A note from VictoriaKellyWrites

Hi everyone,

Thanks for reading this far. Just wanted to clarify with regard to a posting schedule. This story was originally conceived as an entry to the community contest and so last month I was racing to get as many chapters out as I could before the end of January. However, as much as I’d love to write that much all the time, I have a toddler at home and that kind of pace isn’t going to be sustainable for me. From now on there’ll be a guaranteed chapter a week on Saturdays, with the occasional bonus chapter on Sundays. 

Thanks for sticking with me and for all your comments. Hope you’re enjoying Tip’s journey as much as I am. :)  


The girls stared at Kerrick. He looked back, the eerie amber eyes lending his face a demonic edge. Goosebumps rose on Tip’s arms.

“See through things?” echoed Val. “What do you mean, Kerrick?”

Kerrick dropped his gaze and frowned, shaking his head. “Maybe that’s not the best way to describe it. I can see further than I should be able to. And I can see things I can’t normally see.” He looked up again. “Earlier today, for example. I was lying in bed and…” he leaned forward, “I saw the monitors coming.”

The girls exchanged a glance. “You saw the monitors coming,” repeated Val. “Through the window?”

“Yes. No! - I mean I was in bed but the curtains were closed. I shouldn’t have been able to see them at all. But I could! It was as if I was standing on the roof. No, wait, higher than that, because you can’t see to the brook from there. I was on the chimney. I mean it was as if I was on the chimney. I could see all the way to-”

“Look, just hang on a minute, Kerrick,” Tip interrupted his rambling. “You’re not making any sense. Are you sure you didn’t just have a dream about being on the chimney or whatever?”

He looked cross. “I think I can recognise when I’m dreaming.”

“Maybe you heard the monitors arrive and your brain brought them into your dream,” suggested Val. “That happens to me sometimes.”

“No, look it was… Oh never mind,” Kerrick sighed and shook his head, rubbing his eyes with one hand. “I’ll try and explain again when my head doesn’t ache so much.”

“Here look, I’ll wet a cloth and you can press it to your forehead,” Val offered.

Tip left them and went to check in Kerrick’s room. The curtains were closed. On the pillow lay the scarf she’d used to help him bind his eyes earlier. Had he been wearing it? She was 80% sure his claim of seeing through things was merely imagined. It must have been a dream. Despite that, she couldn’t quite shake off the uneasy feeling his new eye colour had given her.

Returning to the bathroom, Tip listened in the hallway. Val was telling Kerrick what had happened to her face. “And then when Marit came to look at it, it was all just gone! The freckles, the cheeks…”

Kerrick’s voice said, “This is all so odd. Has anything strange happened to the other two?”

“Not that I know of. They’ve complained about being itchy. Perhaps it was insect bites…”

Tip backed away from the bathroom door and crept into the room she shared with Val. Spinning around in front of the mirror, she lifted her shirt and pushed down the waistband of her trousers. There at the base of her spine was a raised, red lump. It looked almost like a boil. Or a bite. Could that be all it was? An insect bite? It was a strange place for it if so.

She’d scratched so much in the past 24 hours that there was a halo of red, inflamed skin around the lump. Dropping her clothes back into place, she dug in a drawer for a pot of salve. Marit had made it for her last summer when Tip had fallen into a bramble patch and been badly scratched. This wasn’t exactly the same situation, but perhaps it would help. She swiped a dollop onto her fingers, shifted her clothes again, and rubbed it into the sore patch.

“What are you doing?” asked Val, entering the room. She went straight to the mirror and began examining her face in it.

“Nothing,” said Tip, throwing the salve back into the drawer. Just tidying up. How’s Kerrick?”

“His head is hurting again. He’s gone back to bed.” Val turned from the mirror. “Tip, did you see his eyes? What do you make of that stuff he said about seeing through things?”

Tip shook her head. “I couldn’t understand what he meant. It sounded like he’d had a fever dream.”

“I thought the same,” said Val. “He wasn’t himself. And if he has a fever maybe that’s made his eyes go all bloodshot. That could be why they looked so strange.”

“Let’s not mention it to the others,” said Tip. “If Kerrick wakes up tomorrow and everything’s normal, he’ll be embarrassed about claiming he can see through walls.”

