiria had asked them to take her to.
‘It’s got fossils in, love, and shells,’ Aunt Amiria had said, her smile wide in her brown face. ‘Wiremu told me you like rocks and fossils. Him and me found it when we were little tackers.’
And while Sasha was engrossed in the cave that opened mouth-like from the hill, tracing the fossils of ancient fish in the walls visible in the light of her phone’s torch, her cousins had snuck away and left her there.