Brynne puckered her lips and furrowed her brow.
She squeezed the stone in her hand. It was cold and heavy, caked in the mud of the forest floor.
Brynne hurled the rock into the cave mouth with all the strength her eight year old body could muster.
It hit the darkness and was swallowed immediately.
Brynne’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. She exhaled slowly, her breath misting in the chilly air.
“It’s legit, you guys.”
Anella peeked out from where she was hiding behind Brynne. Her voice was full of wonder.
“The Portal Cave.”
“Okay, no. No, Brynne. Anella! Forget it!”
Cecily stepped in front of her sisters and shook her head.
“Anella!” Cecily crossed her arms emphatically and planted her feet. “I’m serious! We’re going back. Now!”
Cecily had only just reached her tenth birthday, but as the oldest of the three sisters, she had adopted the role of mother superior.
It was Cecily who had kept them together as they were shuffled from one foster family to another. It was Cecily who was able to calm Brynne when her sister’s temper threatened to have her sent to boarding school. It was Cecily who told Anella the stories their father used to tell them at bedtime.
And it was Cecily who reminded her younger sisters what their father looked like, during those lonely, terrible nights when they confessed, honestly and with tears in their eyes, that his face was fading from their memories.
It was not Cecily, however, who had found father’s journal.
That was young Anella.
The five year old had been unpacking with her sisters at their latest foster home, when she saw the old, leather-bound diary sitting at the bottom of her pink suitcase.
Brynne gasped. Cecily put her hand to her mouth in shock.
“Father’s journal…” Anella whispered.
The diary of Ezra Blankenship: world traveler, amateur adventurer, scientist, archaeologist.
He had many titles, but none as important to his daughters as “Daddy”.
Blankenship had mysteriously vanished two years ago, and the discovery of the journal was both emotional and perplexing. A romantic and dreamer, as well as a great scholar, Blankenship disappeared one night in the middle of dinner. He was never seen or heard from again.
“It can’t be.” Cecily stared.
“It is.” Brynne said through gritted teeth. “Look.”
She pointed at the first page.
“To Daddy, With Love From CeeCee, Brynne, and Anella”
Cecily took the journal from her sister and turned to the first page. Her sisters crowded around
“’My three angels,’” Cecily read out loud. Immediately, she put the journal down and backed away.
“Ceecee?” Anella’s eyes were wide, worried. “What’s wrong?”
“That’s us, Anella.” Brynne’s voice was soft and fearful. “Father used to call us that. We’re his three angels.”
“This is bad.” Cecily shook her head. She was holding the journal away from her as if it were cursed. “I’ve got a bad feeling, you guys. Where did this even come from?”
“Does it matter?” Anella cried out. “Keep reading, Ceecee!”
Cecily slowly opened the journal and resumed.
“’My three angels, do not be afraid. I know where you are. You are in the house of Joseph and Kathleen Sullivan, your newest foster family. Cecily’s hair is in a ponytail, Brynne is wearing her usual beanie, and Anella is wearing her Smiley Bears t-shirt.”
“I am!” Anella squealed in amazement.
“Whoa,” Brynne gaped.
“’I believe that I will have been lost to you for two years-’”
“Two years, two months, a week, and four days.” Brynne interrupted. “But who’s counting?”
“’Luckily, if my calculations are correct, we will all be reunited soon.’”
“Hooray!” Anella clapped her hands, beaming.
“’It was never my intention to leave you. Please forgive me. I have always loved you, more than anything else in the world…and although it broke my heart to leave you behind…please believe that I could not take you with me…’”
“CeeCee?” Brynne put a hand on her older sister’s shoulder.
“I hear him, Brynne.” Cecily said in a shaking voice. “I can hear his voice.”
Brynne gently took the journal from Cecily’s shaking hands, and continued reading.
“’…I could not take you with me, because I could not guarantee your safety. You see, my angels, there are…powers…that exist. Evil monsters, like in the stories I used to read you at bedtime. I have discovered a portal, like a gateway, and it led me to where the monsters live. It turns out there are many portals, hidden in the world around us, and we didn’t even know it.’”
“Daddy…” Cecily put her arm around Anella and held her close as her younger sister cried.
“But the monsters are gone now. I have fought them, and defeated them. It is safe for us to be together again. Inside this journal I’ve placed a map. It will lead you through the forest behind the Sullivan house to a cave in the forest. This Portal Cave will open at precisely…’”
“It’s open! Brynne, CeeCee, look!”
The girls turned to see the darkness of the cave shimmer and part, like black velvet curtains. Within, they could see the ruins of what was once a great castle. It was twilight, and bats flew from the upper windows and disappeared beyond view.
“We have to go, CeeCee.” Brynne scowled. “Dad is in there, and I’m going to find him.”
“Let’s go!” Anella ran into the cave.
“Anella!” the other two followed.
When they emerged, a welcoming party was waiting for them.
Knights clad in dark armor, their faces hidden behind fully enclosed helmets.
Rumbled the leader, a knight with a black cape, as the girls huddled close to each other.
This man wasn’t their father.
They couldn’t see any of the knights’ faces, but the sisters knew that their father wasn’t among them.
This was because their father’s bloody severed head was hanging from the leader’s saddle.
A short story about the love three daughters have for their father, and for each other, in the face of unimaginable horror. Two years ago Cecily, Brynne, and Anella lost their father when he mysteriously disappeared without a trace. Now, after shuffling from one foster family to another, the three sisters have just about lost all hope of ever seeing their father again. Until one day, young Anella discovers their father's journal. The sisters must now make sense of the unbelievable things written within. If the journal is to be believed, their father is alive, and has been fighting monsters in an alternate dimension. Now, he wants to see them again, but in order to be reunited, the girls must brave the dangers of...The Cave