Needle-like teeth found my hands and bare spots on my arms. I feared they were going to reach my face. The swarm of black swarm swept through the cave and beyond it I could see something larger -- human shaped, but not necessarily human.
I shook the creatures off my arms, brushed them from my shirt and hoped they didn't reach my face. I stomped a few. The others had to have gotten far enough down the cave by now --
Only they hadn't. Beth leapt forward, Edmond in her hold, and began stomping the creatures as well. At first I thought they must have gotten cut off, but then I realized that they simply were not leaving me behind.
They were putting themselves in danger for me.
Beth yelped when one of them bit her hand. Edmond let out a growl and leapt down, despite my cry of protest. He launched himself into them and his teeth did good work, but they were too many and they were clinging to his fur --
"Get back!" I shouted again.
And this time they flew away from us, flying in a wind that hadn't been there a moment before. I heard something larger down the hall give a shout of surprise as well, but I couldn't see what it was as the little black biters formed a cloud of destruction headed that way.
"In here!" Beth said, grabbing my arm. There was no sign of any of the creatures, at least alive, in the area. Edmond limped back to me, limping a bit, but otherwise looking quite pleased with himself.
Harvey was pulling some boxes away from the wall. They seemed to move oddly and I saw they were attached to a chain. Everyone was throwing themselves into the little opening on the other side. Harvey had to squeeze through with some difficulty, and that left Edmond, Beth and I. Edmond was shaking his head and mumbling something about playing mice. He went in. I followed. Beth came last and pulled the chain so that the boxes came back into place covering the opening. There was a good chance the enemy wouldn't know where we went and would keep down the main path.
The small tunnel through which we crawled wasn't too long and ended in a large area with a ladder heading upwards. The others had taken the chance to sit down and rest, though. I crawled through and found the first spot against the wall I could. I was shaking with exhaustion and reaction now. I bowed my head. I must have just simply gone to sleep because I only came awake again when someone pushed a sandwich into my hand. I looked up and gave a nod to someone who seemed human-like, and then bowed my head again, ready to go back to sleep.
"Eat the food, Mark," Edmond said, nudging my hand. "You've slept as long as you dare. We have to get moving again."
"Moving," I said, as though the word meant something dire. My legs ached.
"We can't risk being caught in this hole," Beth said. She settled on her heals in front of me and looked as though she thought she ought to apologize for something. "We still have a long ways to go. Can you move?"
"Yeah," I said. I stretched a little and grimaced as I moved my hand. I could see little bite marks on the skin, and it looked read and irritated. But that reminded me of what had happened. I thought back to the scene as I ate a bite of the sandwich: peanut better and jelly, which made me smile.
"I couldn't send the biters away the first time, but I manged it the second time," I said. "No one was really in danger the first time."
"Right," Edmond said. He appeared to have a piece of chicken. They were taking good care of him. "You really didn't have anything to protect that first time. The biters were not a real danger until they attacked. Before that, they were pretty much the same as the rest of us."
I had to think that one through. It meant that, if we had gone in after the biters, my shout to stop would have backfired and sent us flying. I dared not be the aggressor. I wasn't by nature, but my recent adventures were pushing me that way. I was going to have to take better control of myself.
I put Edmond inside my jacket as we started climbing up the ladder. He settled in with an oddly contented sigh and I did my best not to hit his head on the metal rungs as we started to climb up to . . . Somewhere. I still hadn't asked anything like how far we had to go or what we would find.
I had learned, I suppose, that there was no use anticipating what was out there. Besides, my worries were not about what as going to attack us (and something would -- something always did), but what had happened to Maggie, Davis and the others. Part of me wished Edmond had gotten out there to find them, and the other part was worried about what would have happened to Edmond, out there alone in this damned dangerous place.
So better that they would go together, I supposed.
Just so long as I learned --
"We've got trouble!" someone shouted from above them.
I sighed. Edmond sighed. I started moving faster
"Ow!" Edmond snarled, his voice muffled in the shirt.
"Sorry." I tried to be careful of his head again. He squirmed a bit. "Don't do that. You don't want to know how high we are."
"I didn't need to hear that." He might be trying to bury his head in my armpit.
But we had reached the top. Beth pulled me up and grinned. "Looks good. We have them right where we want them!"
That sounded great.
Right before the explosion shook everything.
To Be Continued. . . .