Michael tossed me the pin, and I took another step down into the pit. Michael and I met spelunking, and we decided to celebrate our engagement by spelunking in the Yellow Caverns. They were called “yellow” because of the sulfur mines that once dotted the landscape. But after a hundred years, they’ve become overgrown and are slowly rejoining the old growth woods surrounding the caverns.
Inside, the caves were still pockmarked with small, dusty nodes the color of egg yolk that rubbed off on the soles of our boots. Michael made his landing on a platform that seemed to overlook another pit. He lit a flare in his hands and hung it over the side, his face looking sinister in the orange-red glow. Then he dropped it as I made the landing too. We both looked over the ledge and saw the flare land in a pool of water.
I swore I saw a shadow retreating from the flare. It was probably just a trick of the light against stone. There was no reason to mention it aloud. Michael would inevitably make fun of me. I wouldn’t blame him–I’d make fun of him too if he told me he’d seen something that spooked him.
“Did you see that?” Mike asked. I felt relief.
“What?” I asked, not wanting to reveal that I’d seen something too. I effected the most disinterested and nonplussed face that I could muster.
“I swear I saw something down there.”
“There’s nothing down here,” I asserted, but I was trying to convince myself more than him. Still it shut him up, and we pulled ourselves safely over edge, resuming our climb down.
We reached the pool shortly after the flare went out. As the flare petered out against the bubbling cold water, I smelled the rotten stench of sulfur and heard footsteps and the indistinguishable sound of sniffing. I held onto Mike’s jacket as he pulled out a flare and lit it.
Around the pool, there was a crowd of people–no, not people–things. Human in form but their faces were small and long and their snouts were black and pointed and they carried two huge incisors in front of their jagged teeth. Their pointed claws struck each other in what appeared to be anticipation.
“Mike?” I said weakly as the flare finally snuffed out.