by Christopher Knox
available on Amazon
What Lurks Below Us
Clarence felt himself drop as if he were on the highest roller coaster in the world. It was as if his heart was trying to move into his throat. It made him think about going down a waterslide at the local amusement park. However, this was different. It was pitch black, and he couldn’t see anything, only feel and hear. He knew he was sliding into the depths of the earth, falling into the unknown. Was this really the end for him? Were his friends and his sister gone too? The thought of never seeing his parents again or the Earth’s surface nearly sent shock waves of panic through him. All he could do was keep falling. He could feel the twists and turns of the muddy chute, trying to clutch the sides to no avail. He finally gave up, knowing that he was now too deep. He just had to go wherever the nightmarish slide was taking him. He wondered how far into the earth he was because it felt like miles now. He suddenly felt nothing around him, and then blue light. He had that sinking feeling again when he realized now he was free falling. After about 30 feet, he felt an impact, as if he were being slapped on every square inch of his body as he hit the water. He sunk below so deep that he could barely tell which way was up or down. He saw the bubbles rising and began to vigorously paddle upwards, trying to reach the water’s surface. He could not hold his breath any longer and commenced to let it out. He was forced to inhale as his head barely broke the surface, gasping as he came up!
“I can’t!” he heard Vern’s voice, “I c-can’t swim!”
“Don’t worry, I got you!” shouted Olivia.
“I felt something rubbing against my leg!” Rasheed called out. Clarence looked around. He was seeing all his friends splashing around in the water. When he looked down, he couldn’t see the bottom. The water was too dark and too deep. It could have gone on forever for all he knew.
“Where is Penelope?” Clarence hollered out in a weak voice. He looked around disoriented, wondering if they had fallen into the earth, only to drown in this watery trap. Rasheed swam over to help Olivia with Vern. He reached into Vern’s pack, still attached to his back, and pulled out his life vest. They helped him get his pack off to get his life vest on.
“Over here!” he could hear his sister’s voice calling from somewhere behind him. They saw that they were in some kind of underground river. The current wasn’t overbearing, so Penelope had made it over to a riverbank on the cavern’s side. He could see Rasheed and Olivia helping Vern swim towards the bank. Clarence joined them as he pulled himself up on the bank beside them. “Where are we?” whimpered Vern, “this is so not cool!”
“The water feels really warm, so I believe we are very deep into the Earth,” said Rasheed, “maybe miles.”
“We are so dead!” exclaimed Vern.
“Where is all the light coming from?” said Olivia. They looked around at the walls and the ceiling. They could see the hole from the shaft that they fell out of. Huge stalactites hung from the ceiling while equally massive stalagmites protruded from the ground. Bright, but gentle, blue light covered everywhere as they stared in awe.
“Glow in the dark walls?” Penelope said, tilting her head.
“Algae,” answered Rasheed, “bioluminescent.”
“Bi-what?” Penelope asked, confused.
“The same way fireflies can light up their tail by creating a chemical light, the algae on the walls are doing the same,” Rasheed said as he continued to look around, fascinated.
“We have to figure out how we are going to get out of here,” said Olivia with a worried tone in her voice. “Clarence, use your mobile, call for help.” Clarence felt around on his pockets.
“Oh! I remember now,” Clarence said, “I dropped it during the earthquake.”
“I still have mine! But…no service,” Rasheed said as he looked at the bars of his mobile phone, “and…I’m down to 8% battery power. I better turn my mobile off in case we need to save it for later.” Rasheed turned off his cell phone entirely and tucked it away into one of his pockets.
“We are doomed, man,” said Vern, “Doomed!”
Clarence looked around the cavern more, evaluating the situation. “Wait, it looks like this river goes on. We have the raft, and it looks like we were able to hang onto most of the gear. We can inflate our raft, and then paddle downstream and see if we can find a way out.”
“I’m getting scared,” said Penelope.
“Don’t worry; we will get out of this. I don’t know how yet, but we will find a way,” said Clarence, trying to stay positive.
“I think we should stay here,” said Olivia. “Your parents will realize that we are gone past the time, so they will surely send help. They will call in the rescue workers to come down here with a rope and rescue us!”
“But it feels like we slid down for hundreds of miles. How would anyone ever get down here to help us?” said Rasheed.
“Well, I like my idea of going down the river. I mean, we were planning on a float trip. I just didn’t expect it to be underground. I suppose we could wait a little longer, just to see if anyone comes down the hole looking for us?” said Clarence.