“Agreed,” Val grinned. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t tease the daylights out of him when nobody’s listening.”

Just then Marit called them then for lunch and so the subject was dropped. But as they ate, and later all through the day, Tip found herself going back to the issue. Kerrick’s wild claims, and his shift of eye colour. The changes to Val’s face. Tip’s itchy lump… Tip hesitated to put her own affliction in the same category. An inflamed insect bite seemed too mundane a symptom in comparison to the strange problems that were affecting her friends.

But everything had started after their visit to the pink world. When you looked at it that way, it was hard not to see it all as related.


Over the next two days, Kerrick’s head steadily improved. On the third day, he was able to get up and resume some of his normal activities. His eyes stayed the strange, amber colour but Val had confided their fever theory to Marit and the youngsters had been warned not to comment on them. Val had no more facial aberrations, although the light dusting of freckles that had appeared the day after their trip stayed where they were. Perhaps because of this, Val was quieter and more withdrawn than usual.

By the third day after their return, Tip’s lump had grown to such a size that it was actively causing her discomfort when she sat. She continued to hide it from the others and slathered on the salve whenever she could. The irritated skin had improved but the lump had only grown. As a result, Tip had become extremely picky about which chair she wanted at mealtimes. Upholstered and padded ones were easier on her painful rump.

It was because she was in the process of turning young Brin out of his comfy chair at breakfast time that she missed Marit’s question to Kerrick.

“I imagine we could go again tonight,” Kerrick said.

Tip’s head jerked up. “Go where?”

“I asked if you and Kerrick thought you would be able to go and fetch us some more food from wherever you got it last time,” Marit said. “Our rations delivery is late and I imagine it’ll be slim pickings when it does arrive.

“She’s asking if we can make another run,” Kerrick said to Tip with a sidelong grin.

“Absolutely,” Tip exclaimed. She’d been wildly impatient to return to the tranquil cave and make another voyage into the mysterious Underrun.

“I’ll come too,” said Val. “You’ll need me to organise the packing.”

“And me,” said Sol. “You’ll need me for-“

“Not you, Sol,” said Marit. “You’re too young.”

The boy’s dreamy expression was instantly replaced by one of indignation. “I’m not too young!” he protested. “I went with them last time. And I was useful!”

“I don’t want you getting struck down by a headache like Kerrick,” persisted Marit.

“That won’t happen to me,” said Sol, his voice ringing with absolute certainty.

“Maybe it would be better if you stayed here, Solly-boy,” said Kerrick. “You’ll be the Man of the house while we’re away. Keep an eye on the youngsters.”

“They don’t need me,” said Sol, shaking his head emphatically. “And I’m terrible at keeping an eye on things.”

No one could find a truthful way to contradict his last remark. Accordingly, early that evening when Tip and the others left the Crib with their arms full of sacks and crates, Sol was with them. They couldn’t have said exactly when Marit had changed her mind or who had given him permission to come but he acted as if he had every right to be there, and it didn’t seem worth having a row about it. Personally, Tip was glad to have him there. He was usually on her side when it came to her madcap schemes, and with his support, she had a chance of not being totally overruled by Kerrick and Val.

It was snowing in Grevick, big dirty flakes that were already stained with soot by the time they reached the ground. The four of them managed to avoid the worst of it by keeping to the trees as they worked their way around the settlement to reach the Underrun’s entrance. However, they were still thoroughly chilled by the time they made it down into the cave.

Tip’s whole body thrilled to be back in the quietly glowing cavern, which felt almost warm after the bad weather conditions outside. Everything was just as they’d left it. The two boats they’d used last time were waiting on the rocky shore, empty and inviting.

They piled the sacks and crates into the biggest boat and then debated whether to split themselves between boats or all go together in the larger one. “We should definitely bring both boats again,” said Kerrick. “I’m just worried in case we get split up on the journey and end up in different parts of the cave system.”

The prospect of getting split up was a little too much for any of them and so, after first pushing off the spare boat, they all piled into the bigger one, heaved it away from the shore and waited for the currents to take them.

It all happened just like last time. After a few moments of drifting, the invisible force caught them and they began moving swiftly through the water towards the back of the cave where the softly glowing tunnel system waited.

