Shrieks from the Shadows: It Came from the Cave- Chapter 6

2 replies [Last post]
Lack Lunason's picture
Lack Lunason
Online
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/24/2017

 

HA HA HA!  I HAVE ARRIVED!

 

First off, Happy Thanksgiving!  And what's the best way to celebrate this holiday?  By finishing up a Halloween story, of course!

 

I would like to thank you, my dear readers, for your continued patience through all of this.  We all know that I wanted to finish 'It Came from the Cave' way back on Halloween.  And then I said, "Yo!  I'll try to have this done by the end of the first week of November."  But everything just got super delayed, so now here we are.  

 

The good news is that I think we will all agree that this final chapter was well worth the wait.  I kid you not, it is 12,708 words long, and 27 pages!  There's a lot to go over here.  This one chapter is over 1/4 of my book, and I wrote it all since I posted the previous chapter.

 

That being said, this will be the grand conclusion to this year's story.  I really hope you like it, and I feel confident that it will have plently of tricks up its sleeves.  As always, I would love to hear your feedback, and, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask them.

 

With all that being said, cook up some popcorn, sit down, and enjoy one last thrill-filled chapter in this crazy tale of monsters and mayhem!

__________________

 

AFTER ALMOST A YEAR OF PROCRASTINATION, LINKS TO MY THIRD HALLOWEEN STORY ARE NOW UP IN MY SIGNATURE!

 

 

LACK LUNASON

(I figure you've probably already figured that out, but I thought I'd play it safe.)

 

    Hi, I'm Lack Lunason. I'm called that because I lack many things, and I'm a lunatic. I just put son on the end to make it sound more like a viking name. I'm also a Christ follower.

 

      Here are just a few more things about me:

  1. I am a procrastinator.
  2. I'm pretty nice (mostly).
  3. I am most definitely kind (don't listen to those that say otherwise).
  4. Adventurous.
  5. Lazy.
  6. A dreamer.
  7. And I'm slightly crazy.

     I've been around SoD for a long time. I think I was one of the first thousand to leave Berk and sail to the school. I'm happily part of the bold clan known as POTATO BROTHERS. I have over four-thousand trouphies, although, I don't like racing much. On the other hand, I'm a Master Farmer.  (Don't you dare ask me how fishing is going!  We don't speak of that!)

 

      On the ranking on the forum, I've completed/on the following: Jarl, Forager, Wilderness Explore, Viking Warrior, Dragon Trainer, Drott, Dragon Master, Chief, Berk's Power Player, and......

 

SUPREME VIKING CHAMPION

(Respect my Authority!)

[because no one else will]

 

(Sorta) Current Trophy Count:

4725

 

Now onto some random stuff. This part will grow over time.

 

WARNING:  THE REST OF THIS THREAD IS GUARDED BY....

 

BAT-MAN THE VAST (Also known as Bat-Stoick)

(By The Dragoness)

 

Fan-Fiction And Short Stories:

 

Shrieks From The Shadows Series:

 

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5

 

The Terrifier

Chapter 1  Chapter 2  Chapter 3  Chapter 4  Chapter 5

 

What Lurks in Ebony Swamp

Chapter 1     Chapter 2     Chapter 3    Chapter 4   Chapter 5

 

Things I am a Fan of

 

How To Train Your Dragon

 

 

GODZILLA

 

TEETITANS

 

Quotes I love

 

"Once I set the sea alight with a single fiery breath....

Once I was so mighty that I thought my name was death....

Sing out loud until you're eaten, song of melancholy bliss....

For the mighty and the middling all shall come to THIS...."

The Green Death, How To Train Your Dragon: book 1. Cressida Cowell.

 

"WE WILL FIGHT THEM ON THE BEACHES! WE WILL FIGHT THEM IN THE BRACKEN! WE WILL FIGHT THEM IN THOSE BOGGY MARSHY BITS THAT ARE SO DIFFICULT TO WALK THROUGH WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SHOES! WE WILL NEVER SURRENDER!"

Stoick The Vast. How To Train Your Dragon: Book 5. Creessida Cowell.

 

"I sailed so far to be a King, but the time was never right.....

I lost my way on a stormy past, got wrecked in starless night....

But let my heart be wrecked by hurricanes and my ship by stormy weather....

I know I am a Hero...and a Hero is....FOREVER!

In another time, another place, I could have been a King....

But in my castle's ruined towers the lonely seabirds sing.....

I burned up my Tomorrows, I cannot go back ever....

But I am still a Hero....and a Hero is.......FOREVER!

Up with your sword and strike at the gale......

Ride the rough seas for those waves are your home......

Winters may freeze but our hearts do not fail.....

Heroes.......Hearts......FOREVER!

You are never alone if the sea is your friend......

Riding the waves of impossible quests.....

If it doesn't end well, then it isn't the end.....

A Hero.....Fights.....FOREVER!

The hero cares not for a wild winter's storm.....

For it carries him swift on the back of the wave.....

All may be lost and our hearts may be worn.....

BUT A HERO.....FIGHTS.....FOREVER!"

Grimbeard the Ghastly's Last Song. How To Train Your Dragon: Book 11 and 12. Cressida Cowell.

 

      That's about it. I give full credit for...well, everything, to GOD. Have a good day.

 

Bye for now!

 

 

FURTHER CONTENT IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION 

 

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Wait, you're still here?

Lack Lunason's picture
Lack Lunason
Online
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/24/2017
The Dark Depths

 

CHAPTER SIX

The Dark Depths

 

     Down and down I fell, my scream echoing up the stony walls as they seemed to close in on me.  My flashlight, still lit up, tumbled about wildly above me, just out of reach, as if taunting me.  Off to my side, I heard Isabella screaming.  I couldn’t see her, but she was only a few feet away.

 

     I’m not sure how long we fell through the darkness.  It felt like hours upon hours, but it could have also just been a few seconds.  I was too busy freaking out to even try to judge distance.  Still, it could not have been that terribly far, because I was still on my first scream when I noticed a change.  The walls, which had previously been dangerously close to me, suddenly disappeared.

 

     I had only just begun to wonder where they went when an explosion of agony burst from my left shoulder.  I screamed again, but this time from pain, as it rocketed through my entire body.  And then I was tumbling.  I couldn’t tell which way was up or down, too focused on the pain that soared through me as rock seemed to hit me from all sides.  Again, I lost all ability to tell time, as the seconds seemed to stretch on and on.  

 

     And then it stopped.

 

     Then I stopped.

 

     I knew I wasn’t dead, as everything hurt too much for that.  But the falling and the tumbling had ended.  I knew I should have tried to figure out what was going on, but I was too focused on catching my breath and trying to pray the pain away.  

 

     “Ugh…” a voice groaned not too far away.  I must have gotten my earmuffs nocked off somewhere in all the chaos.  The voice returned, asking one simple question.  “You okay, Crystal?”

 

     I didn’t even feel good enough to respond to Isabella, so I just lay there.  

 

     “Crystal?” Isabella’s voice came again.  I heard slow but deliberate footsteps coming towards me, stopping by my side.  Then Isabella asked again, but there was a lot more worry in her voice.  “Crystal?”

 

     I knew I had to respond.  Slowly, and with no small amount of effort, I placed the palms of my hands on the freezing cold stone ground and pushed myself upwards.  I nearly fell as a new wave of pain shot from my left arm, but Isabella caught me and helped me to my feet.  “How are you doing?”

 

     “I’ve done better…” I muttered, placing my hand on my head and struggling to get my bearings.  “What just happened?”

 

     “We took quite the nasty tumble,” Isabella told me.  “We were lucky enough to have a steep slope to safely break our fall.”

 

     “I wouldn’t call it lucky,” I grumbled, rubbing my arm and hoping nothin was broken.

 

     “Just look at what helped break our fall.”

 

     I didn’t really care to know, but Isabella turned me and, using her flashlight, which now had a small crack in the lens, lit up the entire area.  I quickly tried to take in everything that I was seeing.  The first thing I noticed was that we were in a gigantic chamber.  It stretched off to our sides for so far that I couldn’t see the walls, but just saw the darkness.  There was also a very, very steep slope before us, which nearly became vertical at the top, running all the way up to the ceiling.  I could just barely make out the crevice that we had fallen out of way up there.  We must have dropped out of it and rolled down the hill.

