A glow emanated from deep in the cave edifice, a soft white puff of energy which blossomed from the darkness. This was followed by two bright beams firing forth from the opening, dancing frantically from the mouth of the cave, jumping up and down like a jeep gone off-roading.
A second later, Danica dived out of the opening, running toward them.
Hayden’s eyes lit up and for the first time in a long time, he was truly excited. For a moment, his breath hesitated in his lungs, almost causing him to gasp. He turned to Carlos and nearly shouted, ‘You brilliant predicting bastard you.’ But it came out. “She’s alive!”
Carlos smiled from ear to ear, not doubting Doctor Swift for a minute.
Well, maybe thirty seconds.
As Danica approached, Hayden wanted to scoop her up and carry her in his arms to safety, until he saw the giant blood stain on her shirt at the base of her stomach. His heart sank with a thud and he almost ran to her, but he quickly realized, based on her pace, fiery and furious, she would reach him first.
From his immediate observation, combined with her speed and perseverance, the gore on her clothes must have been from someone else.
‘Hopefully Fric or Frac,’ Hayden thought.
Danica raced on, her arms pumping back and forth like she was an oncoming locomotive. In seconds, she reached them, looked at them and continued running, the gust as she passed causing Hayden’s hair to bristle. As she blazed between them, she screamed one word. “RUN!”
Hayden and Carlos both turned back in the direction of the dark mountain, their double beams illuminating the massive island peak above and they saw it.
It looked like black lava flows bubbling up and pouring out of hundreds of openings, flowing forth like a river of dark mud.
Except it was not steaming hot magma oozing down towards them but thousands of the Horror, legs moving in tandem, attached to giant tarantulas and coming fast.
Hayden did not even have time to swear as he turned and ran for the boats. ‘No need to translate this!’
Carlos was right on his tail.
The trio blazed down the beach.
As they neared the water, Danica leapt first, up and over the boat’s stern, hitting the pointed front end with a small dip and a splash, sliding the boat toward the water like a surfboard on sand.
Hayden followed suit, thrusting his body like a football tackler, catching the oar of the boat, which had been upended at the back and he shoved with all his might, the water welcoming the mighty boat as Hayden dropped in the middle.
Carlos, last but not least, catching his foot on the rear end with both a push and a jump, threw the rest of the boat forward, his body landing at the base as they coasted inches away from the beach’s edge.
Within seconds, Carlos had the second oar and was ready to paddle.
The trio ignored the second boat adjacent to theirs, barely inches away, half in and half out of the water, filled with bladed tools, steel cables and large metal canisters with scoops, likely for the Fountain of Youth waters the Thornes had expected to find and carry with them, totally unaware at the time of the terrible truth.
Before they could all breathe a sigh of relief, the trio heard it.
A primal blood wrenching scream of untold fury, curdling the nerves and chilling the flesh.
Hayden turned back and scowled in the direction it originated from. “Now there’s something you don’t see every day.”
Carlos and Danica followed Hayden’s gaze.
Maximus was charging down the beach toward them like a champion bull, rage in his eyes, his face covered in blue spider blood, his hair slicked back with it and slightly askew, his shirt and pants torn and shredded in areas. He was obviously infused with spider’s venom as he must have manhandled the Sentinel into submission.
Hayden yelled in Maximus’ direction. “Sorry Maximus. The next ferry is scheduled for later tonight. Hope you brought a magazine.”
Maximus growled with a beast-like fury, his mouth filled with spittle as he yelled something unintelligible, too far to be heard clearly.
Hayden turned to Danica. “I’m not well versed in that language, but I would suspect based on his tone and body positioning, he’s not happy about something. Did you say something to offend him perchance?”
Danica almost laughed, had it not seemed so horrible to do so.
Maximus was running, pointing, screaming, waving the blue blood covered cutlass in the air like a fiery torch at the Olympics, white webbing still encasing his fists. “I told you that you’d better pray I died. Now I’ll kill you all with my bare hands!”
Hayden put the first oar into the water and pushed further away from the beach, the bubbling water slowing the thrust.
“I’ll watch your bleeding corpses tear apart in my hands!” Maximus bellowed again, maintaining his ruthless tirade in his mad rush towards them; totally oblivious to the danger fast approaching from the rear.
