Ford unwound the electrical cord with him as he traveled deeper into the cave. If his estimates were correct (Who was he kidding? Of course they were correct!) He would have just enough to reach the end. Ford ran out of extension cords trying to get electricity all the way from his house. He had been exploring the network of cave systems in Gravity Falls for almost a year. He had been mapping them out, and trying to understand their origins. Some appeared to be man-made, while others were inexplicable crevices inside the ground.
This cave seemed especially ominous. In fact, the abandoned one filled with vampires had been more welcoming than this! At least they were good for conversation. Here, there was nothing but the sound of his footsteps. The feeble strains of daylight could barely filter through the first ten feet, leaving him in a pool of darkness. He had tried to bring along a torch at first, but that proved to be much too risky for his hands. He had to work his way through several very narrow caverns. He couldn't keep the flames in check, and avoid falling at the same time.
Unlike most of the caves, this one was not dripping with water. He had yet to encounter any kind of underground spring. There was no sign of any sort of wildlife either. The variants of mushrooms that grew in the darkness, bats, even small insects all seemed to be non-existent in this place. There weren't any signs of supernatural creatures either. Not even a measly ghost could bother with the place.
However, it hadn't taken him long to find the end of the cave. There were no twists and turns throughout the place. Some caves were confusing mazes that were easy to get lost in. This one however, seemed much more linear. It was smaller than the others he had been through, leading him to believe that it had been dug by someone or something. He couldn't see much in the cavern with only his flashlight, so Ford had come back with a floodlight. He assembled it at the end of the cavern. Then, taking a deep breath, he plugged it in.
The area was instantly flooded with light bright light. Ford had to shield his eyes as they adjusted to the sudden brightness that surrounded him. He gradually lowered his arm, and found himself starting at a crude cave-painting. It was not very large, or very well done from what he could tell. It's colours were only a little faded, and the lines did not look to be smeared in any places. He grabbed his voice recorder from his jacket pocket. Holding it near his chin, he switched it on and started to speak.
"June the twentieth, two-thousand-twelve, fourteen hundred hours. In my investigation of Gravity Falls' cave systems, I have stumbled across an outlier in the pattern. At the end of this cave, marked six-eighteen on the map, I have found a crude painting. It appears to be some sort of demonic triangle-monster with a poor taste in fashion. There is an inscription written underneath. It says-
Before Ford could finish reading the words, his phone rang. He winced. In the small cave, the ringtone bounced off the walls and quickly turned deafening. He only owned a cellphone because the government would become suspicious if all their ways of monitoring him were shut off. He couldn't let them wise up, not after that incident with the metal plate and all of those angry ranchers... He shuddered. That had been a close call. Speaking of calls, he needed to pick this one up.
Ford wondered how it was possible for him to get reception in a cave devoted to worshiping sentient geometry. However, that thought did not last for long, as he saw the name on the phone screen. He debated dismissing the call. No matter what Stanley said, he would still regret talking to him. It would just be better to ignore the ringing. Ford knew that in the long run, the choice might cause him problems, but he was willing to take that risk. It had already stopped by the time he decided not to pick up. A clearly irate Stanley was now leaving a message for him.
"Stanford, it looks like there's been a little mix-up between our identities... This line isn't secure. Call me b-"
He accepted the call before Stanley could even try to hang up.
"Mix-up?! What does that mean?! Did you use my name for something again?!"
"It isn't even my fault this time." He snapped back. "Probably."
"Have you checked your calendar lately?"
"Well I know the date-"
"June the twentieth-"
"And what happens today?"
"It's the first day of summer according to the-"
Ford stopped talking. Not because Stanley could interrupt him again, but because the feeling of dread that hit him knocked Ford into a state of silence. He had been so wrapped up in his work that he forgot to check the time. They should have arrived around twelve. It was two in the afternoon now. He had his assistant back at the house waiting for their bus to come. But if no one had come looking for him, that meant the twins had not shown up in Gravity Falls. If they were not in Gravity Falls yet, then where could they possibly be?
Then, the denial hit. No, this could not be happening. The bus must be running late, maybe they got caught in the rush hour! Perhaps they had missed the bus and had yet to tell him so! Yes, that made sense, they were just a little delayed by something. Because Stanley was just pulling his leg. This was just some sick joke of his! He didn't know how the man had found out, but he had the resources to do so. It was exactly the kind of joke that he could expect from him, especially after the one he had pulled that past April Fool's day! This was some stupid practical joke from Stanley. It had to be.
He might have been too stunned by his revelations to speak, but it did nothing to stop Stanley from continuing;
"I can't believe you'd actually forget something this important. You're supposed to be the brainiac after all."
"Watch out for that-!"
From the other end of the line, there came the noise of squealing tires. He heard two other petrified voices scream in the background. Then, he heard the man's laughter, a chilling, degrading sound. It was a dead ringer for their Pop's laugh. It had never been that pretty of a sound to begin with. Hearing it now just made things worse. Their father had been capable of doing a lot of bad things to kids. But it was nothing in comparison to what Stanley could and would do if he was given the incentive.
How had this happened? Who made this big of a goof-up? It wasn't like he hadn't told them he lived in Oregon, and not New Jersey! New Jersey was on the other side of the country! Could Stanley have something to do with this? It must have been so. He had done this deliberately to get at him! He had found a way to kidnap the kids, and their parents would never realize what had happened to them! But what did Stanley want with them? It couldn't be money. Money had not been an issue with him since he was kicked out of the house. Ford knew that he didn't own anything that Stanley wanted...
Ford felt slightly nauseous. He tried to speak, but his voice barely came out as a squeak. His throat tightened, and he had to take a deep breath. It did nothing to calm himself down. He was already starting to sweat, and his heart felt like it was ready to leap out of his chest. He had messed up. Somehow, he had messed up. He had always known that Stanley was out to get their family, but Ford had never thought he would go this far. At least not with kids who had no idea that Stanley existed to begin with.
"Stanley, what happened?! Are they alright?!"
"I have no idea who you're talking about. After all, I don't ever remember being put in charge of-"
"Damn it Stanley! Just-"
"This line isn't secure." He reminded. "I'll have to call you back."
"Don't you hang up on me! Stanley! STANLEY!"
"Sorry, we're going through a tunnel!"
It was too late. He had already hung up the line. Ford pressed a hand to his forehead, and gradually started to rub his temples. When he looked back up, the cave walls suddenly seemed too close, almost claustrophobic. And not only that, he couldn't help but feel vulnerable in such a dark place with no visible signs of life. Something about the cavern made him feel almost like he was being watched. Ford would have chalked it up to basic paranoia if not for the fact that the cave painting of a triangle was staring directly at him. Ford quickly backed out of the cave. He left his lights and twenty extension cords behind. He could always come back and investigate the demonic shape painting later.