Carlos saw this. In those seconds, he moved underneath and caught Hayden under the shoulders with his forearms, seconds before Hayden hit the beach with the full force of his weight and added kinetic energy, in hopes of slowing the descent.
It was not by much as Carlos was still reeling from the fall he himself took when Maximus threw him from the cliff, combined with the rapidly still sealing wound on the inside of his stomach.
Hayden groaned as he landed, his two feet finding purchase but sending him forward face first in to the dirt, dragging Carlos with him.
They both landed with a solid whump, Carlos on the top and Hayden on the bottom.
After a good minute of them lying on the ground, Hayden blew some dirt out from under his face. “As far as Doctor Swift is concerned, this didn’t happen.”
“Agreed.” And Carlos got back to his feet, brushing himself off.
Carlos’ attention was quickly drawn upward as he heard Maximus’ wail. He turned to Hayden with confusion.
Hayden looked up from his seated position. “Maximus lost a contact. I recommended he stay up there and look for it. He’s probably getting frustrated.”
Carlos looked back up and after several long seconds, no more sounds followed.
Hayden rose slowly, stretching his back and lower thighs to clear the burning from his muscles. He took a step forward which almost resulted with him toppling over. He had earned an unexpected limp on his left side. He took a second step on it and moaned, this time with serious pain, biting his lips to suppress it. “I think it’s sprained.”
Carlos looked down at the throbbing muscle. “I would agree.”
“Think if you bite me it would heal?” Hayden asked.
“I’m afraid you need it from the source.” Carlos laughed, referring to the Horror. “Plus I find biting my friends most distasteful.”
Hayden placed his foot firmly on the ground with a tight-faced wince. “Then I guess I’ll have to suffer through it. I don’t need it healed that badly.”
Carlos moved in to let Hayden lean on him.
“You’re going to have to take that sword stabbing trick on the road you know.” Hayden declared. “I saw a sword swallower once at the circus and I think you have him beat.”
Carlos slapped Hayden on the back. “If we survive this, you can sell the tickets.”
Hayden’s face went ashen as he suddenly thought of the giant eight legged monsters they had left behind, and Danica still in the caves with them. “We need to get back down there and save Danic...” He paused and corrected himself. “Doctor Swift.”
“An admirable cause.” Carlos interjected. “And one we should get right onto. After we ascertain your injury.”
Hayden took a slow but solid step, screwing his face tight and absorbing the angry nerve endings as they ripped at his tendons. He ignored the raging pulses in his muscles knowing, as far as he was concerned, Danica’s life was more important than this own.
‘Fuck the pain.’ Hayden thought. “Wait… I promised. Screw the pain!’
Before they could plan their next move…
Both their heads snapped in the direction of the closest cave entrance as the sound resonated outward.
Hayden turned toward Carlos, his eyes filled with fear. “Was that a gunshot?”
Carlos stood firm, his face filled with bafflement. “I believe it was.”
“Danica is still in there.” Hayden spoke, panic lacing his voice. He lodged his foot into the ground to race toward the island, no longer worried about his sprain. But before Hayden could run, he felt Carlos’ two hands grab his shoulders firmly and pull him back.
“No.” Carlos declared. “You won’t stand a chance in there if the Horror has been awakened.”
Hayden glared at the dark island mountain. “But what about Danica?” His voice cracked.
Carlos turned to Hayden with genuine sympathy, but his eyes lighting up. “In all my years, and I’ve had many, I’ve never met a woman as capable as our Doctor Swift. And I believe if anyone can get out of there alive in the next few minutes, it would be her.”
Hayden turned back to the island and for the first time in a long time, he prayed.
‘I hope so.’ Hayden thought. ‘I mean to ask her on a date.’