Isaac’s Adventures Underground: Chapter Six

“Listen, children,” the grasshopper said. “I will tell you the story of the musician and the evil critics.”

“Oooooooh,” the caterpillars said together, as though they’d just seen a particularly amazing firework. There weren’t any fireworks, though. Isaac looked up, just to check.

“Once, there was a remarkably brilliant musician. He spent all his time practicing and performing, so you know he had to be quite good. He was also handsome and intelligent, but that goes without saying.” The grasshopper paused. “You’re supposed to ask if the story is about me,” he said.

“Is the story about you?” a caterpillar asked.

“Maybe,” the grasshopper said. He paused again.

“Is the story about you?” another caterpillar asked.

“Well, all right, it is. I shouldn’t have included the handsome and intelligent part. I knew that would give it away,” the grasshopper said. He smoothed back an antenna and winked.

“Tell us more!” a caterpillar said. “I want to hear the story,” another said.

“Very well, very well,” the grasshopper said. “It is a tragic story, but don’t worry, the hero will be just fine. The good guys always win, you know.”

The caterpillars cheered.

“Thank you, thank you. So, where was I? Oh yes. The musician had finally selected a venue for a series of concerts. It was large and flat and filled with free vegetables, sure to draw a crowd. The musician settled in for a sound check. Acoustics are important, and he needed to be certain that everything was just right.”

“And was it?” a caterpillar asked.

“It was. Unfortunately, this is when our hero first met the evil critics. They came crawling out of a hole in the ground, and started at once with the complaining. They blabbered away about unimportant things like playing loudly in the middle of the night and trespassing in their gardens, and it was all so tiresome.”   The grasshopper sighed sadly.

“Awwwww,” the caterpillars said.

The grasshopper shook his head. “I know. So, the musician reminded them that he was bigger and they were smaller and really they were lucky to have such good seats for the concerts. Unfortunately, they couldn’t see their good fortune. They insisted on chasing the musician away and telling him he’d do better spending his time growing and storing food for winter. As though he had time for that!”

“What did you do?” a small caterpillar asked.

“I, er, he found somewhere else to play,” the grasshopper said. “My summer concerts were quite a success, of course.   Even the birds swooped down close to listen in.”

“Birds?” a caterpillar asked nervously. Everyone looked up.

“Yes, well, it was just the once, and I’m sure the audience member died happy.   The musician dedicated the next concert to him,” the grasshopper said. “Things were great until the weather turned a little nippy. It was time to find a new venue. Somewhere warmer, with more food. He remembered those critics and their hole in the ground and vegetable garden.”

“That sounds perfect,” a caterpillar squealed.

“I thought so, too. I mean, the musician thought so. So, he offered to play for them for room and board, and those critics said they had their own musicians and didn’t really want to hear the musician play at all hours.”

The caterpillars gasped.

The grasshopper nodded. “They only let the musician stay with them when he promised to help with their garden in the spring to pay them back for his room and board.”

“Was working in the garden terrible?” a caterpillar asked.

“I didn’t do it, of course. The barbarians! I need the time to practice and perform. Besides, I put up with them all winter telling me to not play at night and stop trying to drown out the other musicians at their parties. They just went on and on. The first chance I got, I was out of there. I mean, the musician was. And he lived happily ever after. The end.”

The caterpillars cheered. Just then, the bushes rustled and a mob of ants rushed into the clearing. Isaac stayed curled up and hoped they wouldn’t recognize him. They didn’t even look in his direction.

They surrounded the grasshopper and dragged him away. “Unhand me, you ruffians, you ants, you music critics,” he yelled. His voice grew fainter as he got further away, until Isaac couldn’t understand the words any more.

“Let’s go home,” one of the caterpillars said. And they all wandered away, until Isaac was the only one left in the clearing.

“Now where do I go?” he asked. “He didn’t give me any directions at all.”

Isaac’s Adventures Underground: Chapter Five

At first, Isaac was mostly worried about getting away from the log house quietly, as far away and as quickly as possible. But after a while of nothing coming crashing out of the undergrowth behind him, he slowed down and realized that he had no idea where he was.

He was lost in the middle of a potted plant forest in a hotel lobby at the bottom of a cave in the middle of the woods next to Jimmy’s house.

When he thought about it like that, it sounded like nonsense. He stopped and looked around.   How could all of this be inside the potted plant? Just then, he heard music. There was a violin playing a cheerful tune somewhere nearby.

Perhaps the musician would be able to give him directions.   Cautiously, Isaac followed the music.   He didn’t want to be too loud, just in case it was the ants again.

