“R..ru.. RUN” Eddie said, spinning around almost tripping before grabbing Peters arm and almost wrenching it from its socket as he pulled him back along the corridor with him. They didn’t stop to see if the thing was following them. They kept running, stumbling over each other as they piled back into the crossroads.
“Down here!” Eddie said, turning down the left path they had previously avoided. As they turned the corner, a flicker of dull light cast shadows of the stalagmites upon the far walls, for a moment a great stone jaw threatened to engulf them. As they headed up the new corridor they could see that there were many small passages leading off it. As they passed each one light flickered in the gloom followed by knocking sounds of picks striking the stone. Passing glances made out more humanoid figures clustered at the ends of each tunnel slowly turning towards them. Continuing down the dry floor made way to a trickling stream. Eventually, they were walking through a foot of water. There were no more branching tunnels down here, but they could hear the slow, steady shudders of the cave as the feet of dozens of things marched behind them.
“Shit” Eddie stopped suddenly, with peter colliding into his back.
“We’ve gotta climb that?” Peters’ neck craned back as far as it would go. The tunnel had ended at a waterfall around fifteen meters high. To the sides of the main falls, they could make out bulbous smoothed rock clearly shaped from many centuries of splashing waters. Eddie dared a glance back, instantly regretting it.
“There’s no going back now… I’ll give you a leg up, quick”
Peter jumped upon Eddies outstretched hands getting thrown towards the slippery rock face. For a moment his hands slid off everything he tried to grip and he felt sure he would fall back down. He felt a shove in his back, however, as Eddie pushed him against the stone, finally, his fingers latched around the edge of a small bulb of rock and, pulling with all his strength, Peter climbed up to the first ledge. Shadows began to dance in the path behind them as the lights of candles illuminated the passage.
“Pull me up!” Eddie said, glancing back every few moments at the encroaching threat. Peter wrapped his fingers around Eddie’s wrist and tried to pull him forwards, but his hands were covered in slime from the rocks and his grip was quickly lost sending him tumbling back. The shadows grew longer as the things began to shuffle around the corner.
“Quick!” Eddie leapt up grabbing at the rocks at the base of the platform. Peter grabbed onto his coat finding a firmer grip and pulling hard. Behind his brother he could see the creatures shuffling their way across the chamber, edging their way through the pool of water at the base of the waterfall. With a final exhausting tug, Eddie was hauled up collapsing onto the platform, A shred of his jeans torn off by an outstretched hand of one of the creatures. They stood atop the ledge and looked back down. A crowd of cold dead faces looked up at them, still and silent. Each had the empty hollowed eyes of the first and all wore similar clothing. The other wounds differed on each but all of them looked too serious for these things to be alive…
“What are they waitin-” Peter was cut off by a familiar hissing sound. The mouths of the crowd seemed to open in unison each emitting that fell noise. Eddie suddenly realised where he had heard it before. When his father had taken him to the local quarry last year. It was the sound of a fuse burning, of dynamite…
Golden light blazed within the eyes of the crowded things. Soon it spread to the mouths too. Cracks appeared in their skin filled with the same light. Eddie instinctively grabbed his brother and launched the pair backwards, just as the explosion rippled outwards from the crowd. His vision was blurred, blinking he could see a black fog creeping in from the edges until all faded to black…
He awoke to the rushing sounds of flowing water, ears still ringing from the blast. He felt out around him still unable to focus his eyes. The ground was covered in rubble and soft mushy piles of what he didn’t dare guess at. He crawled one hand in front of the other, desperately trying to drag his unresponsive body away from the blast site.
“P…t..r!” He thought he was screaming but couldn’t hear himself, nor any response.
“P .. .. R!” As he continued to scrabble around, his hand set itself upon a thin piece of cloth. Grabbing firm, he realised it was one of their head-torches. After moments of fumbling around in the dark, he managed to flick the light back on. For a split second he was blinded, and then, the room around began to fade into view. The scene made Eddie wish he had not turned it on. The dead miners had not been some hideous nightmare, nor some claustrophobic hallucination. Parts of them lay strewn everywhere. Spiralling vortexes of ash still danced through the air. The pool at the bottom of the waterfall had turned a deep dark black, although shining his torch directly at it revealed a crimson soup filled with chunks of humanoid parts.
