I held onto the stone lever, feeling the deepwoods moss gently caress my palm.
“There’s a lever in the woods/the old folks say/and when you pull it/things fly away.” I whispered the old schoolyard rhyme through lips thick with the sweat of a summer that had reached even the normally cool forests outside town.
Horatio had stayed where I’d put him, mewling quietly. That wouldn’t do; I’d chosen him because he was the most rambunctious of Clover’s litter. After a few moments I tossed his favorite toy out with my spare hand. A little ball that jingled and was full of catnip, it landed squarely in the middle of the great stone trapdoor that the lever activated.
The soft little kitten immediately bounded over to it, and at the first jingle I pulled the lever.
As it had the first time I’d tried it, the sound of impossibly ancient subterranean gears ground out a doleful bass melody beneath my feet. A second later, the trapdoor opened. Horatio yowled as he plunged into the inky blackness. A moment later, he reappeared, speeding up and out at a rocket’s pace, launched in the air as if from a catapult.
That sequence of events should have ended with Horatio as an adorable damp spot on the old glacier cliffs. Instead, he glided gently back down next to me on a pair of small wings that matched the motley pattern of his fur. Seemingly instinctively, ths kit folded his new appendaged up and took to licking himself delicately.
“That’s it, then,” I said. “It’s time.” I stepped onto the trapdoor, once again closed by now. I looped a piece of sturdy rope over the lever, and took a deep breath.