 

     But what caught my eye wasn’t the slope, but what was growing on it.  There was a plethora of glowing fungus just covering everything.  I could barely see the stone hill, as it was growing so fiercely.  “Whoa…” I muttered, stunned by what I was seeing.  Without warning, Isabella turned off her flashlight, but, instead of being left in the dark, the fungus lit the place up.  It wasn’t as bright as I would have hoped, but I could still see myself and Isabella decently well.

 

     We both stood there in silence for a minute, too in awe at what was before us to worry about our horrible circumstances.  But it couldn’t last.  

 

     “So what do we do now?” I asked Isabella.

 

     She turned her flashlight back on and started gesturing.  “I think we should try climbing back on out.  We can get up this slope easily enough, and we can search for a way to get back to the tunnel above.”

 

     I shuddered at the thought of climbing after just receiving such a battering.  Then another thought occurred to me and I asked, “Supposing we do get back up there, what do we do if the creature is waiting for us?”

 

     “We’ll solve that when we get there,” Isabella told me, her voice determined.  

 

     I took a breath, then nodded.  “Lead the way.”

 

     We both started up the slope, Isabella’s flashlight lighting our way.  Higher and higher we climbed, our progress slow but constant.  I still felt really off due to the fall, and I could see that Isabella was struggling some too, but we both ignored the pain and pushed on.  I actually found my earmuffs on the way up, they had become stuck on a piece of the fungus, and quickly placed them on my head, though I didn’t let them cover my ears.  As we went, I realized that the fungus actually made things easier, as it helped with footing, and it gave us something to hold onto if we thought we were slipping.  

 

     We were about halfway up the slope when Isabella held up her hand to stop me.  She quickly gestured for me to be silent, and we both listened.  And I heard it.  There was a very distinct scraping sound, coming from above and before us.  It took me a moment to realize that it was coming from the hole in the ceiling.  Both Isabella and I froze, watching the mouth of the crevice, fearing for the worst.  Two small rocks suddenly tumbled out of the hole, pouncing down the hill towards us.  I barely had enough time to drop down and cover my head, as they bounced over me.  

 

     As I lifted my head off of the ground, I saw something that made me gasp.  The creature was emerging from the hole!  It had to squeeze out of the exit, its bulky body looking very much like a giant bug of some sort.  Its long, spindly legs thrashed about, like small trees waving in a hurricane.  Then it dropped free, landing with a thud on the slope.  Somehow it stuck the landing, and its head slowly turned about to look down on us.

 

     And, for the first time, I truly saw the creature in all its glory.

 

     Surrounded by the glowing fungus, the creature was illuminated at all sides by the pale light.  From its head to its tail, it had to be roughly thirty feet long, and it stood easily at fifteen feet tall, maybe more.  Its body was surprisingly thin for its size, but looked quite strong, and it had a certain shine about it, like that of a beetle.  The creature also had sizable legs, each one looking like that of a spider.  And, for the first time, I noticed two more appendages, tucked right under its body, near where I’d assume the shoulders would be on a normal animal.  These appendages looked tiny for a creature of this size, but they ended in thin claws.  Behind its body whipped its long tail, which seemed extra lethal.  It also appeared armored, and the stinger at the end was simply just overkill.

 

     Then I took in its face and all the other details seemed to melt away.  Its face was an abomination.  Just like its body, its face seemed too thin and too long.  It had two, pale eyes, but I really doubted it could see with those.  I didn’t see any ears, but that didn’t mean it didn’t have them.  Same goes for the nose.  But, what it did have, was a grotesque mouth.  I would have expected something resembling a bug, perhaps mandibles, but its mouth was surprisingly human.  That is, if you removed the lips entirely, and filled in the gaps with rows of sharp teeth.  

 

     Acting on instinct, I pushed my earmuffs over my ears.  Just in time too, as the creature slammed its front legs into the ground and gave a shriek.  It hurt, but I took little notice as I began fleeing back down the slope.  It was extremely difficult, as I nearly tripped with every step.  I began moving faster and faster, and the struggle to keep my balance became more and more difficult.  I stumbled and nearly went down, but I somehow managed to get my legs back underneath me just in time.

 

     Isabella and I finally reached level ground and started sprinting into the unknown depths of the chamber.  Glancing back, I saw that the creature had reached the level ground too, but, instead of pursuing us, it started circling around the edge of the hill, as if it had become distracted with the fungus.  

 

     Realizing that we were no longer in immediate danger, I went to get Isabella’s attention.  However, she had put her earmuffs on now too, so I would have to catch her to tell her.  Unfortunately, she was full on sprinting, running across the open ground as if she were in a marathon, which forced me to do the same just to keep up.  And then I noticed where Isabella was running.  There was a sizable passageway not too far ahead of us, and Isabella was heading right towards it.

 

     Before I could stop her, she had run inside, forcing me to enter as well.  The ground began to slope down again, but it was nowhere near as bad as the hill in the chamber.  There was also some fungus growing on the wall in random patches, making it easier to see our surroundings.  Still, Isabella ran on, not bothering to look back to see if we were being pursued.  It wasn’t until we reached a fork in the tunnel that Isabella finally glanced behind her.  Seeing nothing except me, she came to a stop at the fork in the tunnel, turning around and removing her earmuffs so that she could talk to me.

 

     “I think we’re safe for a moment,” she panted, catching her breath.

 

     “But now what?” I asked, also having removed my earmuffs.  “The only way out is being guarded by that giant creature, and we have no idea what lies down these other passages.”

 

     Isabella considered my question a minute, her gaze lost in concentration.  Finally she shrugged and said, “I guess we’ll just have to figure a way past that thing.”

 

     “That’s it?” I asked after a moment of stunned silence.  

 

     “Well, I mean, we’ll definitely need a better plan than that.  But, ultimately, yes.”

 

     I opened my mouth to respond, but suddenly, from down the hallway, there came a terrible noise.  The cave creature was shrieking again.  The cave around me, which was already extremely dark, seemed to dim, and I began to lose my balance as the seemingly seemingly wobbled.  Through the pain and confusion, I was able to force the earmuffs on.  It took the edge off the horrible noise, and I was able to regain my focus.  The first thing that I realized was that I was now lying on the ground.  Pushing myself up, I spotted Isabella on the cave floor a few feet away, her hands clamped over her ears.  I hurried on over, helping her get the earmuffs on.  As soon as she did, I helped her to her feet, and we both looked down the tunnel to where the noise was coming from.

 

     The shrieking had stopped, but, as we gazed down the tunnel, we saw that something else was coming.  It was the creature.  It slowly stalked down the hallway, its eyes blank as ever, and teeth slightly glowing from the fungus it had consumed.  It was still a good fifty yards away, but it was advancing steadily.  Isabella slowly tapped me, getting my attention.  She then subtly motioned for us to back away down the left fork of the tunnel.  I nodded my head, and we both started backing up.  

 

     We had only take ten steps back when I froze dead in my tracks, Isabella doing likewise next to me.  I had just been hit by a hot blast of air, coming from directly behind me.  Pausing, my mind tried to rationalize what had just happened.  It couldn’t have been, could it?  Sure not.  Still, there was only one way to be sure.

 

     Ever so slowly, I turned about, looking up and behind me.  I felt like I had the breath ripped from my body when I realized what was just behind me.  It was a second cave creature!  There were two!  The one before me snarled fiercely, apparently quite perturbed that we were there.  Isabella and I backed away from it, only to realize that we were backing towards the first one.  They were now both slowly advancing towards us.

 

     Thinking quickly, Isabella grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the third passageway.  The creatures watched us go, seemingly in no hurry to give chase.  After all, I thought, we were trapped underground in their domain.

 

     We ran on, not bothering to look back.  It was foolish to run through the uncharted caverns without trying to mark our trial, but, at the same time, it would be foolish to just stand around and wait for one of those creatures to find us.  Who knew how many of those there actually were down here?  

 

     The tunnel seemed to stretch on and on.  It was impossible to actually tell how far we went, but we were consistently going downwards.  At last, we saw the end of the passageway that we were in, and entered the next chamber.  The second Isabella and I beheld what was before us, we stopped dead in our tracks.  “Whoa!” I breathed, my eyes darting about as I struggled to take it all in.

 

     We had entered a gigantic cavern, the immensity of which was impressive on its own.  I felt confident that an entire football stadium could easily fit inside of that chamber.  And, to my absolute wonder, the entire thing was lit up in brilliant light by the pure quantity of the glowing fungus.  It seemed to be sprouting everywhere!  From the floors, the walls, and even the ceiling.  I doubted we even needed Isabella’s flashlight, as the glow was just that powerful.  

