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Final Reckoning Part 2 Excerpt

December 18, 2014

An excerpt from the forthcoming story…

Joseph stared down into the darkness and shook his head slowly.

“I just can’t… get my head around it, you know?”

Bill nodded. It was the… the scale of it all.

The rescue had not been the end of the nightmare. The earth-tremors had continued to shake the tunnel, throwing the humans and the two reptiles around like peas in a whistle. With a splintering roar, the whole of the side of the fissure had cracked and crumbled, and the terrible light and heat of the magma had rushed in on them. The air was blistered with flame, sucking the breath and leaving the party gasping against the scorching heat. Their rescuers grabbed them and dragged them into a side-passage. A door closed, and they were once again in the embrace of darkness.

They were hurried down the passageway, through twists and turns and down, always down, deeper into the dark earth. Bill stumbled against unseen obstacles and cursed. Where were they being taken? What fresh horrors awaited them? The passage widened, opening up into some kind of chamber. A faint bioluminescence seemed to hang in the air ahead of them, picking out an asymmetric archway cut through the stone. Beyond, a vista of alien architecture slept in the faint blue-green glow.

It was a vast cavern – no, a network of caverns: like the roots of some vast, earth-burrowing tree. The still, even haze of luminescence picked out the entire scene with a rime of soft, dull light. It made it almost impossible to hold onto any sense of scale. Were those columns mere inches to a side, or miles? Was the vaulted ceiling just above ones head, or could it have comfortably housed a skyscraper? Bill’s mind whirled. All the cavern sides were hewn in cyclopean, geometric shapes. Great trapezoidal openings burrowed into the shapes, creating massive wells of blackness amidst the soft luminescence. Nearer to the archway, Bill could make out carved stairs and gantries crawling up the stone walls, and blocky spires and towers rising into the haze. Were these gigantic shapes buildings? Sculptures? They seemed to be partly both and yet at the same time, neither. It was impossible to tell whether anything that he was looking at was on any kind of human scale. It might have been a cave filled with factories, or nurseries, or just the under-supports for some massive structure further overhead. And with this tumble of thoughts came the sudden realisation that this had been lying underneath their feet all this time. An alien world, buried underneath the petty human world above.

Joseph joined the Sheriff at the edge of the archway. There was no balustrade, just a sheer drop down into the soft light and the huge geometric shapes. Somewhere down there appeared to be water – but again, the scale of it made it impossible to judge whether it was mere rivulets, winding canals or a vast network of artificial lakes and rivers. And then, in amongst the shapes and the water, two more things: movement, and another source of light. It was the movement Bill and Joseph noticed first – a distant scurry of shadows in amongst the cyclopean blocks: dark forms scuttling hither and thither along the walkways, up and down the vast, climbing stairs. The moving shapes seemed without any sense of direction or purpose – panicked, perhaps? Some shapes were smaller, running bipeds – others were bigger quadrupeds, or things which leaped and ran. With a sudden sense of shock, both Bill and Joseph realised what they must be watching: more reptile creatures, and more things like the wolf-creatures and the snakes: prehistoric monsters on the loose.

At the far reaches of the haze of blue-green luminescence, the mighty stone shapes became mere geometric blurs and began to draw together, rising to build a vast trunk of stone. The shape rose like a mesa up from the network of caves, rising to vanish into the uppermost reaches of the cavern. Vaguely, as if through the titanic blocks of stone, came another source of light: a putrid, blood-glow that seemed to throb and pulsate with its own, organic purpose. It was almost not really light at all, but a sort of radiating energy that rippled the senses and seemed to make you feel it rather than see it. It was hard to look at, as if it were hot, rather than bright.

It was like a terrible, hidden eye, a buried, disembodied heart – a thing that radiated power… and evil. The energy in that distant, growing pulse seemed to pick away at the mind.

They looked out over the vast panorama now, hardly able to believe that all this was buried beneath the Wyoming soil. The woman with the eyepatch came over and joined them. She carried a thick stone bowl filled with a slightly luminescent green goop.

“Let me see those burns of yours,” she said. Bill peeled off his singed, melted coat. The back of his neck and the backs of his arms were blistered and raw from the heat-burn of the lava. His hands and forearms were covered in deep lacerations from his fall down the side of the fissure. The woman turned his hands over in hers, then started to slather the green goop all over his cuts and burns. The stuff stank – like rotting seaweed, but numbed and cooled. The woman noted the Sheriff’s reaction.

“Stinks, doesn’t it?” she agreed. “It’s a traditional Silurian healing balm; best not to ask what it’s made of – life-saving stuff.” Something about the way she said it made Bill suddenly look at the scars around her eyepatch. The woman avoided the Sheriff’s gaze.

“Silurian?” Joseph repeated. The woman nodded.


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