THE END OF PART 1
The tunnel was illuminated from millions of inlaid, naturally occurring crystals. I was on my back, scooting down the green-lit tunnel, elbow under elbow, with the sharp crystals digging into my arms.
It would actually be pretty in here, I thought, if it wasn’t a tunnel barreling down deeper into the bowels of Hell on Earth.
I kicked my ruck a few feet further down the hole. It was tight, but there was enough room. The tunnel descended at what seemed a 45-degree angle, straight down into the caverns. There was black at the end of this tunnel, but I reasoned that it must lead to a pit or a cave where I could find a way out. These tunnels were made as escape hatches, so they must connect at some point.
After around fifteen minutes of trekking I came to dead end. The tunnel had not gotten bigger- nor smaller- just remained the same. The seismic blast of the E-stick would have cracked a naturally occurring fissure, finding fault lines, like veins, through the rock. Yet, if this wall was where the caves grew thicker, it may not have been strong enough of a blast to go through.
“Shit.” I kicked the wall with my boots. It was solid, not a budge. I grabbed the Repeater Rifle, angled it. Though low voltage, the Repeater Rifle sent out bio-electric pellets of Nusteel wrapped in positively charged ion particles.
I fired a blast at point blank range. Chunks of rock flew into my cheeks, blow back. But the wall held strong. I ramped the Repeater Rifle to full power. Held my breath. I fired another shot.
This time the walls shook. I had started another cave in. Crumbles of stone fell around me, burying me mouth deep in rubble in less than a moment. Soon I couldn’t breathe as rocks as big as my head began filling around my crawl space. The walls began to tumble and slide; a second later I was in free space...falling. I fell several seconds into the abyss, I landed hard onto a rock, on my back, bouncing hard, I was turned around and finally landed on my face.
A second later, fallen rocks tumbled over my head. I began rolling away from the rock slide so I could keep from getting crushed by the mini-avalanche. Stone and crystals rained down on me and I tucked my head between my hands. After a few minutes the pelting stones got smaller and smaller, until they stopped completely. I was lucky I hadn’t been crushed by a giant boulder.
After I was sure nothing else was coming down, I managed to stand. The cavern I was in was dark, no crystals here. I walked to my ruck and slung it back onto my back.
The Repeater Rifle had a light, I switched it on and looked around. It was a giant cavern, craggy stone walls, thirty feet high. Stalactites jutting up from the floor with razor points.
The cavern was bisected by three large entrances, one in the middle and two on either side. They reminded me of the mouths of a giant beast, Moloch-waiting to devour the human sacrifices. I shuddered inwardly, scary stories from my childhood would not do. I needed to focus on survival. Namely water, food and a path to the Argo.
I walked and looked around with my light.
I heard a very happy sound,
I flashed the light onto the floor and found a small puddle, with a stream heading into the maw of the middle cave.
I bent down and put my lips to the stream.
“Aww shit.” I spit it out. It tasted like bile. It was probably radioactive. Still, I could follow the stream it came from, it may lead to somewhere. I walked, keenly aware of the unstoppable shivering of my body from the fever, which was now making me feel ice cold. The cuts and bruises from my fall I just ignored, couldn’t afford to concentrate on all that shit on-top of everything else.
The stream ran on for a few hundred yards deeper into the darkness. There did not seem to be anything alive in this cave, and probably soon I wouldn’t be either.
Then… I stepped into… nothingness.
The ground was gone, opened up beneath me like a cancer. I began falling even deeper into the abyss. Luckily for me I need not worry too much, because my fall was soon broken by a razor-sharp stalactite which punctured my liver like a spear. I lay on ground in a daze. I had heard my Repeater Rifle hit the ground dozens of feet away from me, broken into how may pieces I could not tell. My light and my weapon- gone.
“Fuck!...Fuck!...Fuck! Is this what you wanted? Is this what you meant about caring?” I screamed at the dark. No one seemed to hear, or give a shit.
There was something stabbing into my stomach, I could not see what it was. I pulled out a one-foot missile of stalactite from my core, warm blood-my blood-flowed blue-black from a reservoir from deep within me.
That’s when I heard screaming in the distance…
I had to calm down.
I had to survive. No idea what for, but I had to. I tried to keep sane, looking around for something to help.
From the darkness, an eye. A yellow eye, swinging from side to side. I stared at it. It was coming closer, what kind of beast from Hell was this? The eye approached like it could see me perfectly in the dark, which I had no doubt it could.
I had no weapons, no power, Baby felt like a million kilometers away. Was this it? Would this yellow eyed cycloptic beast tear me to pieces?
“You still with us?” said a deep, gravel filled voice.
“What? Who is there?” Was the cycloptic beast talking to me?
“I have been called a lot of things pardner. But a cycloptic hose-beast aint never been one of them,” the yellow light was held higher. It was not an eye at all, it was a lantern. Attached to the lantern was a man. He held the light up to his face and smiled.
“Howdy.” It was a man with a mustache and a...cowboy hat? He had white teeth and a button-down shirt open at the collar.
“Water,” I said to him. Then I passed out.