The Haunted Cave
Adam Freeman was having ice cream with his friends when the subject of the Haunted Cave came up. The ice-cream parlor was called the Frozen Cow, and it supposedly offered a choice of fifty flavors. They were listed on a large colorful bulletin board that hung behind the counter where the grumpy old man who owned the place stood. But the owner—even when asked politely—refused to give any customer anything but vanilla. Even chocolate and strawberry weren’t available. Sally
explained that the owner—whom she called Mr. Freeze—was a purist and believed that vanilla was the only ice cream worth serving. Adam had managed to persuade the man to make him a vanilla milkshake. Of course, since this was Spooksville, Adam had to pay Mr. Freeze double not to use spoiled milk.
“Did you know that monkeys and apes love ice cream?” Watch said, working on a banana split that was made of bananas, vanilla ice cream, and nothing else. “Gorillas like it as well, although I’ve heard they’ll only eat chocolate ice cream.”
“They wouldn’t like this place,” Sally Wilcox muttered, frantically licking a melting ice-cream cone as if it would explode if she lost a drop.
“I thought monkeys and apes were vegetarians,” Cindy Makey remarked.
Sally chuckled. “A vegetarian can eat ice cream. You don’t kill the cow to get the milk out, you know. You just tug on the udders.”
Cindy gave an exaggerated sigh. “I know that. I mean I thought that monkeys and apes preferred fruit to dairy products.”
Watch shook his head. “That’s not so. They’re like kids—they’ll take ice cream over bananas any
day. And as far as I’m concerned, that proves Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Man—and woman—evolved from monkeys. We’re nothing but talking apes.”
“But that’s only a theory,” Adam protested. “I don’t believe it.”
“You’re reacting to the idea emotionally,” Watch said. “It upsets you to think your ancestors used to need a shave twenty-four hours a day. In scientific matters you have to be cold and dispassionate.”
“Look who’s having the bananas,” Sally muttered.
“I’m not reacting emotionally,” Adam replied, insulted. “Science has never proven that we evolved from apes. You’re forgetting the missing link.”
“What about it?” Watch asked.
“It’s still missing,” Adam said, having a sip of his shake.
“What’s the missing link?” Cindy asked.
“A non-vegetarian monkey,” Sally said.
“It’s a creature that would be half ape, half human,” Watch explained. “Adam has a point. Science has never positively found a creature that is directly between us and apes on the evolutionary scale.” Watch paused and glanced at Sally. “Of
course not many scientists have been to Spooksville.”
Sally shook her head vigorously. “Don’t start talking about that. We’re not going there, no way.”
“Going where?” Adam wanted to know, certain he’d missed part of the conversation.
Watch leaned closer and lowered his voice. “The Haunted Cave.”
Sally cringed. “Don’t say it. To even speak the name will curse us.”
“He already said it,” Cindy said. “And there’s no such thing as a curse.”
Sally snorted. “Listen to the girl whose brother was kidnapped by a ghost last week. This whole town is cursed. I know, I was born here.”
Cindy smiled. “Yeah, now that you mention it, I guess I can see the damage.”
Adam chuckled. “Sally was cursed in the womb.”
Sally fumed. “For your information I was born on Friday the thirteenth, which is practically a religious holiday in this town.”
“So?” Adam said, puzzled.
“She’s saying she wasn’t cursed until she was born,” Watch explained. “Anyway, this cave is fascinating. There are plenty of stories about
creatures inside the cave that could be the missing link.”
“Have you ever seen these creatures?” Adam asked skeptically.
“No, but I think a friend of mine did,” Watch said. “His name was Bill Bailey. He was a camera nut. He went in to photograph them and that was the last we heard of him.”
“They found his camera though,” Sally said. “It was smeared with blood.”
“I think it was peanut butter and jelly,” Watch said. “There was film in the camera. I helped develop it. The negatives were in lousy shape but one shot showed a blurry image of a hairy manlike creature.”
“How big was the creature?” Adam asked.
“Hard to say,” Watch said. “I couldn’t tell how far away it had been taken, and there were no reference objects.”
“It was big enough to eat Bill,” Sally said.
“But I’d guess a missing link should be small,” Adam said. “If it’s half man, half ape.”
“Bill probably thought the same thing,” Sally retorted.
“I don’t believe any of this,” Cindy said.
Sally got mad. “You just moved here a month ago. You don’t know anything about this town; therefore, your opinion is totally worthless.”
Cindy turned to Adam. “Why don’t we go have a look at this cave and prove to these guys there are no missing links running around this town?”
“I believe they run under the town,” Watch said.
Adam considered. “We could do that, but I don’t think we want to go inside the cave.”
“Why not?” Cindy asked.
“Because one of these creatures might eat you alive,” Sally said. “Adam knows that, but he’s too much under your spell to say it out loud.”
“I’m not under nobody’s spell,” Adam said angrily.
Sally snorted. “You’re not under anyone’s spell. You get so dizzy when you sit next to Cindy you can’t even speak right.”
“Why are you always yelling at Adam?” Cindy demanded.
“Because I believe he can be helped,” Sally explained patiently. “Unlike some people I know.”
Cindy stood. “Where is this cave? I want to go there right now. I want to see these creatures—if they really exist.”
Watch checked one of his four watches. “It’s getting late. You might want to explore the cave tomorrow.”
“Bill disappeared later in the day,” Sally added.
“It makes no difference what time of day we go in the cave,” Cindy said. “As long as we have flashlights. Isn’t that right, Adam?”
“Right,” Adam agreed reluctantly. But even though he had lived in Spooksville for only two weeks, he had seen enough to know there might be something behind Watch’s strange story. He didn’t want Cindy thinking he was a coward, but he wished they could bring a hunting rifle as well as flashlights. Something powerful enough to stop a large hairy creature.