 

     Additionally, the entire room consisted of layers of rocks.  We were currently on the outskirts of the second highest layer, and we had a pretty great view to see everything else.  Looking down to the lowest level, I was surprised to see that an underground stream flowed right through the middle of things.  And it was not a small stream either, as it was quite large, and moved rather quickly.  

 

     Looking upwards, there was a large piece of rock jutting downwards.  The stalactite was absolutely massive, having to be thirty fifty feet wide, and thirty tall.  Of course, the fungus was growing on it too, swirling down it like a bizarre candy cane.  

 

     But there was one more feature of the chamber that was truly insane.  There were cave creatures everywhere.  Dozens upon dozens on them, crawling up and down, and scurrying on their way.  It was like watching an ant colony at work, but terrifying.  Some were on the lowest level, getting a drink from the river.  Others scurried across the stalactite, occasionally grabbing some fungus as they went.  

 

     I slowly turned about, taking in the sights that surrounded us.  It was truly amazing, even if it was completely frightening.  Here we were, trapped underground with these things, and yet it was dazzling in its own right.  

 

     That’s when I realized that one of the cave creatures was approaching.  It strode towards where Isabella and I were standing, its tail whipping through the air in twists and spirals.  I slowly backed up, tapping Isabella on the shoulder to get her attention, as she had yet to notice the creature.  I glanced about, trying to find a path to get away from the beast, but there weren’t many options.  It was either run down the path right next to the thing, or jump over the side of the edge and probably just end up in front of another one of these creatures.  

 

     Before I could come to a decision, the beast was before us.  It seemed to pause as it sensed the two of us, swaying from side to side as it considered.  Then it lowered its huge head and…grabbed a clump of the fungus that was growing right next to us.  Just as soon as it had gathered the fungus, it turned away and started marching off, leaving Isabella and myself standing there.

 

     “What just happened?” I muttered to myself, watching as the creature started climbing the walls.  Turning to Isabella, I gestured at the beast, trying to convey my confusion.  Isabella just shrugged.  I glanced about a little more, trying to figure out what we were witnessing.  Then a thought hit me, and I started considering a bad idea.  “You know what?” I said, “I’m taking this off.”  

 

     Reaching up, I removed the earmuffs.  Isabella wasted no time trying to stop me, but I took a step out of her reach and said, “Relax.  We’re fine.”  That did little to reassure Isabella, probably because she couldn’t hear me, and she frantically gestured for me to put them back on.  Seeing that I wasn’t going to, Isabella actually reached out and tried grabbing them so that she could force them back on my head.  Unfortunately for her, she missed.  Doubly unfortunate for her was that I didn’t.

 

     “Hey!  Give those back!” Isabella whisper-shouted at me as I began backing up, both pairs of earmuffs in my hands.

 

     “Isabella, relax,” I told her calmly, a smile on my face.

 

     “Hand them over!” Isabella insisted.  “What if one of those things starts going off?!”

 

     “Do you really think these things will save us from an entire room of howling creatures?” I asked her.  “These barely helped us against just one.”

 

     Isabella paused as she considered what I had said.  “Fair point,” she finally admitted.  She still didn’t look happy, but she wasn’t losing her mind, so that was an improvement.

 

     “Anyways, we need to talk about what’s going on,” I told her.  

 

     “Oh, where to begin?” she said sarcastically, rolling her eyes.

 

     “First off, I want to know why these things seem so uninterested in us,” I said, gesturing at the numerous creatures, who were all going about their business as if nothing was out of the ordinary.  “I mean, we just barged into their home.  You’d expect some sort of reaction, right?”

 

     “Actually,” Isabella said, considering the question.  “It does kind of make sense.”

 

     “How?” I asked.

 

     “Well, these things have been living underground, completely unnoticed by us humans.  They have probably never seen any of us before, so they have no experience with our species.  Thus, they don’t see us as a predator, or as prey.”

 

     “So, we should be rather safe down here, right?”

 

     “Hypothetically,” Isabella shrugged.  “Assuming we don’t do anything extreme that warrants a reaction.”

 

     “Going by that logic, we should be able to move about pretty freely, right?” I prodded, a smile starting to spread across my face.

 

     “Again, this is purely hypothetical, but yes,” Isabella told me.

 

     “Do you know what this means?” I asked her.

 

     “That we should be able to casually walk back to the first chamber and make our escape?” Isabella suggested.

 

     “That too,” I admitted.  “But it also means that we should be able to look around this chamber and see how these creatures live.”

 

     “No,” Isabella jumped in.  “We’re not doing that.”

 

     “Oh, come on,” I protested.  “You just said that we should be fine, and I doubt these creatures will mind.”

 

     “No,” Isabella told me again.

 

     “Please,” I practically begged.  “This place is unexplored, and these are completely undocumented animals.  We could be the only two people to ever learn their secrets.   Plus, as another perk, we won’t even have to waste our flashlight’s battery in here.”

 

     “What about Jeremy?” Isabella countered.  “You want to leave him up there, worried out of his mind?”

 

     “He’s already worried.  We might as well make things worth while, right?  Anyway, we don’t have to stick around that long.  Just give me a few minutes to check things out.  We’re going to seal the cave up anyway.”

 

     Isabella gave a monstrous sigh, then nodded.  “You have five minutes exactly, and then we’re both heading directly out.  Deal?”

 

     “Yes!” I quickly agreed.  “That’s plenty of time.”

 

     “Good,” Isabella said, glancing about suspiciously, as if expecting things to turn bad immediately.  “Just give me back the earmuffs before you go.”  I handed them over quickly, hoping to make the most of my five minutes and not wanting Isabella to change her mind.  I was just about to head on my way when Isabella stopped me one more time and added, “By no means leave this chamber!  Who knows where these other passages go?”

 

     I nodded my understanding, then I strode off, following the natural slope of the rock towards the lowest level of the room.  As I went, I found the toughest part was the small, unstable rocks that lined the floors.  However, besides for those, the trek was easy enough.  I passed by a few of the cave creatures, and none of them paid me much mind.  It was actually kind of odd.  After being so afraid of these things for so long, to see them up close, doing whatever it was that they did, it was nice.  These things were nothing but big animals.  Sure, they still looked grotesque and fierce, but it was more like hanging out near giant cows or something.  

 

     Walking along the edge of the river, I watched as the creatures moved about.  They occasionally stopped by fungus, leaning over to grab at a few pieces.  That’s when I noticed something peculiar.  They weren’t always eating it, but were also collecting the fungus and carrying it off somewhere.  Squinting my eyes, I watched as one of the creatures grabbed a sizable chunk of the fungus and started carrying it off towards a nearby corner of the room.  My curiosity getting the better of me, I hurriedly followed it, trying to see where it was going.

 

     The creature I was following joined a line of three others, and they all headed into a small passage in the wall.  I came to a stop as they disappeared out of sight.  Part of me wanted to follow them, while another part wanted to stay and look around the chamber some.  But I couldn’t silence the question in the back of my mind.  Where were those things taking the fungus, and why?  

 

     Surely it would not take me that long to go and see, right?  I knew Isabella wanted me to stay in the chamber, but, as long as I was back before the five minutes was up, I’d be good, right?  I glanced over my shoulder, searching for Isabella.  I spotted her squatting next to a patch of the fungus.  She looked pretty focused on examining it.  She probably wouldn’t notice if I disappeared for a moment.

 

     Making up my mind, I followed the creatures down the new tunnel.  

 

     The tunnel grew significantly darker, but I ignored it as I trudged on.  I could hear the creatures up ahead, but I couldn’t see them through the twisting tunnel.  Then, turning a sharp corner, I entered a new chamber.  This one was about half the size of the previous one, and it was a lot darker.  There was barely any of the glowing fungus in here, and I didn’t have a flashlight to help any.  But I was still able to spot the four creatures marching along.  They met up with a number of others, and they all marched down towards the lowest point of the chamber, where a large pile of rocks were stacked.

 

     “Hm, weird?” I muttered to myself as I watched.  However, to my disappointment, nothing interesting happened.  The creatures just dropped the fungus around the edge of the boulders, and then went on their way.  I gave a sigh, coming to terms with the fact that this had been a waste of my precious, and very limited, time.  I was just about to head out when I was forced to do a double take.

 

     The rocks…they had moved.

 

     I stared down in confusion as some of the boulders seemed to shift, moving from side to side as they rotated.  And then my eyes adjusted, and I gave a gasp.  Those weren’t rocks at all!  That was a cave creature!  But this one was way larger than the others.  Like, easily three times the size, and even more ill proportioned.  My mind was struggling to wrap around what my eyes were seeing.  The only thing that I could conclude was that, if these other cave creatures were like ants, then this must be their queen.  

