Image courtesy of Stockvault.
Author’s Note: This is a short fiction posted in installments. Click the links below to read previous parts.
Bad Latin, Part I
Bad Latin, Part II
In unplanned unison, each of the survivors pulled out their mobile phones and dialed three numbers. No one could get through; their earlier descent had been too far. Peter and Petra held hands for mutual support. Leon and Chastity shared a nervous glance. Ducky withdrew into his robes and leaned against the surprisingly warm stone of the mine’s rock wall. He rocked back and forth, muttering, “I don’t want to be here anymore.”
Petra sneered. “Shut up. You’re not helping.”
Chastity rose to his defense. “Shut it, Petra. You’re not helping, either. We need to figure a way out of here.”
“Don’t talk to my sister like that,” Peter warned. He stepped between Petra and Chastity.
“Please,” said Leon, who had taken out his phone and used its light to look down each tunnel. “We’ve got worse things to worry about.”
“Hooves,” said Ducky. The other four looked at him. “In Zazzy’s blood.” His voice broke.
Chastity went and put an arm around Ducky. “We’ll make it out, Ducky. I promise.”
“You can’t promise that,” Petra said from behind her brother. “We never should have come out here.” She hesitated, and then narrowed her eyes. “Unless that’s what you had planned all along, Chas.”
“Don’t be paranoid,” Leon said, eyeing one corridor and then another.
“Didn’t you say you were making progress,” Peter said. He didn’t take his eyes off Leon.
Chastity frowned, looking to everyone in turn. “That’s not exactly true,” she said. Leon stopped his examination of another path and put his light on her. She took her arm from Ducky. “We had no idea what we were doing. Then…we thought we should expand the circle to see if that would work.”
Everyone got quiet, including Ducky, who stopped muttering and rocking. In the dim light of their phones and flashlights, each of the would-be summoners looked different. None of them could explain the change, as if the mine itself might have been toying with them. Like their discovery of being isolated beneath the earth, each person watched their friends wrestle with their fear of the dark, the mine, and the thing that slaughtered Zazzy.
Somewhere – the echoes made it difficult to determine – a low noise rumbled rhythmically through the chamber. Chastity leaned back against the rock wall, and Leon stood underneath one of the mine’s old wooden supports. The twins flung themselves to the ground next to Chastity, anticipating another collapse.
None came. Rather, the sound they all heard grew a bit louder until Ducky recognized it with a childish squeal of dismay. “It’s calling for us,” he squeaked. He licked his lips. “Can’t you hear it? I – I have to see for myself!” On his feet in an instant, Chastity moved too slowly to stop him from barreling down one of the tunnels. She only grabbed hold of his cloak, which came off entirely and fell loosely to the ground.
The remaining people in the chamber, paralyzed with complete terror, listened helplessly for their friend who had lost his mind. Chastity considered for a moment running after him, but the beast’s low calls prevented her from summoning the courage. All she could hear was the grunted panting of Ducky and his quick footsteps carrying him away from them and the safety of the group.
When she thought she couldn’t hear him anymore, another noise came from the tunnel which he ran through. The sound was higher, almost the opposite of the beast’s. Chastity couldn’t tell if it was laughter or screaming. She held her breath and listened some more until her mind finally grasped what she was hearing.
It was both.