He peeked through some bushes into a clearing and was relieved to see that there weren’t any ants there. Instead, a grasshopper was playing a violin and humming, while several fuzzy caterpillars danced in circles and laughed.

The grasshopper stopped playing. “Are you having fun yet?” he asked.

“Yes,” the caterpillars responded in unison.

“Good,” the grasshopper said. “If you’re not having fun, then it’s not worth doing. Next song!” And he started playing again.

The caterpillars started dancing again. It wasn’t an organized sort of dance at all. Each was running around the clearing randomly or spinning in circles or stomping their feet in time with the music.

Two of the caterpillars raced towards each other coming from opposite directions. Both were laughing and neither was looking where they were going. “Watch out,” Isaac yelled.

The caterpillars looked in Isaac’s direction and continued running. A second later, they ran into each other and began to cry. “Now look what you’ve done,” the grasshopper said. “The dancing isn’t fun any more. You might as well come out of the bushes and tell us a joke or a story to make up for it.”

Isaac pushed the branches aside and walked into the clearing. “Hi, I’m Isaac,” he began.

“Introductions are boring,” the grasshopper said. “Skip to the joke.”

“After I tell you a joke, would you help me..” Isaac began.

“I’m always very helpful,” the grasshopper interrupted.

“Well that’s good,” Isaac began.

“What is?” the grasshopper asked.

“What is what?”

“What is good?” the grasshopper asked.

“Helping,” Isaac said.

“Of course it is,” the grasshopper said. “If it wasn’t good, it wouldn’t be helping, would it?”

“I don’t think so,” Isaac said, feeling a little confused. “Would you like me to tell a joke now?”

“Yes, pleasure before business,” the grasshopper said.

“Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?” Isaac asked.

“Of course not,” the grasshopper said. “If you work first, you might not have time for play. So you must play first. That’s the good part.”

“But then you might not get your work done,” Isaac said.

“Even better,” the grasshopper said. “It’s like eating your dessert first. If you’re lucky, maybe you can only eat dessert all the time and be too full to eat anything else.”

“I don’t think that’s very healthy,” Isaac said.

“Who wants to be healthy?” the grasshopper asked. “Now tell us a joke.”

“A joke!” “A joke!” “Tell us a joke!” the caterpillars said. They stomped on the ground with their feet until it sounded like thunder.   Isaac cleared his throat and suddenly everything was silent.

And Isaac couldn’t think of any jokes at all. After what felt like a very long time, he remembered one. He smiled. “I think I know one about a zebra with a sunburn. Or was it a penguin? No, I think it was a newspaper.”

“You are terrible at telling jokes,” the grasshopper said. “I will tell a story.”

“First could you tell me…” Isaac began.

But the caterpillars began to chant, “A story!” “A story!” and stomp their feet until Isaac couldn’t even hear himself talk. The grasshopper played a few notes and the caterpillars settled down.

Isaac sighed. He could ask for directions after the story. Surely it wouldn’t take all that long. He wrapped his arms around his legs and put his chin on his knees and waited for the story to begin.

Isaac’s Adventures Underground: Chapter Four

Isaac hadn’t been walking long, when he met a little red ladybug walking slowly through the forest. “Hello,” he said. “Where are you going?”

“Hello,” the ladybug said. “I’m taking a basket of treats to share with my grandmother.”

And indeed, Isaac saw that the ladybug was carrying a large basket. He suddenly realized that he was rather hungry. “What kinds of treats?” he asked.

The ladybug clutched the basket a little closer. “They’re not for you,” she said. “They’re for my grandmother. She lives at the end of the path deep in the woods and doesn’t get treats often. Don’t be greedy.”

“I wasn’t going to take any,” Isaac said. And as the ladybug was walking really slowly, Isaac left her behind and kept walking.

Before long, he found a house made of dried grass and leaves. “That looks like a ladybug house,” he said to himself. He knocked gently on the door. It looked rather brittle. The dry grass rustled as an old ladybug answered the door.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I’m Isaac. I’m lost. Can you give me directions?”

“Where do you want to go?” the old ladybug asked.

“Home. If you could just tell me how to get out of the cave, I can get home from there,” Isaac said.

“This is a house,” the ladybug said. “It’s not a cave. It may be small, but there is no need to be insulting.”

“It’s a very nice house,” Isaac said. “But it’s inside a cave.”

“No, it’s inside a forest,” the ladybug said. She looked nervous.

“But the forest is inside a cave,” Isaac said.   “It’s not really a forest either.   It’s a potted plant.”