 

     Watching from my perch, I saw the queen eating the fungus that was presented to her.  It was actually kind of cool seeing how these things lived. Without realizing it, I leaned forwards so that I could get a better look down at the queen.

 

     That was my big mistake.  I accidentally slipped on the slope and lost my balance, tumbling backwards.  Luckily, I was able to recover before I went over the side of the ledge.  However, my scream of surprise did echo around the room, bouncing off the walls of the chamber and probably disturbing every single cave creature in the entire mountain.  

 

     As I watched, the queen whipped about, and, though I doubted it could see me, I knew instantly that it had locked onto me.  The other cave creatures got dangerously still as the queen slowly and deliberately pulled herself forward, beginning to march in my direction.  I got the clear and deliberate vibe that, while the other creatures may not mind me, this one was going to be different.  

 

     Backing away from the beast, I tried to slip through the shadows and to the exit.  However, my movement just seemed to aggravate the queen even more, and she sped up her approach.  I quickly slipped the earmuffs back into position, just in case this escalated.  The queen finally reached the path that I was on and began approaching.  I tried my best to remain calm, hoping that the queen would move on and ignore me like the rest of the creatures did.  At last, the queen came to a stop right before me, lowered her head, and opened wide her mouth.  I subconsciously took another step back, prepared to run if this thing did anything aggressive at all.

 

     But, instead of attacking, the queen simply took a deep breath.  It wasn’t even an agitated breath, but seemed more like simple breathing.  I was confused, but also greatly relieved that she wasn’t attacking.  Then my momentary relief faded as I realized that the queen hadn’t just been breathing, but had been tasting the air.  Just like a snake, the queen flicked her tongue about, and I instantly knew that I wasn’t in the clear yet.  The queen stopped, but her tail began to whip through the air dangerously, nearly hitting a nearby cave creature in the face.  Then the queen took a longer, deeper breath and opened her mouth wide!

 

     After all the experience with the one cave creature, I knew what was about to happen.  I took off sprinting as fast as I could, heading right for the exit.  Behind me, the queen unleashed her shriek.  This one was different from the others that I had heard.  This one was louder, deeper, and richer.  It tore through the earmuffs like they were nothing, dropping me to the floor instantly as the noise filled my brain and clouded my thoughts.  

 

     Like the ones that came before it, the shriek finally ended, leaving me disoriented and terrified.  I pushed myself up off the ground and continued my sprint down the tunnel, hurrying back towards the main chamber.  The glowing fungus started to return, guiding me towards my destination.  Then, before I even realized it, I burst through the end of the passageway and entered the massive chamber.

 

     My eyes instantly found Isabella, who was standing on a small rise, looking all about, and clearly searching for me.  She spotted me, and I could see confusion and upset written across her face.  But then, as I watched, I saw the confusion melt away to shock, then to horror.  That’s when I realized that she was no longer looking at me, but something behind me.  As much as I dreaded what I might find, I took a glance over my shoulder.  My heart skipped a beat at what I saw.  Out of the tunnel I had just come from was pouring dozens upon dozens of the cave creatures.  It was like watching ants scurry about after their mound has been disturbed.  As they spewed into the chamber, they fanned out.  Some went towards me, others ran parallel to the walls, while a few even started scaling the walls and headed for the ceiling.  It was obvious that they were very agitated now, and that their queen must have sent them to get rid of us.  It was also clear that, while they had the numbers advantage, they lacked strategy or planning, as they ran about furiously, but without much direction.

 

     Turning my attention back to Isabella, I saw her gesturing towards the far wall.  I nodded my head as I realized what she was trying to convey.  With that, Isabella jumped off the rise and began sprinting, and I changed direction so that I would end up meeting her.  We were both running towards the exit tunnel, as we both knew that we had overstayed our welcome.

 

     My legs pushing off the rocky ground, I struggled to climb upwards.  A few loose rocks were knocked aside by my shoe, tumbling down and splashing into the river.  I ignored them, however, as my attention was locked on trying to find the easiest path back up to the exit.  Spotting the desired passageway, I began sprinting up a hill, urging my legs to run faster.  

 

     Isabella had already reached the mouth of the tunnel, but she stood there, waiting for me to catch up.  She looked extremely nervous, constantly glancing about at the incoming hoards, and I could tell by the look in her calculating eyes that she was trying to figure out if we would be able to escape.  She didn’t look too hopeful. 

     

     I finally reached the path back to the cave and, sprinting down it as fast as I could, I arrived at Isabella’s side a moment later.  Without any prompting, or even a word spoken, we both took off down the passage.  For all we knew, there could have been any number of cave creatures ahead of us, but we didn’t have time to worry about that, not when we knew we had numerous angry beasts behind us.  The fungus lit our way as we ran farther and farther, but the tunnel kept on stretching before us.  At last, we reached the fork in the path, and Isabella took the lead, guiding us back towards the main chamber.  

 

     After running some distance further, I spotted the end of the tunnel, and we quickly emerged back into the first chamber.  Lucky for us, the room seemed devoid of any of the creatures, though it was tough to tell with the thick shadows in the corners of the room.  Either way, that still left us with limited time to climb the steep slope back up to a crack in the roof that we may or may not even be able to scale.  Plus, even if we climbed the entire thing, we still had the cave above us that we needed to get through to finally be back on the surface.

 

     I didn’t like our chances of escaping, but, having no other options, I shoved those negative thoughts into the back of my mind, and began up the slope.

 

     The climb was difficult, but we pushed on.  Loose rocks slide under our shoes, though the fungus did make things slightly easier.  Stumbling and staggering, we pushed on.  The earmuffs made it impossible to tell if we were being followed, and, if so, how closely.  I couldn’t glance behind to check even if I wanted to, as the slope required all of my attention.  So higher and higher we went, passing the halfway mark without a second thought.  We pushed on, occasionally being forced to use our hands as well as our feet, and we finally reached the ground directly under the hole in the ceiling.

 

     Dread seemed to fill my body as I realized that the crevice was just barely too far above us to simply jump up and reach.  But Isabella had already noticed, and had devised a plan for that.  She got my attention and motioned for me to give her a boost up.  Understanding, I took the strongest stance I could on the horribly uneven ground, and intertwined my fingers, giving Isabella a place to step up.  

 

     Isabella took full advantage of my help, even stepping on my shoulder to get higher.  Then she sprang off, nearly knocking me back down.  However, once I recovered my balance, I saw that she had grabbed onto a small rock that jutted out slightly, and she had begun climbing up.  Once she had a good hold, she leaned out, extending a hand for me.  I nodded, then jumped up, grabbing onto her arm and dangling above the ground.  Isabella grimaced from the strain, but she was able to pull me up enough that I could get my fingers in a small crevice.  Letting go of her arm, I scrambled to get a better grasp on the wall.  My left shoulder screamed, still not recovered from the fall we had taken, but I ignored it and gripped the wall.

 

     Both of us having found handholds, we began moving upwards.  The climb was difficult, especially since we had left the glow of the fungus below us, and Isabella’s flashlight wasn’t enough to truly help both of us.  Thus, most of the time, I was struggling in the dark.  Lucky for us, the wall was not smooth, but was rather craggy.  Up and up we went again, this time on a more direct path towards the surface.  The farther we went, the more my arms ached, but there was no turning back.

 

     Just as my strength was about to fail me, I noticed an arm reaching down to help.  Looking up, I saw that Isabella was reaching down to me.  Not only that, she was lying on a ledge.  That’s when I realized that we had reached the top of the hole.  Taking her hand, Isabella helped pull me up the last little bit.  Kicking my legs up the rock, I tried my best to help, until I finally reached the lip and tumbled onto the rocky ground.  I took one moment to catch my breath, Isabella doing likewise, then I moved back towards the crevice.

 

     I gazed down, trying to judge just how far it was to the bottom.  I could make out the glow of the fungus at the other end, and, based on that, I guessed that it was not more than a fifteen foot drop.  Not nearly as long as I would have first guessed, but it explained why we weren’t killed upon impact.  

 

     Then a large shape moved below us, and I gasped.  It was a cave creature, and it began climbing upwards.  Even though we had escaped the chamber, we weren’t in the clear just yet.  Grabbing Isabella’s shoulders, I yanked her to her feet and pushed her towards the cave’s exit, quickly motioning for her to go.  She understood immediately, and began running back up the path and towards the outside world.

