The Legend of CAVEBOY- and the Rules of the Rhyme - Chap 5
Seven stutters; the hand holding the flashlight shakes violently.
“P-Please”, she whimpers.
CAVEBOY is like a statue. Such total, reptilian stillness. He doesn’t move a muscle.
Until, he does.
His eyes flash that bright and terrible blue, and his hands fly out to either side, gripping tightly onto the rock and flinging himself down towards us, howling. Pale blue fungus shoots out from the cracks in the rock below to connect with his skin as he lands amongst us, grabbing a hold of Seven’s hair and pulling her roughly and suddenly towards one of the tunnels.
She screams and drops her flashlight, and the little cavern comes alive with rapidly swinging, criss-crossing beams as we scramble to her defence, adrenaline surging as we grab her, try to pull her away.
And there are more of us. We have the strength on our side; we pull her back; Five is swinging his flashlight down against CAVEBOY’s head, screaming at it, we’re all pulling, punching, kicking as CAVEBOY’s moans of anguish grow louder and louder.
He reaches out with both hands, shuddering under the blows we’re delivering, and grabs Seven by the head, jerking her towards him. She stumbles and loses her footing and she is pulled from our grip.
CAVEBOY holds her up, and promptly snaps her neck with a sickening crunch.
There’s a scream. I feel like I’m above the scene, looking down on myself as CAVEBOY keeps going, cracking, snapping, eventually tearing into her hungrily like an animal, slamming her body down onto the rock and losing himself to the frenzy.
We leave her.
What else can we do?
So on we run, following the trail of glowing fungus piles until Four grabs me roughly by the hoodie and pulls me sharply to the right. “Guys!” she says, “down here, this way!”
We follow her down; Five trips but I catch him by the collar and pull him back up, stumbling over the rocky and uneven floor.
We crash into a wall and Four hushes us all at once, desperately and urgently.
“Four”, Six begins, her voice thick with fear, “what are you-”
“Ssh!” she urges again, “listen!”
And I do. I try to listen past the noise of my own heartbeat, of our deep breathing, and at the edges of my hearing… I do pick something up. A noise. A low rumble. Could be anything. But it’s not constant. It’s subtle, but it seems to get slightly louder, then slightly quieter again in pulses.
“You hear it?” she says, and we nod. “I think it’s the sea, you guys. We’re not far from the cliff-side, right? I don’t know how far below ground we are but that could well be the sea. And if it is, then that might mean a way out”.
Five nods, but he doesn’t respond. His eyes are wide, his face a deathly pale. He’s in shock. We all are, I suppose.
Six, at least, is trying her best to maintain composure. “Okay. It’s a decent plan, I think. Let’s do it. We’ll listen for the sounds of the sea, if it IS the sea, and try and get as close as we can”.
We turn the flashlights off, we allow our eyes to adjust, and we press on.
We take turns being at the front and back, and in the middle of the procession, looking all around us as we shuffle through the darkness; below, above, everywhere, really. Looking out for signs of CAVEBOY. Our ears guide us, and we follow tunnels that seem to lead toward the gentle rushing in the distance, a rumbling which grows louder as we approach, until we are certain that it can be nothing other than the push and pull of the waves against the cliff-side.
The pale form of a figure, slumped up against the wall ahead becomes suddenly visible through the gloom, illuminated in the faint blue light of the mushrooms. Five is at the head of the procession, and he flings an arm out to stop us in our tracks, and we freeze with our breaths held.
But… the figure is too small. Too skinny. It does not look tensed, or primed. I squint. I looks like a…
“…It’s a skeleton”, Six whispers from behind.
We cautiously approach, and sure enough, a broken skeleton sits battered on the floor against the rocky wall, its skull cocked to the side, jaw missing.
The stems and vines of the blue fungus are intertwined with its bones- through its ribcage, in and out of the holes for its eyes, its nose, looped round and round its spine…
Who did this set of bones belong to? It looks vaguely man-sized, but then, I have no real idea how big skeletons actually are. Could be a man’s.
I think on what Two said to me, his final words as he cast down the ladder.
“…Father needs you. He’s alone, you see”.
What the hell did he mean by that? I grimace down at the twisted skeleton at my feet… Could this be him?… Two’s father?
I rub a hand across my forehead and share my thoughts out loud with the group. They are stirring and swearing before I’ve finished.
“What do we actually know about Two’s dad”? Six asks, pushing her glasses up her nose.
“Died before he was born”, my girlfriend murmurs in response. “…Supposedly”.
“One and Two came down here before”, I remember, “I’m sorry, I should have told you guys sooner but, well…” I trail off.
“They’ve been here before?” Five asks incredulously.
“That’s what One told us, yeah” I reply, gesturing to Four. “They scoped the place out, the two of them, by themselves”.
We’re silent, for a moment. All looking down at the skeleton. It’s a sad sight. Down here in the dark by itself. Alone.
“I always thought CM was just some prankster, you know. A bullshitter”, Five mutters.
He goes on, “I never thought that the stories they attribute to him would actually be… true”.
“…Maybe this is him”, Six says quietly, gesturing to the skeleton.
