The Case Files of Jake Malone

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter Fifteen

I had only gone a few feet into the tunnel when I realized that the phosphorescent fungus did not grow beyond the cavern. To continue to move forward would be suicide without light, for while the lizards could move freely by taste and sound alone, I could not.

Feeling slightly morbid, I went back into the cavern and dug through the bones until I found a large thigh bone, a femur, I believe. I took the bone and carefully rubbed it through the fungus, over and over, building up a thick layer of the stuff on one end of the bone. The end result gave me something close to a dim green torch. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing.

I carried my crude torch in my left hand, and kept the knife ready in my right. The extremely high temperatures of the underground caves made me suddenly glad I was clad in nothing but a loincloth. Even that was almost too much as a thick layer of sweat began to wash away the lightest layers of blood on my face and torso.

The first tunnel quickly split into two. The floor was solid stone, without so much as a layer of dust, leaving me no clue which way was the way out, if either, and which way was the direction the lizards had come from. I’d heard somewhere that any maze was eventually solvable, however, as long as you always turned in the same direction at every intersection.

With this dubious piece of half recalled information, I took the right hand fork. I turned right at the next fork, and the next as well, praying that I wasn’t going to end up completely lost. Or, more completely lost to be more accurate.

At some point the back of my neck began to itch terribly. I was finally forced to stop walking long enough to free up one of my hands in order to scratch it. The back of my neck felt warm and sticky. When I looked at my hand I found it liberally smeared with black looking blood in the wan green light. Apparently it wasn’t only my hair that had gotten cut when I had attempted my escape.

I shrugged off the itching sensation, rubbed my hand off on the wall, put my knife and torch back into either hand and continued on. There wasn’t anything I could do about it now, so I just had to hope it wasn’t anything too serious.

My path eventually led me to a small circular den. There was a pile of straw sitting in one corner, and a small pool of water in the opposite corner. Other than that, however, the path was a dead end.

I laid down on my stomach by the pool and drank my fill from the tiny water source. A small trickle of water worked its way from a crack in the wall, to the small pool, and then disappeared. Either the water was being absorbed straight into the ground, or there were tiny holes in the bottom of the pool of water.

After refreshing myself, I went to the pile of straw with the intention of wetting down a handful and scrubbing the blood and grime off of my face and body. The instant my eyes fell on the center of the pile, however, I stopped cold. The pile of straw was actually a nest. Four large eggs, about the size of my closed fist, and the color of granite, sat in the straw nest. The idea of more of those monsters running loose filled me with dread. But… at the same time, the scientist in me, a side effect of being raised by a man like Professor Rafkin, made me contemplate something truly foolish.

I took some of the straw and worked with it for nearly half an hour, forming the individual pieces into a small mesh bag, complete with a handle. During the entire process I sat facing the entrance to the den, ever watchful in case the mother of the eggs should appear. Once I deemed that the mesh bag was sturdy enough, I took one of the eggs and set it in it. The egg was heavy, but the bag seemed to support the weight. I used more straw to fashion a way to tie the bag to my hip, so that my hands would remain free. Once that was done, I went ahead and followed my original plan, using some spare straw to wash myself clean. When I finished that, I took the three remaining eggs and smashed them to bits inside the nest.

After that I left the den, moving faster through the tunnels than before, even going so far as to jog through the straight stretches. I needed to be gone as soon as possible, even more so now that I had stolen one of the lizard creature’s eggs. The longer it took me to find my way out, the lower my chances were of ever making it. I lost track of the number of turns I took, but not once did I see another den like the one the egg had come from. A small hope kindled inside of me that the only lizards that had been down here were both dead.

I still found dead ends, of course. Each time my path ended prematurely a spike of utter frustration would flash through me. After hours of searching for a way out, I finally rounded a corner and found myself face to face with another of the giant lizards. Both it and I jerked back in surprise, neither expecting the other to suddenly show up. A slight hissing sound erupted from its mouth at the sight of me.

But then it saw the egg in the pouch on my hip. It opened its mouth wide to call for help, I’m sure, but I didn’t give it the chance. In a flash I thrust the bone torch sideways into the lizard’s mouth, choking it. The creature thrashed from side to side, grasping the torch in its strong jaws and jerking it from my hand. Its short forelegs slashed at me at the same time. The bone torch flew out of my grasp to strike the tunnel wall, and the lizard opened up three long gashes down my chest with its front claws.

With a pain filled yell, I stabbed the lizard with the knife, pushing forward with all my weight. Between the sudden pain in its chest, and my two hundred pounds, the lizard toppled over backwards, and I rode it to the ground. My second attack with the knife slashed open the creature’s throat, just as it was about to cry out for help. Blood sprayed into the air in a thick mist as the creature’s heart pumped for all it was worth. It thrashed weakly, doing everything it could to bite at me, or regain its feet. I stabbed it again and again, aiming for where I thought the creature’s critical organs should have been located, and waited for the thing to die.

Eventually the light went out of the lizard’s cold, reptilian eyes, and I found myself breathing hard. I was hurt, of course, the pain in my chest was extreme. But that pain also meant that I was alive.

I checked to make sure the egg was still intact, which it was, then bent over to retrieve my phosphorescent torch. As my fingertips touched the bone, the tunnels echoed with a piercing, furious cry of one of the creatures. The scream went on and on, and was soon taken up by numerous voices from nearly every direction. ‘Sounds like mom finally made it home.’ I thought grimly.