“Not a very hospitable fellow if you ask me.” Hayden commented as he turned to Carlos. “I think he never found that contact.”
Carlos shook his head with a bit of a smirk.
Danica was amazed Hayden could joke at a time like this.
Maximus was almost within one hundred metres of them when with one final gesture; Carlos drew his shotgun from behind his back and aimed it at the charging Maximus.
Maximus offered a malignant grin, like a boogeyman reaching into a child’s bedroom at night to terrorize and pull them from their beds in tears, appearing to invite the shot. “Shoot you spineless coward.” He screamed, bits of blood flecking from his lips. “Fucking shoot. I bet I’ll heal and still be able to rip each of your legs off like I did that fucking spider.”
Carlos winked, followed by a curled grin, in a way that even Maximus found confusing, slowing his forward momentum for a brief second.
Carlos dropped his aim and pulled the trigger. The blast shook and echoed through the interior lake cavern like a thunderclap causing ripples in the boiling lake to flutter in circles away from their boat with the sound the explosion.
Maximus froze in his tracks, eyes wide and stunned, watching as the second boat tipped beneath the yellow bubbling waters, now adorned with a giant watermelon sized hole punched through the bottom by Carlos’ shotgun.
Carlos quickly slammed his boot down on the front tip of the second boat, sending the other end into the air like a seesaw, the empty metal canisters firing past him like they had been shot out of a catapult, splashing into the bubbling water behind him.
The ones with the open lids quickly filled and sunk beneath the surface, the remainder floating away. Within those few seconds, the second unoccupied boat torpedoed downward into the water and with a burst of steam, vanished beneath the frothy surface.
Carlos glared in Maximus’ direction and shouted. “Heal that.”
Maximus offered a look of utter hatred, contempt and insanity, all fueled by his fury. “Whoever the Hell you are, do you think a single boat sinking would stop ME!? MAXIMUS THORNE!”
“No!” Carlos replied, returning the smile equally as malicious, all the while nodding his head upward in a way for Maximus to turn around. “I suspect they will.”
Maximus spun around and for several seconds, his clenched fists loosened as he saw the onrushing mountain of the ancient Horror scurrying toward him, his one hand unable to fully expand with the sword webbed up in it.
Hayden would have paid a million dollars to see the expression on Maximus’ face at that second. ‘Well, I did pay twenty five thousand to see the back of his head. I guess that’s a deal.’
Maximus turned again and raced for the shore, panic in his eyes, like a gazelle being chased by a lion born from the depths of Hell. He pushed his arms together, preparing to dive in and swim across the boiling waters, hoping his new healing factor would protect him. He almost made it as the first spider ran under his legs, scrambling up his stride and forward momentum.
Maximus dropped like a giant oak tree having had its base severed out from under it by an enthusiastic lumberjack. His legs, chest and face crashed into the ground with a smack, narrowly missing the spider that tripped him.
Within the seconds it took him to look up one last time, he was overwhelmed by an avalanche of fur, fangs and legs. His muffled screams were lost beneath the squeals and hissing of the armada of giant spiders now engulfing the beach.
As the boat pulled away from the island, Danica pivoted her light along the full length of the island shore.
The entire rocky beach was covered in writhing spiders, some the size of collies, some the size of cats, while a few in the background, seemed to be the size of automobiles.
Maybe it was simply the light.
Danica turned away. She had no interest in finding out. It was too awesome and frightening to imagine.
A small spider, young in experience, no bigger than a poodle, lept forward towards their boat, hoping for one bite.
Carlos brought the oar up and slammed it like a tennis ball with the wide end, sending it up and into the water.
The small spider screamed as it sank in the bubbling and burning waters, trails of steam coming out as it vanished beneath the dark surface.
Danica had stepped on spiders before, swatted them with books, but she had never heard one scream.
Its sound was so terrible, she would remember it for a while, as it drowned beneath the milky depths.
The rest of the Horror hissed and snapped, more angry than disappointed, but unable to do anything more than remember the trio’s faces with millions of eyes.
Carlos dropped down and leaned forward, facing the front of the boat, not looking back.