This time they were only a few metres behind the first boat and it acted like a guide, showing them which turns they would be taking. Their own boat never deviated from the first boat’s path, and the two boats followed the same rules as last time. When faced with a fork in the tunnel, they consistently took the larger branch.

Tip had almost forgotten about the purple light until she glimpsed it in one of the tunnels they passed. The ghostly flash brought back the memory of what it was like to pass through one of those lights; the weird weightlessness and the thrill of being bathed in the violet illumination. A rush of anticipation filled her. They would surely be experiencing that feeling again, and soon!

The boats sailed on through the twists and turns of the tunnel system. Tip tried to pay attention to the route they took but eventually had to admit that she was hopelessly lost. However, there was one thing that struck her. When they came to a fork, the boats always seemed to choose the larger tunnel, so if that was always true, then they must be taking the same route as last time, right?

The theory seemed sound. However, when the time came and the boats finally chose a smaller tunnel to turn into, it didn’t seem like the journey had taken as long compared to their last adventure. Had it been a shorter distance? She wanted to ask the others what they thought but just then the strip of purple light appeared in the tunnel, eliciting gasps from Val and Sol. Tip gave herself over to the sensation as the boat entered the light and the world dropped out from under her. It was like falling without the expectation of a bump. It was how she imagined flying might feel. It was addictive! No sooner had the light faded than she wished for it to come back so she could ride again.

As she came down from the thrill, Tip was able to notice their surroundings once more. The tunnel was reaching its end and opening out into a small cave. They had arrived! As before, there was a small dock where they could tie up the boats. However, the appearance of the dock was what caused all four of them to exclaim in surprise. Instead of a solid shelf of sandy rock, there was a jetty made of old wooden planks. Metal bollards rose at intervals providing space to tie up the boats.

“Goodness,” said Kerrick. “This looks different.”

“Do you suppose we’ve travelled somewhere new this time?” Val gave voice to what everyone was wondering.

“There has to be some kind of system,” muttered Tip, thinking of the tunnel branches. One day she was going to come back and ride the Underrun by herself so she could draw a map.

“Maybe this place will be somewhere even better!” said Sol. But despite his enthusiasm, his words failed to pierce the apprehension that had fallen over the group. They had been expecting to travel back to the pink world and have an easy time foraging more food. Now it seemed they were about to emerge into somewhere unknown. It was hard not to feel uneasy about what might be waiting on the other side of the dock.

Tip was first out of the boat. She placed her weight carefully onto the old boards. They looked to be only about 60% reliable. In fact, the entire dock looked highly suspect. The bollards were coated in layers of rust and the rope that was wound around them fell apart in her hand when she tried to hand it to Kerrick.

They didn’t have any spare rope, so they settled for tying the two ends together and attempting to make their boat fast with the now-much-shorter rope.

“We’re going to have to start bringing a kit of useful items on these trips,” said Kerrick. “Rope, lanterns, a good knife, hunting equipment. Some oars while we’re at it. We don’t know if we might really need them at some point.”

“Rope would be a definite advantage,” Tip said, staring in disgust at the rotted remains of the next rope. She’d picked it up intending to tie up their spare boat but it had been in even worse condition than the first one.

“Can we use a belt or something to fix the two boats together?” asked Val.

They managed to cobble something together out of Kerrick and Tip’s belts and Val’s hair tie and secured the spare boat to the one they’d already managed to tie up. It wasn’t perfect but at least it made the two boats too bulky to fit back down the tunnel. With any luck, it should prevent them from drifting away while the four of them were off exploring.

With that done, they turned their attention to the far end of the cave. While the steps up to the pink world had been made of stone, these were of rickety boards that seemed barely strong enough to bear their weight. The trapdoor at the top of them was so old that Tip got a cloud of dust and wood particles in her face when she attempted to push it open.

Still, she persevered and eventually it creaked open revealing a square of darkness above.

Tip climbed out of the hole and into the next world.


About the author


Bio: I write fantasy and humorous tales with a twist of magic. I'm currently working on a full-length manuscript but somehow I'm never satisfied with a single project so my smaller works get posted here. If you like what you read, the completed stories are also available to download as ebooks from my website:

I'd love to hear what you think of my stories so feel free to leave comments. I'm also happy to trade feedback as long as you write in a similar genre.

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