Tears streamed down his face, head darting back and forth across the room, illuminating nothing but carnage. No sign at all of Peter West. With sound returning to him, the rushing waters finally drew his attention. From several holes in the ceiling, steady streams were pouring in at an alarming rate. Could they have walked so far underground to now be under one of the reservoirs still filled? Or was this coming from another subterranean complex? The questions flashed through his mind before the deafening roar of the waters drew his mind to action. Heaving himself to his knees, and then feet Eddie limped onwards. If his brother had survived perhaps he had tried to wake Eddie before trying to follow the tunnel to the exit in search for help? He could only hope. For the first time, he noticed a sharp pain in his left leg, looking down he realised his trouser leg was soaked in blood and his foot was twisted at an unnatural angle. What would father say if he could see you now? He thought.
“What kinda god damn pussy are you boy? Crying like a sissy girl, I didn’ae raise no sissy; take this, bite down hard, and wipe yer stupid face dry.”
He quickly suppressed the memory.
Limping on he realised the light from his torch was reflecting back at him from the corridor ahead. As he got closer A dark dread filled him up. Large boulders surrounded by walls of freshly moved dirt lay mounded up in the path. There was no way through. He was trapped. No way forward, no way back, waters coming in at an increasing rate. His heart began rushing faster and faster, eyes darting around desperately looking for some solution. Some last-minute salvation. It was then he heard a mumbling sound almost like a voice. He looked around but was alone, as he had always been. Then it came again, from he realised, the cave-in. Pressing his ear to the blockage Eddie listened closely.
“Edd..ie” It was Peter! He was alive! And it seemed on the other side of the collapse, he must have thrown him clear just before it happened (or the blast did), Eddie thought.
“Eddie, you hear me?”
“Yes! I’m fine you gotta start digging at this mud!” Eddie said.
He soon heard the sounds of peters tiny hands tearing away at the dirt collapse mixed in with grunts of exhaustion. Eddie began to dig too. As if his life depended on it, which it did. Ten minutes or so had passed when hands burst through the wall. Eddie grasped them tight, unable to hold back sobs of joy.
“We should have never come down here,” Peter said.
” I know… I know”, Eddie let go of his brother’s hand and lowered himself to look through the hole they made. Behind Peter light streamed down the tunnel… daylight. Dawn must be upon them he thought, and not only that – an exit! His joyous celebration was halted by a damp feeling in his shoes. Looking down the waters had now completely filled the lower portion of the cave and were now lapping at his feet.
“Quick Pete keep digging!” The pair went back to work but while it had taken them only ten minutes to make the hand-sized hole, making it larger was proving to be more of a struggle. Every time they made any significant progress, mud and dirt would slide down from above filling in the holes they made. The water now came up to Eddie’s waist, it chilled him to the bone and he was shivering uncontrollably now.
“F…F..F.Fas. .fast ..er” He said. It was hard to avoid the change in Peters’ face, the positivity from moments ago now replaced with a mix of fear and concern. Eddie was struggling to move his arms now. Each time he went to dig out more he had to wade through the icy waters. Peter was crying as well now, what a pair they made, Eddie thought. The water had now reached the hole they had dug and was flowing out of it, drenching Peter as he tried to expand it further. It was not draining quick enough, however, and the level inside was still rising. It seemed only a few moments between then and Eddie gulping his last desperate breath of air. He tried to press his face into the opening, and for a while, he gasped and gulped as he drew what little precious air he could while the waters flooded past his mouth. But then Peter watched as his eyes opened wide in terror, and Eddie’s face lurched backwards away from the hole disappearing into the murky abyss. In the last moment, Peter thought he could see another figure in the water dragging Eddie away…