The bottom of the crater was pitch black. Henry tried looking around, but he couldn’t see anything. “Slim!” he called out.
“Just a second,” he heard from directly behind him, and just about jumped out of his skin. Speaking of out of his skin, Slim suddenly appeared when two lights began glowing over Henry’s shoulder. Henry turned and saw Slim, who had placed two lumps of coal in his eye sockets and lit them. “I keep these in backpack, along with a book of matches. As you can see, they come in handy.”
“Spooky. Hey, that was you calling out to the Space Sharks, wasn’t it? How did you do that?”
“I’m a ventriloquist, dummy!” Slim laughed. “Come on, we need to walk thirty paces this way.” Slim grabbed his hand, and led Henry down the dark cavernous innards of the crater. Pretty soon, Henry started to see a dim light coming from the distance. As they walked closer to it, he could feel a heat, like from the stove when he’d help bake cookies. As they rounded a corner, Henry began to see the light much stronger, and smell burning leaves.
And then, they were directly in front of the Fire Trees. Just as the map had said, they had to pass through this enflamed forest to get to the treasure, but Henry had no idea how they would do it. The trees were enormous, like the giant redwoods he had seen in his textbook, but these were pure fire, there was no hint of wood or leaves at all, except in the shape the flames took. And there were tons of them! Henry kept staring at them, because it was kind of beautiful, but also because he couldn’t see any safe passage. There was no hole they could sneak through or opening in the trees. He turned to Slim, who was crouched down on the ground, scooping the dirt with his hands. “Follow me!” he shouted, and began burrowing into the ground. Henry dropped down and crawled into the small tunnel Slim had made with his hands. It was barely big enough to fit the two of them, and so close to the surface that Henry felt the hairs on his neck singe from the heat and flames above him, but they managed to avoid getting burned. Even though they were moving rapidly through the Fire Tree Forest, it felt like an eternity to get through it, and when they finally did, Henry took a deep breath and relaxed, before plunging into darkness again.
He looked back and saw the glow of the Fire Trees above him as he fell further and further down, and as the flames receded from his view, the void that was enveloping him became darker and darker, until once again he was immersed in pitch black, but still falling. The air became colder and colder, until Henry began to miss the heat of the Fire Trees. Worse, he couldn’t see or hear Slim, and then he landed with a hefty thud.