Just when they were relaxed enough to give it some thought, there was a huge burst, as if something immense was coming out of the water! A huge slimy tentacle wrapped itself around Vern, lifting him screaming into the air. A second tentacle coiled around Rasheed, pulling him back into the water! Then a third tentacle caught Penelope by the ankle and started pulling her towards the river. Clarence watched in horror as the head of the beast came out of the water.
The First Battle
The creature looked like a giant squid, except it had only one large eye, as it gazed right at Clarence, coldly. With three of its tentacles partially raised as it gathered in its prey, Clarence could see just enough underneath to get a view of its massive beak, as it was snapping loud and hard, ready to devour anything it could catch. It’s slimy gray, wet skin, glitched in the blue light of the cavern. It had a foul smell, like three-day-old rotting fish. It reminded Clarence of a giant squid-like creature that he read about in mythological books, that they called a Kraken. Another one of its thick tentacles lashed out towards Clarence. Clarence leaped up as the creature’s limb swung under him, missing its target. Clarence dropped his backpack as he could hear his friends and his sister screaming for help. Olivia ducked and rolled under another tentacle, swinging wildly towards her as she grasped hold of one of the small raft oars that Clarence had dropped. She leaped her way towards the tentacle that was dragging Penelope and began to chop at it with the paddle’s edge. Penelope let out a shriek as the beast attempted to grip her harder, but then it gave in to the pain of the continually hacking oar and released its hold. It lifted Rasheed out of the water, long enough for him to gasp a huge breath of air.
Clarence acted quickly and started tugging at a long, slender, sharp stalactite. It took several pulls to break it off. He clamped it between his teeth and dove into the water as the tentacle once again pulled Rasheed underwater. Two more tentacles started slashing at Olivia, and she did her best to parry the attacks, protecting herself and Penelope, who was still on the ground. The long slimy arm started to pull Vern towards its razor-sharp beak chomping harder and louder.
“Oh sure, eat the black kid first!” shouted Vern, “I see how this is!”
Clarence reached Rasheed and started using the pointed end of the stalactite to stab into the tentacle. The beast let out a hideous hissing sound as it let go of Rasheed. Both boys started to swim as quickly as possible, back towards the riverbank, when another heavy arm came down on top of them, landing in between them. The force caused a current that pulled them both under the water.
Penelope looked around to see if there was something she could do to help fight back, as the creature brought Vern so close to its mouth that he was kicking at the beak. She saw Clarence’s high-powered flashlight, lying halfway on the ground outside of his backpack, and started scurrying towards it on all fours, like a mouse, fast and unnoticed. Olivia was now outnumbered by three tentacles, as one of them knocked the paddle out of her hand, and the two smacked her with so much force that she slammed against the wall and fell to the ground, stunned.
“Why so salty!” Vern continued to scream and kick, “what did I ever do to you, bro!”
Penelope aimed for the one monstrous eye of the beast and flipped the flashlight on. “Take this, Tuna Breath!” she shouted.
As soon as the light hit the eye, the creature dropped Vern into the water and began to flail its tentacles around frantically. Vern splashed around in a panic but didn’t sink as his life vest was still holding him on the water’s surface.
Olivia started to stir, getting up slowly, picking up the raft oar, and moving towards Penelope. Penelope kept the blinding light on the eye of the beast. A cave-dwelling creature that is used to little or no light couldn’t take the blast of the beam, as it soon retreated under the water. Rasheed surfaced near the bank, holding the stalactite that Clarence used to free him in his own hand now. He pulled himself on shore, nearly exhausted. Clarence then surfaced near Vern, grabbing him around the neck and swimming back to the riverbank. Soon all five of them were back on the shore, but the beast did not give up.
The monstrous cephalopod re-emerged directly in front of them all, on the edge of the river. The gang jumped up again posed for battle. Penelope again blasted the eye of the beast with the flashlight. It thrashed around blindly and angrily. It was not often that it had a chance for five tasty meals like this. It was hungry and not going to stop until it fed. Rasheed used the stalactite just like a fencing rapier, blocking and parrying the tentacles’ blows while occasionally taking some jabs into the beast’s thick mucousy skin. Vern picked up two huge stones, “Come at me, bro!” he shouted as he started pounding into the beast, while Olivia stuck it non-stop with the raft oar. They all hacked and slashed at it viciously, fighting for their lives.
action & adventure