THERIOPHOBIA: FEAR THE BEAST Part 54
The Beast dropped Chaney again; the impact brought her back to full consciousness. She rolled over to see the Beast pawing at the ground, shaking its head, rubbing at its muzzle. Enough Moonlight spilled down through the trees for her to make out pieces of broken glass scattered over the pine needles. The Beast ground them under its paws as it spun in circles.
*Something’s wrong with it.*
Chaney tried to stand up. She wouldn’t get a better opportunity to try an escape than this. She got to her knees, but her legs refused to lift her any higher. Blood soaked her shorts, ran down her naked thighs. The pain made her sob.
The monster’s jaws closed over her hips, lifting her off the ground. She felt certain the pressure would shatter her this time. It squeezed the breath out of her lungs. Then the Beast was moving again.
“Where are you taking me?!” Chaney asked, though her voice came out as an inarticulate series of moans. The Beast made no effort to answer her.
To its den, Chaney answered herself as she saw the dark hole that yawned open ahead of them. Its taking me to its den.
A cave. She could see it even at night, even under the canopy of pine trees. The light seemed stronger here, somehow, as if the full Moon were closer to the Earth. It trickled like rain down through the branches.
The Beast hesitated at the cave’s mouth. It scratched the ground, growling, hissing. But it did not release its hold on her this time. With a snarl it charged into the cavern.
Down, down it ran, every movement sending a fresh surge of agony through Chaney’s body. She could see nothing now. But something stank. Even worse than the stench of the Beast itself, which smelled like a pack of wet dogs that had gone wallowing in piss and rotten eggs. It made her gag. Sweeter, clinging to the tongue and the lining of the nostrils, a decomposing corpse soaked in perfume.
The Beast stopped. It shook its head, and Chaney felt she would break in half from the movement. She managed a feeble scream. Then it took off again.
It hates the smell too, her mind said, still working somehow despite her pain. Her head grazed the floor and she tried to cover it. A spasm of pain shot through her and she tried to force the Beast’s jaws open. A pathetic effort. She just managed to cut her fingers on its teeth.
Chaney saw light.
A few more bounds and the Beast dropped her again. Chaney rolled to a stop on the smooth cave floor. She lifted her head, getting a deep breath. Her mind took in everything at once.
*Not a cave.*
The scene lit by a large flashlight, sitting on the ground, pointing up at the flat ceiling.
*I’m in the mines.*
Ancient timbers, up the walls and across the ceiling, holding everything up.
An old woman sat with her back to the tunnel wall. An old black woman. A huge, fat old woman. Chaney gasped.
*The old woman who said I stink!*
The Beast reared up in front of the obese woman. It roared, and the support timbers rattled.
“Lord mercy!” the old woman said. Her voice carried, strong and calm, even melodious. She made no effort to move. “I done made you plenty mad, ain’t I?” she said. “Well, you can jus’ huff an’ puff all you like. I is done too tired to be scared a’ you now.”
The Beast growled, took a step towards her.
“Best not be worryin’ ’bout me jus’ yet,” the woman said. “You gots bigger fish to fry.”
Then Chaney saw them. And this time, she did scream.
They looked like little men, in that they had two arms each, two legs, a head. But the resemblance ended there. Wrinkled, hairless bodies that could have been scaled, horrid little faces, mouths filled with razor blades and dribbling motor oil, eyes that glowed bright orange in the glare of the flashlight. They marched in formation like an army along the floor of the cavern, scrambled over the walls like lizards, hung from the ceiling like spiders.
The old woman cackled. “Little ‘Uns! Worms o’ the Earth!”
The Beast roared.
“Sic ‘im, Oscar!” the woman shouted.
In unison, with a collective screeching sound that stabbed at Chaney’s ears, the tiny creatures attacked. Within the span of seconds, they had covered the Beast, biting it, tearing at it, and still more of them piled on. She could no longer see the monster, just a writhing mound of the little hairless creatures, a mound that shifted and rose and fell as the Beast underneath them fought to get free, the roars and snarls of the latter lost amidst the hissing and chittering of these new tiny horrors. Chaney covered her head. She did not want to see this.
“Lord mercy, chile.” A hand touched her, soft and warm. Chaney looked up. The old woman had crawled over to her. “You ain’t got no business down here,” the woman said.
“It . . . it . . . ”
“Shush. I can see plain enough you ain’t here ’cause you wants to be.” The old woman drew Chaney to her, cradled Chaney against her soft girth. She had brought her flashlight with her, but pointed it away from the sounds of the struggle.
“Who are you?”
“Name be Mathilda,” the old woman said. “But that don’t matter none. You gots to get on out here, chile.”
“I can’t walk.” Chaney managed.
“Best be crawlin’, then,” Mathilda said. She thrust the flashlight into Chaney’s hand. “Little ‘Uns gets done with ol’ beastie, they be comin’ after you.”
Chaney looked at the mound of little creatures. It had grown now, filling half the cavern. And still more of them came up out of the darkness, throwing themselves on the pile.
“Are they gonna kill it?” Chaney said.
“Yes, chile. They is too many of ’em. Ol’ beastie there, he can’t fight ’em all. Now you gots to go.”
“But what about you?”
“I come down here knowin’ I never be a’ comin’ back out,” Mathilda said. “But you gots to get goin’.”
“I’m not just gonna leave you,” Chaney said. “And besides, I can’t walk, anyway. I told you.”
The old woman sighed. “Well, come on, then.” Mathilda stood, helping Chaney to her feet. “You jus’ lean on me now, chile.”
The mound of tiny creatures blew apart, like a volcano exploding. Bodies struck the wall and shattered, tossed up into the sky. A few landed near Mathilda and Chaney, hitting the chiseled rock floor with a crunch. One of them, already dead, bounced off Mathilda’s side. The Beast reared up, shaking itself, the attackers still clinging to its arms and legs and back and head. Raw strips were missing from its hide, bloody chunks torn away–eaten away–from its body. It roared, such a sound of terrible potent rage that Chaney almost lost control of her bladder.
“Lord mercy!” Mathilda said. “It be too strong! Oh, Lord mercy!” They took a step. “Come on, chile!”
The Beast slammed into a support timber, trying to dislodge its tormentors. The wood snapped. The beam across the ceiling groaned. Then the Beast struck the timber on the opposite side of the tunnel, shearing off more of the little beings. Chaney heard the Earth itself growl.
“Oh, God!” she cried.
And then the world collapsed on top of them.
* * *
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!