The ladybug looked even more nervous. “I’m sorry, I can’t help you,” she said in a shaky voice.   She started to close the door.

“Wait,” Isaac said. He caught the edge of the door. The dried grass ripped and crumbled. The door folded in on itself.

“Help!” the old ladybug shrieked. “Help me!” She dashed into the house and darted under a bed in the corner.

“I’m sorry about the door,” Isaac said. “I could help you fix it.” He stepped just inside the door and looked around. The house was all one room, with a bed in one corner and a table next to it with two chairs. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he said.

The old ladybug didn’t reply. Isaac sighed and turned to leave. The little ladybug was standing just outside the door. She dropped her basket of treats. “You ate my grandmother,” she said. And then she started to scream. “Help! Help!”

“She’s just under the bed,” Isaac said. “I didn’t eat her.” But the little ladybug kept screaming.

Suddenly, there were crashing sounds coming from all around. A few moments later, an army of ants surrounded the little house. “He broke into my grandmother’s house and ate her,” the little ladybug wailed. The ants looked at the broken door, and then they looked at Isaac.   They surrounded him and carried him away.

“Wait,” Isaac said. “I didn’t do it. She’s hiding under the bed.” The ants didn’t stop.

They carried him deeper into the forest, and stopped in front of a house built of twigs. They threw him inside and slammed the door. Isaac sat up and groaned. That hurt. He looked around. The house was just an empty room with a dirt floor. He could see out through the cracks between the twigs.

The twigs looked like someone had just stacked them together. If he pulled on the wrong one, the whole thing would come crashing down. Isaac smiled. He’d played a game like this at a friend’s house once, and he’d won.

If he found the right twig, he could pull it out of the wall and sneak away before the ants decided to punish him or eat him or whatever it was that they were planning. Isaac stood up and started pushing on the twigs one by one, just a tiny bit. If anything else moved, he stopped pushing.

Finally he found a twig low on the back wall that he could push out without disturbing anything else. He shoved it quickly out of place and crawled out of the little twig prison. And then, walking as quietly as he could, he slipped away into the forest.

Isaac’s Adventures Underground: Chapter Three

Isaac reached the top of the basket and looked down.   The bark chips seemed to be a long way down. Maybe this wasn’t the best place to hide a spare key. Should he climb down the inside of the basket and look around anyway, or should he climb back down the outside of the basket and think of a new plan?

“What are you doing?” someone asked. Isaac spun around and nearly fell off the edge of the basket. He caught himself just in time.

He looked down and nearly fell off the basket again.   It was a giant spider. No, now that he was too small, it seemed like a giant spider. It was probably actually a normal spider. A normal spider that could talk.

“Hello,” Isaac said. “I didn’t know spiders could talk.”

“I didn’t know people could be so short,” the spider said. “So, why are you here?”

“I’m just looking for my way home,” Isaac said.

“What a coincidence,” the spider said. “I’ve been looking for a new home.”

“What happened to your old home?” Isaac asked.

“Too rainy. My web kept getting washed down the waterspout. I think next time I’m going to build with bricks. It’s much more sturdy,” the spider said. “What happened to your home?”

“It’s fine,” Isaac said. “I just lost my way.”

“How did you lose your way?” the spider asked.

“I fell down,” Isaac began.

“Did your way fall out of your pocket when you fell?” the spider interrupted. “It was careless of you to put something important like that in your pocket. You should tie it around your finger, like a promise. Then you’ll never forget it or lose it.”

“That’s not how I lost my way,” Isaac said. “It’s where it always was. I just can’t quite reach it right now.”

“Ah, you became separated. That’s what happens when you leave things out for too long,” the spider said. “You need to be careful to put things away. Still, it’s not too late. You’ll just need to give it a good shake the next time you have it,” the spider said.

“I don’t understand,” Isaac said.

“That’s too bad. I see that you’re one of those foolish people who learns by experience or not at all,” the spider said. He attached a fine, thin rope to the edge of the basket. “Well, I must continue my journey or it may cut itself short.”

“Wait,” Isaac said. “Can’t you tell me how to get out of this cave? I want to go home.”

But the spider was already using the rope to slowly glide down to the bark chips below. It looked a lot faster than climbing down the inside of the basket.   However, Isaac knew that he couldn’t just slide down the rope. That would hurt his hands. He had no idea how to rappel.   What if his arms weren’t strong enough and he let go? What if the rope wasn’t strong enough? He was a lot bigger than the spider, and probably heavier too.

Isaac sighed. It wasn’t that far down really. He’d just climb down the inside of the basket.