I began to run. Not a heavy jog, but an all-out sprint. It wouldn’t take the creatures long to follow my scent, even though I washed myself off. And I was certain that they were a lot faster than I was.

There is no way for me to know how long I ran, but eventually I came across a fork in the tunnel where the left hand path rose in a sharp incline, and the right hand fork curved out of sight. I took the left fork, still running flat out. Somewhere behind me I heard quick and steady clicks of nails on the stone floor, and I knew my time was just about up.

The tunnel appeared to end at a dead end, and I cursed my luck furiously, even as I continued to run. A moment later I was glad I did keep moving. Set into the left wall, at the very end of the tunnel, was a thick steel door. Using the bone torch, I pounded on the door, raising heavy metallic clangs through the tunnel around me. I turned back towards the lizards, certain of what I would see. Sure enough, ten or more of the lizards were running up the incline after me.

I took the egg out of its pouch after tossing the torch onto the tunnel floor in front of me. I wanted to make sure all of the lizards could get a good look at me. I then held the egg up in the air where they couldn’t miss seeing it. As I’d hoped they would, the lizards slammed to a stop a mere ten yards away, eyeing me with hate filled glares. They were unwilling to come any closer when I could easily destroy their young.

An unexpected sound, echoing in my ears as if it were a holy chorus sent from God himself, sounded through the tunnel at my right. Someone was unlocking the giant steel door.

I shifted the egg to my left hand, and held the stone knife purposefully in my right. The lizards took a step forward as I adjusted, and I threatened to drop the egg through pantomime. It was clear in their mannerisms that they were suddenly afraid I might actually manage to get away.

The apparently four inch thick door opened wide, revealing, of all people, the Native warrior who had bathed and drawn blood on me. We shared a mutual look of surprise at seeing each other. But while I was expecting to find a Native like him, he was clearly not expecting to see me. I recovered first, and thrust the stone knife into the center of his chest. The knife slid directly in between the bones of his rib cage. He twisted in pain and the stone knife, finally pushed to its limits, snapped off at the hilt, leaving the blade inside of him.

The lizards reacted to my distraction at once, screeching with a single voice. They rushed at me, and I stalled for time by throwing the stone hilt at the first of the lizards. The heavy rock hit the lizard in the snout, forcing it to flinch sideways in pain and surprise. The lizards behind it got tangled in its legs and tail, buying me a few precious seconds.

I grabbed the mortally wounded warrior and jerked him into the tunnel, while simultaneously jumping into the room beyond him. I slammed the door shut and found three iron bars sitting next to the doorway, each one a good three inches thick. Steel brackets ran horizontally down the length of the door, as well as on either side of the door frame. Hastily setting the egg on the floor, I grabbed one of the bars and shoved it through the locking brackets, just as the warrior I’d stabbed began to scream.

His screams were unsurprisingly cut short by the time I had the second bar in my hand. I shoved it through the locks just as the entire door frame shook with a mighty thud, as if a great weight had been slammed against it. Which I figured was exactly what had happened. The lizards were attempting to break down the door by running into it. Trembling, I grabbed the third bar and began to shove it into place as the door began to shake with every one of my frantic heartbeats. The lizards were throwing themselves at the door with wild abandon, their screams of fury and frustration echoing off the walls.

I finally managed to get the final lock in place, and ended up just sitting in the middle of the room, watching helplessly as the door rattled in its frame. Each shudder, for some reason, sent the echoes of Crimson Mako laughter coursing through my brain.

I don’t know how long I sat there watching, but by the time the door ceased its shaking, the lizard blood on my face and body had dried into a crusty scab-like material. With a sigh of heavy relief I climbed to my feet, jumping in fright when one last slam shuddered the door. The reflex of the jump cracked the dried blood on my body, and it began to break off in odd looking patches.

I took a look around me, finally seeing the room for what it was. The room was a large storage bin, about twenty feet across in each direction. Aside from the steel door, there was only one exit, a wooden door across the room. There were no windows, but the room was brightly lit by electric light. The walls were made of steel, I assumed so that the lizards could not dig their way in here. A small metal chute sat on the same wall as the steel door, directly in front of a wall filled with boxes. In addition, a small sink sat on the opposite wall, to my right.

I opened one of the boxes and found it filled to the brim with dried meat. My stomach growled in protest at the sight of the meat, and I tore into it readily. I don’t know if the jerky was made from cow, pig, or hell, even lizard. All I know is that at that moment in time, it tasted like pure ambrosia.

I ate until I could take no more, and finally worked my way over to the small sink. I turned the faucet and cool, clear water poured out of it readily. I drank as much as I could, leaning over the sink and lapping up the water like a dog. I then washed as much of the blood off of me as possible.

The three long claw marks on my chest were nasty and deep, but they didn’t reach the bone. My biggest worry was infection, but with nothing I could do about it now, I once again had to hope for the best.

There was nothing else in the room worth salvaging. No first aid kit, no clothing, no weapons or bags to carry food and water. With the options of either sitting here and waiting to be found, or moving on deeper into the building, I had little choice.

My knife was gone. My bone torch was gone. And all I wore was a fur loincloth, damp from blood and water. With a mental shrug, I put the lizard egg back in my makeshift mesh pouch, and headed out the wooden door.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.