Jill’s voice was gone, but in her mind she was still shouting. What will you say to my mother, Anna Baker? I’m so sorry, Widow Mead, but we’ve thrown your only daughter down the well. What will you say to my mother, Col Smith? Where’s Jill? Why, we threw her down the well and though she begged and pleaded, none would fetch her out. What will you say to my mother? The chant went on in her head as she crawled forward, with her fingers groping at the rough stone, sometimes up and sometimes down, always keeping the spool of her mother’s thread in her hand, letting it play out as she went. Anger filled the darkness, made it throb and press on her until she stopped to beat the rocks with her fists and howl though it made a knife of pain go down her weary throat.
Then, exhausted, the anger left her, and Jill moved forward again, each second expecting to find a dead end, or a sudden drop that she could not reach the bottom of, but each second discovering that she could still go on, deeper and deeper into the earth, until she felt as if perhaps she was going down the throat of a great stone creature that had swallowed her. Now the darkness filled with fear, like needles, like a wall of thorns, and an agony of terror shook Jill’s limbs and made her sob. The weight of all the stone above her seemed poised to crush her flat, like a vast hand coming down on a tiny ant. She curled up against the fear, but it only bound her tighter and tighter. She would die down here, all alone, where no one would ever find her bones.
Another breath of air, this one stronger than the first, came drifting by. Jill raised her head in the blackness and breathed it. Water, it smelled of water. There was water somewhere down this tunnel, and she was so thirsty.
Numbly, blindly, Jill crawled on. Her eyes had seen only darkness so long that now her mind made red and blue shapes dance across her vision. Sometimes they formed faces that leered at her, sometimes odd creatures that lurked at the edge of her vision, sometimes dazzling patterns like mother wove into her rugs that she used to make before the drought came. Some were so bright and so real that when Jill finally saw a hint of light ahead she dismissed it at first. There’s my eyes playing tricks again, she thought, but when she looked away and looked back, the light was still there.