After several seconds, as the island vanished behind them, Hayden put his hand on Carlos’ shoulders, Danica looking on. “Are you okay?”
Carlos replied deadpanned. “Too bad my former institution has closed down”
“Why is that?” Danica asked.
“I think I might need some more therapy.” Carlos answered.
It took a few seconds, but then all three of them burst into laughter. Deeply exhausted, adrenaline filled blasts of hilarity.
Still shaken, frightened, but having escaped both the Island of Eternal Night and the Horror, the trio had won.
Danica suddenly grabbed Hayden by the scruff of his shirt and pulled him close, kissing him hard.
Hayden’s arms went limp. Once he regained his senses, his arms filled with energy and he embraced her.
They kissed for a good minute.
After the boat drifted fifty more metres, Carlos cleared his throat.
Both Danica and Hayden stopped and turned to look at him.
“And what about me?” Carlos asked.
Hayden grinned. “You’re rich, handsome and a hundred and eighty seven years old. I’m sure you’re way ahead of me on the “Get the Girl” score.”
Carlos smiled back. “Touché my friend.” And he started to paddle away from the island.
“Score?” Danica noted with annoyance, staring at them both in disgust. “I’m not a notch in a bedpost.”
“Of course not.” Hayden responded with some surprise. “I would never gouge precious wood in such a way.” He held up his Smartphone. “They have an App for that now. I can keep track of all my conquests, load their profiles online and make trading cards out of them to exchange with virtual friends. Technically speaking, they’re the actual score cards.”
Danica put her finger under Hayden’s chin, raising it to her hers, locking eyes on him. “If I ever hear of a ‘Danica Swift’ trading card...”
Hayden cut her off. “Trust me, considering where you just came from and likely what you did to get out, I’d want more than a trading card, I’d demand an action figure.”
Carlos burst aloud with amusement.
For several seconds, Danica stared at Hayden. She felt actually complimented and kissed him one more time.
Hayden suddenly scrunched up his nose and pulled away. “Mother of God. You stink.” He turned to Carlos who also had his finger under his nose. “You know, when we were in London, I would’ve gone with you to Duty Free to pick out a scent. Next time, try the tester.”
Danica, remembering the giant spiders coming at her full tilt and then watching them turn tail and scurry away after having gotten a good snoot full of the tribe’s potent brew, grinned. “Had you been in the cavern with me, you’d think it’s the greatest perfume on Earth.”
The trio turned back as the darkness had enveloped the island once again, hiding it from the light.
Hayden turned to Danica. “Should we tell someone? The army? Once the Canadian military finds out what monsters live down here, I’m sure they could get international support to come down here and wipe the population of these things out.”
Danica stared back forlorn. “The problem is, the South American government and world animal rights group would never support the total eradication of a species, regardless of how horrible they are. And, if one soldier or one world leader found out the life extending properties of the spider’s venom, all it would take is discovering a single century old living victim in the caves, then we’d have the same problem, saving the species to give mankind a new lease on life. Even if only one spider escaped, all of mankind would be in a war for its survival.” She stared back. “As a human, this is the greatest discovery to ever have been found. As a scientist, it’s the most terrible to imagine.”
Carlos placed his hand on Danica’s forearm. “Though I thank the Lord for my gift of long life, I can tell you, I’d probably have given it all back during those seven days to die.”
The trio turned away from the island, still able to hear the loud whispering from the shores, deciding, this island may get discovered one day, but this will not be this day.
As they coasted back to the other side, Danica looked at Hayden. “Do you think there really is a Fountain of Youth out there?”
Hayden shrugged. “Personally, you make me feel younger than any well of water could ever achieve.”
Danica smiled. “You know, after having been bitten by one of those spiders, I might outlive you and stay as pretty as I am today.”
Hayden offered an offhanded comment. “That’s perfect. This way I won’t have to dump you later for a younger chick when I reach old age.”
Danica punched him hard in the his arm, followed by kissing him again.
Carlos simply laughed.
In the distance, they saw a flickering flame.
As they closed in, standing on the beach, beneath two halogen lights, likely mounted by Maximus and his crew, several feet from the water was the Elder of the tribe with his two warriors from the camp. Like before, one sported the spear while the second looked to be carrying the tree stump, except this time, it was at his feet, the warrior’s brow laced with sweat.
