Chapter 2: Little Red Ladybug

Isaac knocked on the door and waited. No one answered. He looked up at the basket beside him. Maybe they hid a spare key somewhere in the potted plant? It wouldn’t hurt to check. After all, the door said come in, so there must be a way inside. Maybe he’d find someone who knew the way out. Isaac started to climb.

Isaac reached the top of the basket and looked down.   The bark chips seemed to be a long way down. Maybe this wasn’t the best place to hide a spare key. Should he climb down the inside of the basket and look around anyway, or should he climb back down the outside of the basket and think of a new plan?

“What are you doing?” someone asked. Isaac spun around and nearly fell off the edge of the basket. He caught himself just in time.

He looked down and nearly fell off the basket again.   It was a giant spider. No, now that he was too small, it seemed like a giant spider. It was probably actually a normal spider. A normal spider that could talk.

“Hello,” Isaac said. “I didn’t know spiders could talk.”

“I didn’t know people could be so short,” the spider said. “So, why are you here?”

“I’m just looking for my way home,” Isaac said.

“What a coincidence,” the spider said. “I’ve been looking for a new home.”

“What happened to your old home?” Isaac asked.

“Too rainy. My web kept getting washed down the waterspout. I think next time I’m going to build with bricks. It’s much more sturdy,” the spider said. “What happened to your home?”

“It’s fine,” Isaac said. “I just lost my way.”

“How did you lose your way?” the spider asked.

“I fell down,” Isaac began.

“Did your way fall out of your pocket when you fell?” the spider interrupted. “It was careless of you to put something important like that in your pocket. You should tie it around your finger, like a promise. Then you’ll never forget it or lose it.”

“That’s not how I lost my way,” Isaac said. “It’s where it always was. I just can’t quite reach it right now.”

“Ah, you became separated. That’s what happens when you leave things out for too long,” the spider said. “You need to be careful to put things away. Still, it’s not too late. You’ll just need to give it a good shake the next time you have it,” the spider said.

“I don’t understand,” Isaac said.

“That’s too bad. I see that you’re one of those foolish people who learns by experience or not at all,” the spider said. He attached a fine, thin rope to the edge of the basket. “Well, I must continue my journey or it may cut itself short.”

“Wait,” Isaac said. “Can’t you tell me how to get out of this cave? I want to go home.”

But the spider was already using the rope to slowly glide down to the bark chips below. It looked a lot faster than climbing down the inside of the basket.   However, Isaac knew that he couldn’t just slide down the rope. That would hurt his hands. He had no idea how to rappel.   What if his arms weren’t strong enough and he let go? What if the rope wasn’t strong enough? He was a lot bigger than the spider, and probably heavier too.

Isaac sighed. It wasn’t that far down really. He’d just climb down the inside of the basket.

Climbing down was harder than climbing up, because he couldn’t see where he was going. Luckily, the weave of the basket was regular, so it wasn’t too hard to figure out.

He stepped down at the end of his climb and turned around. Instead of bark chips and fake plants, it looked like he was standing on the edge of a forest. When he looked up, he could see the white of the hotel wall over the edge of the wicker cliff.

Isaac turned around again. There was a path leading into the trees. The forest looked a little like the one next to Jimmy’s house. “Maybe I’ll find the same cave, and I can crawl inside and fall home,” Isaac said. “But what if I fall back into the same hotel lobby? How would I know if I was in a lobby inside the potted plant or just back to the first lobby?”

He looked back at the side of the basket, and then started walking into the forest.

Isaac hadn’t been walking long, when he met a little red ladybug walking slowly through the forest. “Hello,” he said. “Where are you going?”

“Hello,” the ladybug said. “I’m taking a basket of treats to share with my grandmother.”

And indeed, Isaac saw that the ladybug was carrying a large basket. He suddenly realized that he was rather hungry. “What kinds of treats?” he asked.

The ladybug clutched the basket a little closer. “They’re not for you,” she said. “They’re for my grandmother. She lives at the end of the path deep in the woods and doesn’t get treats often. Don’t be greedy.”

“I wasn’t going to take any,” Isaac said. And as the ladybug was walking really slowly, Isaac left her behind and kept walking.

Before long, he found a house made of dried grass and leaves. “That looks like a ladybug house,” he said to himself. He knocked gently on the door. It looked rather brittle. The dry grass rustled as an old ladybug answered the door.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I’m Isaac. I’m lost. Can you give me directions?”

“Where do you want to go?” the old ladybug asked.

“Home. If you could just tell me how to get out of the cave, I can get home from there,” Isaac said.

“This is a house,” the ladybug said. “It’s not a cave. It may be small, but there is no need to be insulting.”

“It’s a very nice house,” Isaac said. “But it’s inside a cave.”

“No, it’s inside a forest,” the ladybug said. She looked nervous.

“But the forest is inside a cave,” Isaac said.   “It’s not really a forest either.   It’s a potted plant.”

The ladybug looked even more nervous. “I’m sorry, I can’t help you,” she said in a shaky voice.   She started to close the door.

“Wait,” Isaac said. He caught the edge of the door. The dried grass ripped and crumbled. The door folded in on itself.

“Help!” the old ladybug shrieked. “Help me!” She dashed into the house and darted under a bed in the corner.

“I’m sorry about the door,” Isaac said. “I could help you fix it.” He stepped just inside the door and looked around. The house was all one room, with a bed in one corner and a table next to it with two chairs. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he said.

The old ladybug didn’t reply. Isaac sighed and turned to leave. The little ladybug was standing just outside the door. She dropped her basket of treats. “You ate my grandmother,” she said. And then she started to scream. “Help! Help!”

“She’s just under the bed,” Isaac said. “I didn’t eat her.” But the little ladybug kept screaming.

Suddenly, there were crashing sounds coming from all around. A few moments later, an army of ants surrounded the little house. “He broke into my grandmother’s house and ate her,” the little ladybug wailed. The ants looked at the broken door, and then they looked at Isaac.   They surrounded him and carried him away.

“Wait,” Isaac said. “I didn’t do it. She’s hiding under the bed.” The ants didn’t stop.

They carried him deeper into the forest, and stopped in front of a house built of twigs. They threw him inside and slammed the door. Isaac sat up and groaned. That hurt. He looked around. The house was just an empty room with a dirt floor. He could see out through the cracks between the twigs.

The twigs looked like someone had just stacked them together. If he pulled on the wrong one, the whole thing would come crashing down. Isaac smiled. He’d played a game like this at a friend’s house once, and he’d won.

If he found the right twig, he could pull it out of the wall and sneak away before the ants decided to punish him or eat him or whatever it was that they were planning. Isaac stood up and started pushing on the twigs one by one, just a tiny bit. If anything else moved, he stopped pushing.

Finally he found a twig low on the back wall that he could push out without disturbing anything else. He shoved it quickly out of place and crawled out of the little twig prison. And then, walking as quietly as he could, he slipped away into the forest.

At first, Isaac was mostly worried about getting away from the log house quietly, as far away and as quickly as possible. But after a while of nothing coming crashing out of the undergrowth behind him, he slowed down and realized that he had no idea where he was.

He was lost in the middle of a potted plant forest in a hotel lobby at the bottom of a cave in the middle of the woods next to Jimmy’s house.

Chapter 1                      Chapter 3