 

     The path seemed to stretch on and on.  It felt a lot longer than when I had first entered, and the only thing that kept me believing that we were running in the right direction was that the ground kept slanting upwards.  Then the tunnel seemed to start widening around us, and I realized that things were getting slightly brighter.  And then I saw it!  There was the exit!

 

     And there was something standing in the opening!

 

     Even before Isabella shined the flashlight on him, I could make out the silhouette of Jeremy perfectly, right down to his always disheveled hair.  When he saw us, he looked greatly relieved, and a wide smile spread across his face.  But then Isabella shouted ahead, and, even with the earmuffs on, I could make out what she said perfectly.  “SHUT THE CAVE!”

 

     The smile of Jeremy’s face evaporated immediately, and he seemed to fumble for a moment, but then he ran off to complete his sister’s bidding.  That didn’t give us long to get out before the explosives would go off and seal the cave, so we had to move fast.  Isabella and I continued upwards, pushing ourselves forwards.  We knew that somewhere behind us, the cave creatures were approaching.  We just had to beat them out.  

 

     And then, to my great relief, we exited the cave.  The moonlight shone down around us as Isabella and I sprinted across the open ground, nearly tripping on the debris from the last rockslide.  As we reached the tree line, both Isabella and I came to a stop and turned around to watch what would transpire.

     

     We watched as Jeremy half jumped, half slid down the side of the mountain before taking off as fast as he could.  Then I spotted the small, sizzling light of the fuse as it went down.  And then I saw something else.  From within the cave rose two pearly orbs.  I knew those eyes perfectly by now, and I gazed on in shock as the cave creature approached the exit of the tunnel.  The creature locked onto us, its head lowering, and its tail whipping about.  And then it took a deep breath and opened its mouth, ready to unleash another of its devastating screams.  The sound that followed cut through my earmuffs, and I dropped to the ground.

 

     But it was not the sound of a horrible shriek, but the terrible blast of an explosion, which echoed off the mountain like rolling thunder.

 

     As I watched, a huge fireball erupted from right above the cave, and tons upon tons of rock broke free and tumbled towards the mouth of the cave.  The creature backed away from the opening just in time, but it did not remove those cold, distant eyes from me.  Those eyes would haunt my nightmares.

 

     With a mighty crash, the boulders smashed onto the ground, sending shattered pieces sailing through the air.  Then, to my joy, I watched as the rocks started to land and stack upon each other, so that they began to form a mound.  With every piece, it covered the cave’s mouth more and more, until, at long last, the cave was sealed.  The creatures were trapped behind the stone wall.

 

     Getting to my feet, I removed the earmuffs—no longer needing them—and struggled to catch my breath.  My heart pounded in my chest, and the soreness began to set in from everything we had been through.  But it was over.  It was finally over!  I didn’t have to worry about being chased down the block by giant animals.  I didn’t have to worry about creatures hunting for fungus.  And I didn’t have to worry about monsters hiding in the dark.  It was finally over!

 

     “YOU’RE ALIVE!”  I turned towards the voice, and saw Jeremy running towards us, his arms open wide.  He nearly dive tackled Isabella, wrapping her in a hug.  “I was so worried!  You were gone so long!”

 

     “Well, as you can see, I’m fine,” Isabella told him, rolling her eyes.  She did not look too amused by being hugged, but she also didn’t resist.  

 

     Jeremy finally let go of his sister and took a step back.  Then he turned towards me and said, “Thank you for getting my sister out of whatever trouble she had gotten herself into.”

 

     “It was nothing,” I muttered, just as Isabella grumbled, “I was perfectly fine.”  But then, next thing I knew, Jeremy was giving me a hug. 

 

    Finally, he let go and took a step back.  “So, what happened down there?” he asked.  “Like, you guys were gone forever, and, right when I’m about to lose my mind, you both come sprinting out.”

 

     “Oh, we had quite the adventure,” I told him.  Then I dove into a retelling of everything that happened.  Jeremy looked quite amazed, nodding occasionally and asking questions every few sentences.  He seemed most impressed by the fact that the creatures had a queen.

 

     I eventually reached the end, and Jeremy took a moment to process everything.  “Wow!” he said at last.  “I’m sorry I missed it.”

 

     “Oh,” Isabella suddenly jumped in, snapping her fingers.  “I got something for you, Jeremy.”  As I watched, Isabella reached into the inner-pocket of her jacket, and took out a small, glass container.  As she handed it to Jeremy, my mouth fell open, and I gasped.

 

     “You didn’t!” I practically shouted at her.

 

     “What?” she asked, shrugging.

 

     “After everything we’ve been through, you took some of the fungus?!”

 

     “It’s not like they don’t have enough,” Isabella told me, gesturing at the cave.  “And anyways, they won’t be able to come after it even if they wanted to.”

 

     “Plus, I still need it,” Jeremy said, holding up the jar to look at the small object held within.  

 

     I was about to argue, but I realized that they had a point.  The creatures wouldn’t be able to come after it, even if they wanted to.  Plus, even if we all agreed to put it back in the cave, we wouldn’t be able to with all the rock blocking the way.  No, the best course of action now would be to let this go and allow Jeremy to use the fungus to pass his college class.

 

     “Fine,” I grumbled, watching as Jeremy slipped the jar into his jacket pocket.  “So, what now?”

 

     “What do you mean?” Jeremy asked.

 

     “Well, we completed what we set out to do, so what now?”

 

     “I don’t know about you two,” Jeremy started, “but I’m up for going into town, finding an all-night diner, and celebrating our victory.  Anyone else in?”

 

     “As much fun as that would be, it’s late, and I’m tired,” Isabella told him.  “Perhaps we can reschedule for another time?”

 

     “Uh!” Jeremy groaned.  “You serious?  Tonight would be the optimum time to party.”

 

     “Another day,” Isabella insisted.

 

     “Fine!  If you say so, Professor Killjoy.”  Jeremy rolled his eyes and threw his hands in the air.

 

     “I’m down to celebrate another day,” I jumped in.  “I kinda would like to just go home and rest.”

 

     “Yeah, but your idea of ‘another day,’ and my sister’s idea of ‘another day,’ are two very different things.” Jeremy tolled me.

 

     “What do you mean?” I asked, not getting his point.

 

     “He doesn’t like that I take time to consider things, while he does things spontaneously,” Isabella explained.

 

     “Yeah,” Jeremy muttered.  “That’s exactly what I meant.”  There was a weird tone in how he said it, but I didn’t mention it.

 

     Instead, I asked, “So, when should we plan on our celebration?”

 

     “I’m too tired to think right now,” Isabella told me.  “How about we meet up with you sometime tomorrow evening, and we can go from there?”

 

     “Sure!” I quickly agreed.  “Sounds like a plan.”

 

     “Great!” Isabella smiled, but Jeremy muttered something behind her.  He didn’t look very amused with how things were turning out.  But my attention went back to Isabella as she asked, “Should we head on out?” 

 

     “Oh, yes!” I quickly agreed.  “Let’s get out of here.” 

 

     We began walking back through the woods, heading in the general direction of my backyard.  It was an overall quiet trip.  Isabella and I were both tired from our escapade, and Jeremy was just unusually silent.  That was fine though, as it gave me some time to enjoy the cool night breeze.

 

     Then we saw the light from my house, and I realized something.  Isabella and Jeremy’s house was still in pieces and extremely unsafe to be in.  I turned and asked, “Wait, where are you guys going to go?  I mean, you’re welcome to stay here, if you want,” I quickly added.

 

     “Thanks for the offer,” Isabella said with a smile, “but we actually made arrangements earlier today.”

 

     “You did?” I asked, trying to remember when they would have had time to.

 

     Isabella answered that by nodding and saying, “That was one of the errands I sent Jeremy on when we were preparing.”

 

     “Oh, okay,” I muttered.  

 

     “So, I guess this is where we bid you goodnight,” Isabella told me, the smile fading from her face.  “Thanks for all the help with everything,” she said, extending a hand.  But, if she thought I was just going to shake her hand, she was incorrect.  I instead gave her a hug.  I heard her mutter, “Oh.  Okay then.”

 

     Releasing her, I smiled and said, “I know it may sound crazy, but I had a blast.  I’m not saying I want to go through all of this craziness again, but this has been a great experience.”  I gave a quick chuckle as I thought through everything we had done in the past few days.  

