"What way?" Miss Pickles asked, looking at the Firefly she called Smoky.
The Firefly's chocolate lips curved in a grin. Ralph moaned as she flicked chocolate out from under her fingernails.
"My pies..." he moaned. "My precious pies..."
"Shhh," Mason hissed, stepping closer to listen. He was fascinated by this flame-haired pixie. He was even more fascinated about how she would get them out of the glass castle they stood in.
"The thing is," the Firefly said, fixing her stare on Miss Pickles, "We have other ways of going to the surface other than volcanoes."
"The children don't do well in fire," Miss Pickles reminded her. "It's a little too hot for them."
"I'm afraid a human can only tolerate a small variation of temperature difference," Beatrice squeaked, blushing when the Firefly Queen swiveled her gaze on her. "And I'm afraid this is about as hot as we can tolerate."
The other children nodded. Sweat poured down their faces and their clothes stuck the their bodies. Several of them coughed as the fires sputtered around them, shooting smoke int he air. Perspiration beaded on Jasper's mottled face, sizzling as it dripped close to the laser in his forehead.
The Firefly pursed her lips and tapped her chin. "I knew that," she muttered. She bit her lip and flicked more chocolate from her fingernails. Ralph's lip trembled and his belly rumbled. Mason gazed around the glass castle, peering at the Fireflies staring down at them. They perched on glass balconies and delicate swings dangling from the ceiling. Glass curled into the air, glowing faint orange from the fire around them. A firefly kicked something into the fire, and smoke ballooned around the fire. He watched as the grey wisps floated up, curls of black and grey winding around the Fireflies. Suddenly, he gasped.
"That's it!" he cried. Every head in the room snapped to look at him.
"What's it?" the Queen Firefly said.
"Well, I know how we can get out of here," Mason said in a small voice. "I mean, I've got an idea."
"No you don't!" Beatrice cried. "It is physically impossible to get out of here! We're probably hundreds of miles beneath the surface. There's lava five feet away, for crying out loud. We would need an industrial size drill to get to the surface. Unless you have a drill in your pocket, I think you're blowing smoke up our skirts."
"I don't have a skirt," Don said, glaring at her. "So I want to hear his idea."
"Duckie, this is exciting!" Miss Pickles cried, shooting her arms in the air and twirling. "Let's hear your idea!"
"Yes," the Queen Firefly proclaimed. "Let's hear this idea."
Mason gulped. He had never liked public speaking. He lowered his eyes so he wouldn't see the eyes looking back at him. Sweat trickled down his back. It wasn't from the fire.
"Well," he said, forcing himself to look at the Queen. "My idea is smoke. And light."
The Queen blinked. "I don't get it."
"Well, I was thinking about how smoke floats to the sky," Mason said. "And the thing we have plenty of down here is smoke and fire. And Jasper has a laser in his forehead that can melt rock. So if we can raise him to the sky in sort of a smoke filled hot air balloon, he can dig us out to the surface."
"That makes no sense!" Beatrice argued. "The smoke and heat would kill us. And Jasper can't dig through that much rock. It would take him a year."
Jasper bit his lip grimly. "I hate to admit it Mason, but she may be right," he said. He looked down at his clawed hands. "I'm built for endurance, not speed."
"But what if you had help?" Mason asked, his eyes blazing with excitement. "What if you had a laser bigger than anything you had dreamed?" Not waiting for an answer, he turned to the Firefly Queen. "Your--uhh--Blaze, your people are wonderful at making glass. A laser is simply light so focused it creates heat. You could create a glass so fine that when light was shined through, it created a laser. Like a prism, almost."
The Queen chewed on her lip.
"And then," Mason continued, warming to his idea. "If the smoke is too high, we could ride to the surface in a glass ball. You could put us over a hot vent in the ground, and we could blast up like a ball in a pinball machine."
"What's a pinball machine?" Ralph asked. Don shrugged.
Miss Pickles looked at the Firefly Queen. Jasper looked at Miss Pickles. The Fireflies looked at the children. The children looked at each other. Beatrice stomped her foot and glared at Mason.
"This is stupid!" she shouted. "This doesn't make sense at all. It's scientifically impossible. The glass will burn us or melt, dropping us into the lava below. And lasers are incredibly hard to create. A glass prism can't produce light intense enough"--
"I love it," the Firefly interrupted. "Let's do it. Fireflies," she cried. "Get to work! Do whatever the boy says!" She pointed a red fingernail towards Mason. He grinned when he heard Beatrice scream in frustration.
"Miss Pickles, what time is it?" Ralph asked, interrupting her as she started towards Mason.
"Almost two, duckie," she said. "Why?"
Ralph licked his lips and looked up. "If we hurry," he said, "We can be back for snack time."
To be continued......
*I'm back, Invisible Friends! And I have lots of fun things for you! We have a new dance hall dreamers, another scary story and a tasty recipe for veggie beef soup and homemade wheat dinner rolls coming up. Plus, pictures and stories from my weekend at the wedding! Stay tuned!