“Alright, let’s go,” Satoru said decisively, starting toward the exit.
We shouldered our backpacks, grasped each other’s hands, and guided only by the light of the glowing bugs, stepped out into the darkness.
Thinking back on it even now, it was such a strange journey.
The only light came from the faint ghostly glow on the tip of the spear. Beyond that little circle of light, we couldn’t even see our own hands. I tried looking off to the side and waving my hand in front of my face, but all I could make out was a dark shadow. In order to see where we were going, we had to walk side by side. The tunnel was just wide enough for that, and I was even thankful that it was so narrow because now part of us would be constantly touching the walls.
“Are we ascending now?” Satoru said every now and then.
Whenever he asked, I answered with “yeah,” or “I don’t know,” or “who knows?”. No matter how I responded, it’s not like the situation was going to change.
The light sometimes revealed a two or three-way fork in the road. These splits were always easily visible thanks to the luminous moss growing near them.
Although luminous moss glows, it’s not through the same mechanism as the glowworms. In order to achieve photosynthesis in the dark tunnels, they use lens-like cells to store and give off light.
Queerats should be able to run around these tunnels relying only on their sense of touch and smell. But as they became more civilized, they needed a more efficient way to move around, so they started using the natural properties of things around them.
We continued walking silently. Since we didn’t meet a single queerat, I assumed that this was probably their resting period. At first I thought this was fortunate for us, but as time went on, things started looking a little foreboding.
“Hey, haven’t we been walking for a while now?” I asked Satoru.
“Maybe this really is the wrong way?”
We stopped. If we were wrong, then where were we? I thought back over the path we took.