 

     Jeremy then stepped up, extending his arms.  “I’m getting another hug,” he said bluntly.  I smiled as he gave me a hug.  But then he whispered something in my ear.  “Thank you for helping my sister.”  He took a step back, and I could see that his eyes were watering ever so slightly.  He ignored it, however, as he said, “Until next we meet, know that this has been the most fun I’ve had in years.”

 

     “Oh, I totally agree,” I smiled at him.  He returned it, but, to my curiosity, his smile felt strained somewhat.

 

     “Ready to go?” Isabella asked her brother.

 

     “Guess so,” Jeremy slowly said back, his eyes still locked with mine.  Then he and his sister began walking towards my driveway, heading back to the road on the other side of my house.  As for me, I began walking towards the back door of my house, quite ready to get inside and get a good night’s rest.  

 

     I was just about to step inside when I heard Jeremy call for me.  “Yo, Crystal!”  Turning, I saw that he and his sister had paused at the corner of my house.  And then Jeremy said one last thing.  “Do me a favor, Crystal.  Remember what I asked of you last night, and don’t lose it.”

 

     It took me a moment to remember what he was referring to, but, once I did, I nodded.  “I won’t,” I promised.

 

     With that, Jeremy gave a small nod and waved his hand in farewell.  Then he and his sister stepped around the corner and out of sight, heading into the darkness.  

 

     I smiled as they went, looking forward to seeing them tomorrow and hopefully celebrating some.  With the grin still on my face, I turned the handle, opened the door, and stepped into the light.

 

* * * * * *

 

     “Thank you all for coming!” said the short, balding, and rotund man at the front of the room.  It was the mayor of Westview, and he fidgeted awkwardly with his button-up shirt as he went on.  “I know you all have other things you wish you could be doing right now, but I assure you this will be well worth your time.”

 

     I really doubted that.  These town hall meetings were always long and boring, and this one was appearing to be no different.  Well, actually, there was one difference.  The entire town had been strongly encourage to come, but we had no idea what this was about, save the vague description that this was going to be about the recent incidences.  Of course our leadership had chosen to host this meeting three full days after I and my friends had sealed the creature below and had stopped all the problems.  But whatever!  It wasn’t like I had anything better to do besides stock shelves and do homework.

 

     As I tried to get in a more comfortable position on the flimsy metal chair, I gazed over the heads of the gathered townsfolk, across the plain and boring room, to where the mayor was talking.  “Now, we actually have some very special guests today,” he chuckled nervously.  “And, by that, I mean we have some government agents here today, and they will be leading the meeting.”  The already quiet room seemed to become even more silent as people processed what was just said.  I frowned as I wondered how the mild damage done by the creature caught any government official's attention.  But, of course, the mayor was quick to move on.  “So, please welcome…um…our speakers?”

 

     The mayor quickly shuffled away, obviously not comfortable with what was happening and well relieved to be out of the way.  Right then, two people stood up from the front row and made their way forwards.  It was a man and a woman, both dressed exactly how you’d expect government officials to dress, right down to the ties and dark shades.  They almost looked like some spies from tv.

 

     The woman walked to the back wall and stoically stood there, watching the crowd, her short, light brown hair somewhat helping to keep her expression unreadable.  Meanwhile, the man walked to the front and smiled at the crowd.  His dark black hair was mildly long, but well kept, and his smile seemed sincere enough.  

 

     And then the man spoke, and, to my surprise, his voice was light and friendly.  “Good afternoon, everyone.  Thank you so much for joining us.”  He let the silence stretch for a moment, and I realized I had subconsciously leaned forwards, as if eagerly awaiting what he was going to say.  “You can refer to me as Agent Samuel.  Now, I know that you all are doubtlessly curious why we are here today.  I want to start out by assuring you all that this is nothing serious, and just a normal investigation.”

 

    There was a brief murmur from the crowd, and Agent Samuel allowed it to go for a few seconds before continuing.  “We are here because we have received reports of the incidents that have transpired here in Westview.  Normally we would leave this up to local authorities to sort out, but we want to personally investigate the source of these disturbances.  Turns out, we are not getting any consistent reports on this case.  Some seem to be saying this is just a harmless prank, others say it is some wild animal in the area.  We’ve even heard reports that this is the work of some monster or local legend.  Whatever the case may be, we want to get to the bottom of things.”

 

     The female agent suddenly stepped forward, got Agent Samuel’s attention, and whispered something in his ear.  The smile faded from Agent Samuel’s face for a moment, and he nodded his head once.  Then, as quickly as she came forward, the woman stepped back, leaving Samuel front and center again.  He was silent for a long moment, his head slowly turning so that he could look across the entire room.  

 

     Then his smile returned and he began speaking again.  “This investigation will only last a few days at most, and we will do our best not to interfere with your personal lives.  If you see us out and about, please do not engage us unless we engage you, or you have vital evidence.  If we do interact with you, please answer all of our questions politely and to the best of your ability.

 

     “We are actually going to start our questioning process now,” Samuel went on, his friendly tone not faltering even for a moment.  “I will be randomly selecting about ten of you for generic questioning.  This will simply be to get some base information for the investigation.  Basically, we need a foundation to build off of, and this will be it.  If you are selected, please make your way to the front of the room, and my colleague and I will give you further instructions.”  He quickly gestured towards the wall to our left, indicating where the selected would be standing.  “Now, if you are not selected for the questioning, please remain seated.  Another of my colleagues will be joining us shortly, and will be giving further information about what will transpire over the next few days.

 

     “Now, let the fun begin,” Agent Samuel grinned as he once again looked over the entire crowd.  “I’ll take you, good sir,” he said, pointing at a dude sitting in the third row.  “And you, ma’am, in the green hat.  You, in the back.  You and you.  Oh, you, sir.  Hmm…  I’ll take you two.  You too, sir.  And…” he trailed off as he considered who would be his last pick.  To my surprise, and absolute horror, he pointed directly at me and said, “You, young lady.  Please come join us.”

 

     I glanced at my parents, who were sitting next to me, and I saw immediately that they were as surprised and confused as I was.  As if reading my mind, Agent Samuel shouted across the room, “Don’t worry.  She’ll be back shortly.”

 

     Getting to my feet, I made my way to the end of the row of seats, and began walking towards the front.  Hopefully this was going to be fast, and no big deal, but I still felt a ball of dread in my gut.  Before I knew it, I had reached the front of the room and took my place next to the other selected citizens.  Looking over, Agent Samuel was still talking to the gathered crowd.  “Please, everyone, sit tight.  I assure you that my colleague will be in here in just a moment.  Thank you for your patience.”

 

     Agent Samuel then stepped away, approaching the selected group.  As he did so, the female agent addressed us.  “Please follow me.”  Her orders were direct, but I was surprised by how calm and polite she sounded.  She led the way towards the very back of the room, where a small wooden door stood.  Opening it, she led us into a back hallway.  It was narrow, and the overhead lighting was a tad too bright, especially since it reflected off the smooth floors and into my eyes.  There were also a few doors leading off of the hall, but I wasn’t sure where to.  At last, we stopped by the second door on the left, and the female agent addressed us again.  “Please form a line along the wall.”

 

     As we hurried to comply, Samuel began giving us further instructions.  “Ok, here’s how this is going to go.  We’ll be taking you one at a time and asking you questions.  The rest of you, please stay in this hallway.  I don’t really care what you do, as long as you don’t cause trouble.  Our associate will be watching you, but please do not interact with him unless necessary.”  He gestured down the hallway, to where a third agent was standing.  The man at the end of the hallway looked surprisingly young, and his wild, black hair hung in his face in an. astonishingly unprofessional manor.  But my attention was pulled away as Samuel went on, “We will be going in the order that you were selected.  If you all answer our questions honestly, and don’t go on any tangents, we should have you all done  by the end of the hour.  Sound good?”  Before anyone could answer, Samuel was talking to the first person in line.  “Please step into the back room.”  

 

     Agent Samuel, the female agent, and the first man in line disappeared through the doorway and into the room beyond.  I couldn’t hide a thin smile as I realized that it was Mr. Roy.  If he was going to tell the agents the same story that he told me a few days ago, then it was sure to be shrugged off as fake.  He’d told me that the creature had red eyes and wings!  What other preposterous statements was he going to put forth?!

 

     And then everything got boring.  The agents worked through the group of people, and while they made great time, it was still not very entertaining in the hallway.  At long last, after counting all the bugs stuck in the overhead light for the third time, the door opened up and the final citizen, save me, was ushered out.  Then Agent Samuel stepped out and said, “Okay, who’s next?”  He paused as he saw me, tilting his head slightly, and muttered to himself, “Guess we’re finally on the last person.”  Motioning for me to step through the door, he said, “Thank you for your patience.  We’re hoping this won’t take long.”