Once ashore with the boat, the trio moved forward, brushing themselves off as they approached the Elder and his men.
Hayden quickly whispered. “If any of you have any of the Horror with you, now is the time to confess.”
This time Danica gave Hayden a shot to the back of the arm, all watched by the amused eyes of the Elder.
Once the trio reached the Elder, they let out a quick breath.
The Elder spoke to Hayden.
Hayden replied, noting to the others he would translate their responses and the Elder’s conversation. “He wants to know what became of the other boat.”
Carlos answered. “I sunk it.”
The Elder nodded. “We can build more boats.” He then tilted his head and stared at the trio. “What of the others?”
Carlos replied matter-of-factly. “They opted to stay behind.”
The Elder nodded again, not asking further questions on the matter sensing the trio knew what had befallen their enemies. The Elder turned to them all. “Have you found what you were looking for?”
“And then some.” Hayden replied.
“And what are your plans with what you’ve discovered?” The Elder asked.
Carlos answered right away. “Some things were never meant to be found.”
At this the Elder smiled widely. “Then follow me my friends. Before you go, I will see our camp sends you off with a fine meal.”
The trio nodded their thanks.
“I promise no jaguar on the menu tonight.” The Elder turned to Danica and winked.
Danica smiled sheepishly, realizing the Elder had known she had not been fond of their menu and that Hayden had cleared her portion off the plate.
The Elder turned away, not letting her remain embarrassed, opening his arms and gesturing for the trio to follow.
Danica then called the Elder’s attention.
The Elder turned as Danica moved in towards him with a smile. His face scrunched up as she neared.
The two warriors almost stepped in between them, but the Elder waived them off.
Danica reached forward, leaned in close and kissed the Elder on the cheek gently and delicately. She whispered. “That’s for the tribal Horror repellent.”
The Elder blushed, bright red and muttered. “What about your husband?” Turning to a now smiling Hayden.
“I told you they married us didn’t I?” Hayden chuckled.
“You inform them that at tonight’s dinner, I expect the dancers to come back and reverse that little dance of theirs into a divorce ceremony.” Danica replied.
Hayden laughed. “I’ll do no such thing. Plus in this culture, that decision is up to the husband.”
Seconds later, Hayden found himself flat on his back, unable to prevent Danica’s quickly moving low leg sweep from sending him into the dirt.
Even the Elder and the warriors were staring at her in impressed astonishment.
Danica smiled down at him. “Just so you know, becoming a widow and getting a divorce is the same to me.”
Hayden quickly rose, brushing grime from his clothes.
Carlos slapped Hayden on the shoulder. “Hey. It was a good marriage while it lasted.”
Hayden glared him. “Speak for yourself. First, I can think of better islands to spend a honeymoon. Second and more importantly, I didn’t get any…” Clearly denoting what ‘any’ was referring to.
Danica looked over her shoulder as she walked behind the Elder. “No divorce and it will stay that way.”
Hayden caught the insinuation in that statement and snapped back with authority. “One divorce coming our way honey.”
Carlos bellowed a deep laugh, and in doing so, spotted a small crate on the ground in front of the water. He almost missed it.
Atop it, the logbook of the Leviathan, his journal and the eight pages folded neatly.
While the others all waited, Carlos casually walked over to it and with one push, tipped it over, sending everything into the lake, sinking forever out of sight. “This island will be discovered one day, but it will not be my past that will lead the way.”
Hayden applauded, followed by
Hayden then called to the Elder.
The Elder turned, the warriors peering around him, both Danica and Carlos looking at Hayden curiously.
Hayden asked. “Wait a good God darn minute. You had no idea if we’d survive or not. Least of all if we’d be coming back. Or if we would have still tried to take the Horror off with us. What were you planning to celebrate had this not all happened?”
“Your funeral of course.” The Elder smiled. “And had you taken the Horror off with you, you’d have been on the menu.” He smiled, turned and resumed his course.
Hayden was cut silent.
At that, the trio, the Elder, and even the two warriors laughed as they vanished through the exit of the cave, heading to the surface, leaving the island to remain as it had been for a very long time…