Brett watched, stupefied, as Shiloh backed away in silent horror before she bolted blindly for the tunnel on the left. “Shiloh!” But she didn’t stop. She disappeared, stumbling into the darkness.
Left with little choice, he gave chase. His flashlight beam bouncing with each pounding step across the ground, he darted around the body of a man near the opening of the tunnel.
Skidding to a stop so quickly he toppled backwards, Brett rolled over and pushed himself to a defensive crouch. He swallowed, flashing his light across the ground where he’d just seen a man laying face down on the dirt, arm outstretched towards the tunnel where Shiloh had disappeared.
But the ground was barren and empty, nothing but rocks. Brett struggled to calm his breath, glancing over his shoulder into the tunnel. The dark abyss stretched behind him. Somewhere in there was Shiloh, terrified and on the run from something only she could see. Nerves clenched in his chest, cutting off the air to his lungs.
What was the saying his father used to recite when Mother Nature beat his old fishing boat with vicious rains? “I am the pilot of this storm. The winds obey me; the rains feed my soul; the thunder drives me; and the lightning illuminates my path in this otherwise dark world.”
The words steadied him some, and Brett used the moist wall to stand. With a last, lingering look at the open cavern he moved steadily into the darkness in search of his friend.
“Wish I had some lightning,” he muttered, his hand running along the moist wall while the flashlight lit the path ahead. Old rail ties stuck out of the ground at odd angles, long rusted in the dank underground mines. A cart sat ahead, forgotten and sitting half off the track as though abandoned in a mad rush.
A thud ahead had him on edge. Brett waved his flashlight towards the source to see a foot drag itself around the corner.
Leaping back, he pressed against the wall. “Jesus Christ,” he whispered. Calm down. That could be Shiloh, injured. Swallowing, he stepped forward, towards the corner. “Shiloh?” he called tentatively. His voice echoed back to him.
“Get it together, man.” Brett reprimanded himself. “Shiloh is counting on you.”
Taking a deep breath, he held it and leaped around the corner. He expected to find Shiloh, huddled against a wall and injured, judging by the way the foot was dragging. Instead, he met an empty hall. Frowning, he moved forward slowly. “Shiloh,” he whispered. “It’s me. Brett.”
The whisper came from behind him, a masculine sound unlike anything he’d ever heard. Hidden in the layers of the voice were the ethereal screams of the damned.
Brett leaped forward, turning mid-jump and focusing his light right where the man had whispered in his ear. Empty air greeted him. “What the fuck.”
His heart racing and threatening to beat right out of his chest, Brett made a hasty path forward, around three corners. “Shiloh!” he called, his voice reflecting back to him.
A scream sounded off from somewhere ahead. He sprinted forward, using the walls as grounding points when he needed to turn, until he was tripped.
Brett’s face rebounded off the track, his nose cracking under the pressure. Pain flooded him as his vision blurred and popped, and blood flowed down his face. Cursing, he stumbled to his feet and looked behind him.
He couldn’t see anything through the tears from his broken nose. Shiloh screamed again from somewhere ahead. Fear rose in his chest as he blinked to clear his vision. Shedding the backpack, he quickly tore his shirt off to stem the bleeding while he ran towards Shiloh’s scream, grabbing his flashlight before he took off at full speed.
She was around the next turn, pressed against the wall and staring at the ceiling. He stopped just short of her and swung his flashlight to where she was staring.
The light caught something as it flashed out of sight. “Holy shit,” he exclaimed, grabbing Shiloh’s shoulder. Her huge eyes swung towards him, barely registering he was there. The fear in them was evident. “Shiloh, we have to get out of here.”
She didn’t budge, apparently frozen to the wall. Brett cursed under his breath and bodily lifted her, throwing her over his shoulder. He made a quick path towards his backpack, knowing they needed the supplies.
The flashlight beam caught something dropping from the ceiling. Brett froze, listening intently. Shiloh began gasping and clawing desperately at his back in an attempt to get down and he knew the thing was behind him.
Brett ran for their lives, dropping Shiloh in front of him as he found the backpack and snatched it on the run. She sprinted, using the wall as a guide and the flashlight beam as her homing beacon. Brett kept close behind her. He didn’t look back. He didn’t want to turn around and look this thing in face.
The cavern came into view, the precious natural light, minimal as it was, shining into the darkness. Almost there.
When they burst into the open space, Brett was already yelling. “Tom! Tom!” The old man’s face appeared in the hole at the top of the rickety wooden ladder. “We’re tying up. Pull us out with the excavator.”
“I can’t,” he replied.
“What?” Shiloh was panicking, her nails gripping at Brett's arm. “The hell does he mean?” she said softly, her breath coming in gasping spurts.
“The excavator is out of gas,” Tom yelled.
Dumbfounded, Brett looked at Shiloh. “Well, then. We have to climb.”
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