Climbing down was harder than climbing up, because he couldn’t see where he was going. Luckily, the weave of the basket was regular, so it wasn’t too hard to figure out.

He stepped down at the end of his climb and turned around. Instead of bark chips and fake plants, it looked like he was standing on the edge of a forest. When he looked up, he could see the white of the hotel wall over the edge of the wicker cliff.

Isaac turned around again. There was a path leading into the trees. The forest looked a little like the one next to Jimmy’s house. “Maybe I’ll find the same cave, and I can crawl inside and fall home,” Isaac said. “But what if I fall back into the same hotel lobby? How would I know if I was in a lobby inside the potted plant or just back to the first lobby?”

He looked back at the side of the basket, and then started walking into the forest.

Isaac’s Adventures Underground: Chapter Two

Isaac looked around the empty lobby. There were the usual chairs and little tables and fake trees planted in baskets.   There wasn’t a front desk or windows or glass doors. Instead, there were sets of metal elevator doors along the walls.

“I guess I’ll just take one of the elevators out of here,” he said. “Which one goes up?” Isaac walked to the first elevator door. There was a button with an arrow pointing up and another one with an arrow pointing down. He pushed the up button and waited. Nothing happened.

He pushed the other button. “If the elevator comes, I can still push the button to go up once I’m inside,” he said to himself. After a moment, he heard a quiet ding! and then the world turned upside down. No, actually Isaac was upside down, standing on his hands.

He kicked the up arrow button. Ding! He was standing on his feet again. Well, that wasn’t helpful. Should he try the buttons beside the next elevator? He didn’t have any better ideas.

Isaac walked over to the next elevator and pushed the up arrow button. Ding! He started to float up into the air like a balloon. Panicked, he hit the down arrow button with his knee as he floated past. Ding! He collapsed back on the floor. Ouch.

Floating up out of the cave seemed like a good idea.   However, if he didn’t stop floating, he could drift up to outer space where there wasn’t any air to breathe and it was always cold. Obviously, he’d need to test and see if it wore off while he was close to the button, just in case.

Isaac dragged a big, heavy looking chair over to the elevator. He held on to the chair with one hand, and then pushed the up button. By the time he heard ding!, he was holding onto the chair with his arms and legs. He held on tightly and waited. It felt like being pushed upwards by a strong, persistent wind.   Eventually, his grip started to give out. He hit the down button. Ding!

He sighed. He might as well check the other elevators. If they didn’t work, he’d have to find some rope and tie himself to the chair for a longer test. It would give him a bit of perspective on how a balloon feels. “Maybe I’ll never ask for balloons at parties anymore. It seems mean to tie them to chairs and banisters and leave them there.”

Isaac hurried to the next elevator and pushed the up button. Ding! Nothing happened. “Nope,” he said in a high squeaky voice. How funny! He pushed the down button. Ding! “Hello,” he said. His voice was normal. He pushed the down button again. “Hello?” His voice sounded deep. He pushed the down button again. Ding! “Hello.”   His voice was now very deep. He laughed, but it sounded strange. He laughed harder.

Finally, he pushed the up button twice. Ding!   Ding! “Hello,” he said. Normal voice. Time to go to the next elevator.   This time the elevator doors moved up and down the wall, but didn’t open. Isaac walked over to the next elevator.

He pushed the up button. He started to grow. He grew taller and taller and taller. The hanging metal lamp above him hit him in the head. It hurt. He quickly leaned over and pushed the button. Unfortunately, he held the button down a bit too long. Ding! Ding! Ding!

Isaac shrunk rapidly. The room seemed to blur for a moment. When it stopped he looked up. He was probably mouse-sized at this point, far too small to reach the up button by the elevator. He needed to mark this elevator so that he could find it again, and then go hunt for something to use as a ladder.

Looking around, he saw something white under a nearby couch. The baseball! He rolled it over and looked up again. Even if he stood on it, he’d be to short. It was a start though. Maybe he could find something to pile on top of it. Did the couches have any small cushions?

He left the baseball by the elevator and started to explore the room. The couch cushions were all far too big. The tables and chairs were too heavy. But behind one of the plants he found a little door about half the size of the cupboard doors in the kitchen at home. It had a little metal sign on it that said Come In. Isaac tried to twist the doorknob, but the door was locked.

Isaac knocked on the door and waited. No one answered. He looked up at the basket beside him. Maybe they hid a spare key somewhere in the potted plant? It wouldn’t hurt to check. After all, the door said come in, so there must be a way inside. Maybe he’d find someone who knew the way out. Isaac started to climb.