“It can’t be”, Four replies. “He skipped town”.
“Did he though?” Six says back. “How much of the rumors are true, do you think? What do we really know about this guy? What happened to him?”
And the answer of course, is very little. We simply don’t know.
We ponder this as we continue on along our way. I grant the skeleton a final, pitiful glance before he disappears behind us, lost once again to the darkness.
The sound of rushing water becomes clear and loud ahead.The walls are damp. The curious fungus grows thick between the cracks.
I hear a noise down one of the tunnels to my left. Like a groaning. I’m at the front now, and I halt and spin, forcing the group to a sudden stop as I reach instinctively for my flashlight…
…My fingers twitch, but I resist the urge to click it on. I instead squint and stare into the dark.
There’s nothing but shadows.
Did I imagine it? The groan?
The sound of the water has made it difficult to pick up on the lesser noises.
“What is it?” my girlfriend whispers. “You see something?”
“I thought… I thought I might have heard it”. I whisper back. “But I’m not sure”.
We stand in silence for a little longer, but there’s no use hanging around.
We walk a little faster. Round a corner we go, round, further round, until we find ourselves in a new cavern. The floor is covered in dark cracks, some thin, some massive, holes to the depths that lie even deeper below. The ground falls away not too far ahead, and given by the noise, it must be to an underground river of some kind. Sea water, judging by the smell. There is a rocky outcrop- a natural, narrow bridge that leads across the dark drop and over to the other side, where a tunnel leads off into the unknown.
And on the ground, before the bridge, are the mushrooms. They have been torn from the walls and placed carefully into an obvious pattern.
“Oh fuck”, I hear to my left, “oh no.. oh no no no…” as Six steps forwards.
The pattern, you see… the mushrooms… are arranged in the shape of a large ‘6’.
Glowing in the dark.
Six crouches down and she reaches a tentative hand out towards it… I take a step closer, as do the others, and it looks like she’s about to touch it… the ‘6’ that has been created on the rock at our feet… but she pulls her hand back with a little gasp and a turn of her head, as if she’s just noticed something else. She instead reaches out to the side and collects two, small, shiny objects in her fingers.
“What is it?” Four asks, “what have you found?”
Six does not reply.
“Six!” Five hisses. “What have you found?”
She turns, shaking, holding the objects out to us in her open palm. They glitter under the light of the mushrooms.
“They’re my earrings, you guys…” she says quietly.
A groan from one of the tunnels makes me start and jump in alarm. It’s close. It sounds so, so close, and I can’t take it- I do exactly as Seven did- like a fool I grab my flashlight and try to switch it on, but I’d forgotten- it doesn’t work. I’d broken it earlier when I bashed it against the rock.
“Fuck!” I drop it and grab the one from my girlfriend’s belt, unclipping it and fumbling for the switch as I turn it on and shoot the beam down the tunnel.
I swear I can see something scurry just out of view. Something pale. I’m sure of it, I’m so, so sure-
“What are you DOING!?” Five says to me, shoving me, “turn it out you idiot!”
“There’s something there!” I hiss, “you didn’t hear it!? None of you heard that?”
Four squeezes my shoulder. “I didn’t hear anything… Are you sure that-” she begins, but she is cut off by a piercing shriek.
Five’s flashlight goes on too and our hearts pound in fright, turning and casting our beams over to Six, she’s on the ground, scrabbling, desperately, there’s something wrapped around her leg-
-oh hell; it’s a hand. It’s CAVEBOY’s hand.
The top of his head appears from one of the dark cracks, his eyes flashing as he screeches, dragging Six towards it as she kicks and flails and screams.
I run to her, grabbing her by the hands, staring into her eyes, eyes that are pleading, begging for rescue- Four helps me as Five starts yelling and kicking at CAVEBOY’s head. And I’m suddenly angry. Tired, cold, scared, and furiously angry.
“So it’s all for nothing then!?” I bellow, to no-one in particular, no longer able to keep hold of the stress, “the whispering, stumbling around in the dark with no light, it’s all for nothing!? You’re just always fucking watching, are you, CAVEBOY? Watching and waiting to KILL US OFF ONE BY ONE!? WELL FUCK YOU!”
And whilst I’ve been dragged to the ground, I lift my leg, and bring the heel of my boot down onto CAVEBOY’s hand with a crunch, over and over. The creature wails and relents, disappearing below the crack’s surface momentarily as Five stomps on his head.
For a cruelly hopeful moment, I feel a flood of triumph… of success… but it is tragically short lived.
CAVEBOY pushes back up, squeezing himself from the crack with a terrifying speed and surge of energy, howling as he shoves Five violently out of the way, sending him sprawling up against the rock wall with a dull thud. The horror crawls towards me, jaw swinging, and in pure instinct I cover my face, rolling to the side in a last ditch attempt to protect my neck; but he does not go for me. He goes for Six.
And he kills her.
I hear her screaming; loud, then louder, then silenced.
I lift my head, watch through gritted teeth as he drags Six’s corpse up to the side of the wall and starts breaking her apart.
Five sprints by me and with Four’s help, hoists me to my feet, and together the three of us run, stricken, towards the bridge.