 

     Stepping into the back room, I was surprised by what I saw.  It looked like it was supposed to be a regular meeting room, but most of the furniture had been moved out.  What was left was two small desks, roughly five feet apart, and two small chairs facing each other from opposite sides of the desks.  The table on the right must have been the one the agents were using, because it was covered in papers of all shapes, sizes, and colors, plus there was a small laptop.  The other table, in contrast, had absolutely nothing on it.  There were also two small windows on the far wall, but they had the blinds drawn down, making it impossible to see in or out.

 

     “Please take a seat,” the female agent said politely, gesturing towards the chair at the empty desk.  Without argument, I strode on over and sat down.  I tried to remain calm, but I still felt my heart pounding, and my mind wandered to the worst possible scenarios it could think of.

 

     “Okay,” Agent Samuel started, picking up a small clipboard and a pen.  “Let’s start with the basics.  What’s your name?”

 

     “Uh,” I stammered, “Crystal Myers.”

 

     “Occupation?”

 

     “Shop employee,” I hurriedly said.

 

     Agent Samuel opened his mouth to continue, but the female agent jumped in and said, “Wait a second.  Are your parents the ones who run Echoing Cave’s Tours and Gift Shop?”

 

     “Yes, ma’am,” I nodded, surprised that she knew.

 

     “Hm.  I’ve heard good things about that place, but I haven’t been myself.”  She flashed a quick smile, and, in that moment, I decided that I liked her best out of the two.

 

     Samuel ignored our exchange and went right back to reading the questions on whatever form he had before him.  “Age?”

 

     “Fifteen,”

 

     “Okay then,” Samuel muttered, scribbling something down.  He then sighed as he read over the form.  “Blah, blah, blah.  Not important.  Not important.  And, oh look, not important.”  He removed the piece of paper and handed it to the female agent, quickly telling her, “I’ll fill out the useless information later.”

 

     Samuel then picked up another piece of paper, slipped it into place on the clipboard, and, with a small smile appearing on his face, said, “Let’s get to the interesting questions, shall we?”  He looked up from the paperwork and, even with the shades on, I knew he was looking me directly in the eyes.  “Tell me, have you seen anything out of the ordinary, or strange, as of recent?”

 

     Now, I had seen my fair share of insanity.  In fact, I still didn’t feel completely better from the drop in the cave.  However, I wasn’t about to tell these two agents about any of it.  After all, the problem was solved, wasn’t it?  The creatures were locked away, the town was safe, and I was more than ready to get back to normal life.  So I was definitely not about to dig it all up just so that I could explain it to some strangers I just met, even if their intentions were supposedly good.  They would probably just think I was making it all up anyway.  Thus, even though I wasn’t a fan of lying, I told them, “No.  It’s actually been surprisingly quiet for me.”

 

     Agent Samuel nodded as he jotted something down.  Then, to my annoyance, he asked another question.  “Do you know of anyone who was not selected today who might have information on the incidents?”

 

     My mind instantly went to Jeremy and Isabella, but, again, I didn’t want to cause an issue where there was no longer one.  So I simply said, “Everybody has been telling stories about the chaos, but I can’t think of anyone who’s story sounded reliable, or even plausible.”

 

     “Oh?” Samuel asked, raising an eyebrow over the top of his shades.  But, to my great relief, he didn’t press the issue.  He just wrote something down on his clipboard.  Behind him, the female agent opened the laptop and began typing, but I couldn’t tell if she was taking some notes of her own, or if she was no longer interested with the questions and had moved on to something of more importance.

 

     Before I could decide, Samuel asked one more question.  “So, what you are saying, is that you know absolutely nothing about what has transpired in this town, and you know of nobody who could be of any assistance in our investigation?”

 

     I didn’t like the tone in which he had asked the question, but I still nodded and told him, “Yes.  I guess so.”

 

     Giving a mighty sigh, Samuel tossed the clipboard aside, where is landed with a clatter on the table.  Then, in an exasperated voice, he said, “That does it.  Cara, please pull up the video.”

 

     “Already on it,” the woman told him.  As I watched in confusion and dread, Cara turned her laptop around and asked, “Can you please explain what this is?”  Then she clicked play and my heart dropped.

 

     The video that began to play was in horrible quality, made no better by the fact that it was filmed at night, but it was clear enough to make out the important details.  Bright lights shined from somewhere overhead, lighting up the gas station’s parking lot.  In the distance was the main road, but there wasn’t a car in sight.  Then, without warning, something whizzed by.  Even though it was only in view for a second or two at max, I recognized the red bike and its rider immediate.  It was me.  Then, a half second later, a second bike came into frame, and Isabella was perfectly visible.  Jeremy was short behind, and, even with how grainy the video was, you could see him struggling with the container while, at the same time, wrestling with his bike’s handlebar.  Then, to my absolute horror, the creature emerged into frame!  The details were clear enough that I could not claim the beast to be anything short of what it was.  And, in one quick moment, I realized that my lies had just been exposed for what they were.

 

     “So…” Samuel said, letting the awkward silence stretch on as he crossed his arms and leaned back against the cluttered desk.  “If you know nothing about the recent events, how can you explain what we just watched?”  I sat there blankly, not sure what to say.  This had just taken a severe turn for the worse.  I was just about to stammer out some lame excuse, but Samuel chose then to add, “I have a thought.  Why don’t we ask you some questions, and you answer them honestly this time?  Sound good?”  I nodded blankly.  “Great!” Samuel shouted, clapping his hands happily, “Let’s get started!”

 

     Turning back to the laptop, Samuel replayed the video, but slowed it down some so the details would be even more apparent.  He paused it just as Isabella was about to leave the frame, and Jeremy was entering it.  “First order of business…  Who are these two?”

 

     “Some friends of mine,” I quickly muttered.

 

     “Okay.  That’s a start,” Samuel said.  “But we’re looking for a tad bit more.  What are their names?”

 

     I hesitated for a moment, not wanting to get my friends into any more trouble.  But, odds were, they were going to be found and questioned eventually, so might as well not cause any more issues presently.  “That’s Isabella, and the other one is Jeremy.  They’re siblings.”

 

     “Do you know their last names?”

 

     I went to answer, but then I realized that I actually didn’t know their last names.  They hadn’t told me yet.  Shaking my head, I simply said, “Unfortunately not.”

 

     Cara shrugged.  “That’s not a big problem.”

 

     “Yeah.  That’s fine,” Agent Samuel assured me.  “There’s a more important question.  Were they present at the town hall meeting today?”

 

     “No,” I answered instantly.  I knew because I had been hoping they would come and help relieve me from the unavoidable boredom.

 

     “That’s also fine,” Samuel nodded.  “I’m not that surprised, actually.  But perhaps you could tell us where they live?”

 

     “They live, or, at least, they used to live at the old house on top of the hill.”  I gestured in the direction I figured the house was.

 

     “The one up that really long driveway?” Cara asked, frowning.  “It looks rather…” she searched for the right word, “unsafe to be in.”

 

     “Yeah, that one,” I told her.

 

     “It looks abandoned,” Samuel told me, clearly doubting what I was saying.

 

     “It looked a whole lot better before the creature attacked it,” I quickly replied.

 

     Samuel and Cara exchanged a look, then Samuel turned back to me and continued his questions.  “Do you know their parents?  Perhaps we could talk to them.”

 

     I shook my head as I considered the question.  “Their parents were out of town as of recent, and I don’t think I’ve ever run into them before then.”

 

     “Hm.  Well, that’s interesting,” Samuel muttered, and I saw Cara write something down on a piece of paper next to the computer.

 

     That’s when I started getting a new wave of unease.  It had less to do with the agents and the countless unknown questions they may have, it didn’t even have anything to do with me being caught in a lie.  The source of the unease was simply that something didn’t feel right.  I glanced from one agent to the other, and I could sense more than I could see that there was definitely something off about all this.  I couldn’t place it, but I still didn’t like it.

 

     Finally, all of my nerve came to fall on one question and, before I knew it, I blurted out, “Why are you asking me so many questions about my friends?  Shouldn’t you be more concerned with the creature?”

 

     “We’re simply trying to gather information on your friends so that we can follow up with them,” Cara explained.

 

     “But, if the creature is your top priority, then why are you focusing on my friends first?” I pressed, leaning forwards in my seat.  

 

     “Procedure,” Samual stated calmly, waving my question away with a swish of his hand.  “We have to secure our sources before we start asking questions about the creatures.”

 

     The second the words left his mouth, three things happened all at once.  First, my heart skipped a beat and I felt a new wave of stress.  The second was that Cara looked up from the piece of paper she had been writing on and, even with her dark shades on, I could tell she was glaring at Samuel.  As for Samuel, I saw him tense for a moment, but it was gone the next.  And, without doubt, I knew it was all because of one little word.  Samuel had said ‘creatures’.

 

     Did that mean that they knew about the ones in the mountain?  If that were so, then that meant that they had much more information than they were letting on to.  Also, if they already knew that there was more than one of these, then why were they running an investigation to begin with?!

 

     My heart thundered in my chest, and, before I knew it, I had stood up from my chair and had demanded, “You know about all of them?!”

 

     The room became horribly, thunderously quiet, and nobody seemed to want to break it.

 

     Cara leaned forwards in her chair and removed her sunglasses, allowing her blue eyes to lock with mine.  “I’ve got a question for you,” she said slowly and deliberately.  “How many people have you told?  About this creature, I mean.”

 

     I slowly shook my head as I honestly answered the question.  “Nobody.  The only ones who know are my friends and myself.”

 

     “Have you told your parents about all this?” Cara pressed.

 

     “They know we encountered something, but they don’t know the specifics.”

 

     It was only after she had stared at me a few moments longer that Agent Cara finally looked back down at the paperwork before her.  Then she nodded and said, “Very well.  Since you have told us the truth, we will tell you the truth.”

 

     “Are you sure?” Samuel asked.  He looked reluctant, to say the least.

 

     “We have nothing to lose, and she already knows confidential information.  It certainly won’t hurt anything.”  Samuel still looked hesitant, but he didn’t argue as Cara turned her attention back to me and spoke.  And the thing she said next rocked me to the core.  

 

     “We’re not here about this Under-Dweller.  We’ve known about them for years, and they have never been of any real concern or worry to us, save the occasional small headache—and we deal with plenty of those.  No.  We’re here for Jeremy and Isabella.”

 

     “What?!” I demanded, not understanding.  “Why would you have any interest in them?  I don’t get it!”

 

     Samuel placed his hand on the table before me, but he wouldn’t look at me as he spoke.  “Tell me, those siblings didn’t show up that long ago, did they?”  As I processed the question, my mind seemed to buffer as it tried to remember.  But Samuel was right.  They had only showed up a few weeks ago.  I went to tell him, but Samuel had already moved on.  “And, since the creature disappeared, have you seen them around much?”  

 

     I shook my head.  The truth was, I hadn’t seen either of them since the night we sealed the creature away.  They hadn’t visited, hadn’t called, and hadn’t tried to communicate in any way.  I was actually starting to get worried.

 

     But things still weren’t adding up.  Nothing seemed to make sense anymore.  Government agents were here at my town, but were ignoring an elephant-sized creature so that they could search for two teenagers.  What was this madness?  And so I asked, “What are you getting at?”

 

     “Putting it bluntly,” Samuel said slowly, “this isn’t the first weird or supernatural incident that has happened near those two.  And I can pretty much guarantee you that this won’t be the last.”

 

     I stared at him blankly, my eyes wide.  “Are you saying that this creature, and everything that recently occurred in this town, has something to do with those two?!”  

 

     In reply, Samuel turned his head so that he was facing me, and raised one eyebrow over his dark shades again, saying, “More like we’re saying it is their fault.”

 

     The room seemed to fade around me as my mind scrambled to process what I had been told.  Surely they were wrong!  What they were saying was absolutely preposterous!  But, the more my mind tried to search for proof of Jeremy and Isabella’s innocence, the more I found to condemn them.  There were numerous small details that I had previously shrugged off, but now seemed incriminating.  Like little comments said, random glances, along with other random things.  

 

     Placing my head in my hands, I muttered, “I…  I don’t understand.”

 

     “I know it’s a lot,” Cara said kindly, “but this is why it is imperative that you answer questions about the siblings.  We are not entirely sure why and how they did what they did, and we need as much information as we can get.  So, will you please answer some more questions?”

 

     Ever so slowly, I nodded my head.  “Okay.  I’ll do my best.”

 

     “Thank you,” Cara smiled.  Then she said, “We have reason to believe that the siblings weren’t here for the Under-Dwellers, but for something different.  Did they ever talk about finding anything, or did they ever seem like they were searching for something?”

 

     I considered the question, but nothing seemed to stand out to me.  “No,” I said at last.  “I don’t remember them ever looking for something.  At least nothing out of the ordinary.”  And then my eyes went wide as I realized the truth.  There was something of great interest to them that I had never seen nor heard of before.  Something Jeremy had found.  It was the glowing fungus!  I had never seen it before they showed up, and it was Jeremy of all people who had discovered it.  And, in the end, Jeremy and Isabella had taken some with them in that small jar of theirs.

 

     “They took this odd glowing fungus!” I blurted out.  “We had found a bunch of it in the caves with the creatures.  Jeremy was super interested in it, saying it was for some online classes.”

 

     “I knew it!” Agent Samuel shouted, excitedly stepping away from the desk and striding across the room, a wide grin on his face, as if his sports team had just been declared victorious.  “I told you, Cara!  I told you!”  Then he seemed to realize that he needed to be profession, and his demeanor went back to serious, though it looked like it was quite the struggle for him.  Turning to me, he said, “Thank you for your help.  You have no idea how big that piece of information is.”

 

     Turning to Cara, Samuel quickly said, “Will you please talk with me for a moment?”  Cara nodded and silently got to her feet, shutting the laptop as she went.  Both agents quickly walked towards the back of the room, where they placed their back to me and began having a hushed conversation.

 

     My head was swimming with too many questions to even bother trying to eavesdrop on whatever the two agents were saying.  What was going on?  What were the other incidents that Jeremy and Isabella had supposedly been tied with?  What did they want with the fungus, and why was that information so crucial?  Where were Isabella and Jeremy now?  

 

     I had hoped that the chaos would end when the creature left, but apparently that was just the beginning.

 

     Rubbing my head, I tried to focus on the present.  There was too much going on, too much to think about, and it was starting to give me a headache.  I just hoped that my questions would be answered soon.

 

     That’s when I heard two sentences that caused a chill to run up my spine.  Even though Samuel and Cara were trying to have a whispered conversation, I heard one thing crystal clear.

 

     “We were right,” Samuel said, his voice excited, but not in a good way.  “They are trying to unleash it.”

 

 

 

THE END

 

Lack Lunason's picture
Lack Lunason
Online
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/24/2017
IT IS FINISHED

 

Congratulations!  Thank you for reading!

 

First and foremost, I hope you enjoyed this final chapter!  I know it was long and dramatic, but I loved writing it.  Now, that being said, I know the second half of the chapter may seem...shall I say, out of place.  However, that being said, if you were to reread this story, you would see that I have been building up to this since the beginning.  Still, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

 

At this time, I would also like to give my thanks to a few people.  First off, lemme start by thanking God, for He allowed me to write this and to plan this all out.  Couldn't do this without Him.  Secondly, I want to thank the person who edits my stories.  Unfortunately, due to my busy schedule, I didn't use their help nearly as much as I should have, but they always offered and were always willing.  Thirdly, I want to thank all of you, as you were patient with me in my business, and you actually read my story.  Lastly, I want to thank one of my friends, who helped me figure out a plot point, even though I refused to give him any specifics on the plot point he was helping with.  

 

And speaking of this story, I want to take one moment to brag a little.  This has easily been my longest Halloween story, by over 10,000 words!  The document on my computer is 88 pages long, and contains 40,002 words!  So thank you everyone for reading all of that.

 

Now, I do want to give you all a heads up that you may see these chapters refreashing somewhat over the following months.  As I breifly mentioned earlier, I didn't get to edit these chapters as much as I would have liked to.  So, as I go through that process, I'll probably swing by and just update the chapters some.  Shouldn't be anything major.  However, if you wish to help, then please let me know of any spelling mistakes you noticed, or if there was anything I failed at explaining as well as I should have.

 

And lastly, I want to let you all know that I plan on returning next year with another one of these stories.  I won't give too many details now, as everything is still in my head at the moemnt, but I have a feeling that it will be lots of fun.  (Plus, I've learned from this year, so I'll start plotting/writing it a whole lot sooner).

 

Well, that's all for now!  Thanks again for reading my story.  And feel free to leave a comment.  Have a great day!

 

-Lack Lunason