He took a few steps without crashing into anything but then stopped again. Something was in the cave with him. He could hear it whisper closer—it was only maybe a few feet in front of him. He quickly backed up, but it had found him. He stumbled against the wall as he felt the thing brush his toes. As soon as it touched him, goose bumps prickled up his body. It coiled up his legs, and his throat became dry; he couldn’t swallow.
For a moment he was unable to make himself move. He was convinced he was in hell and that this was just the beginning of the torture. Then he imagined his daughter chiding him, “Stop letting them push you around and tell you what to do. You know what’s best for you—they don’t know anything.”
She’d been talking about the government, and he’d disagreed, but her words finally rang true now. If he wanted to see her again he had to get away. The monster had a tight grip on his legs, and he couldn’t run, so he dropped to the ground and crawled. Where he thought there’d been a solid wall he found a tunnel, and he immediately squeezed inside. As he wiggled along through the tight space, scraping his hands and knees, he felt the tentacle of the creature that had been attacking him loosen and fall away. He swallowed gratefully and kept going.
The tunnel seemed to have no end. It pushed his shoulders and snagged his sweater. Soon his entire body was aching. Most unsettling was the unending darkness. His eyes strained for something to focus on but were continuously frustrated. More than anything he wished for the encouragement of a bit of light.
And then finally there was a glimmer of white like a pinpoint up ahead. He feared he was hallucinating, but it grew larger as he got closer, and finally he dragged himself out of the tunnel into a room he could actually see.
As bright as the light had seemed, the room was actually quite dim. He was still in the cave, and this chamber was filled with stalactites and stalagmites. He wasn’t sure where the light was coming from, but frankly, he didn’t care.
His body could feel the strain of every minute of the 50 years he’d been alive. All of his muscles ached, and he wasn’t sure if some of his joints would ever properly straighten. He was worried that he wouldn’t be able to stand up.
Al grabbed the slippery tip of a low stalagmite and hauled himself to his feet. His back didn’t want to straighten, and his knees trembled at the thought of supporting his weight, but he forced it all to happen.
He distracted himself from all his aches and pains by looking around this part of the cave—primarily to search for a way out. The dim light made some pretty creepy shadows, and the high ceilings amplified the sound of dripping water. As he listened longer he realized that there was something else nearby crying soft, short sobs.
With his last encounter still fresh in his head, he approached whatever it was very cautiously. He peeked around a fat stalagmite and got a glimpse of something bright red. The next thing he knew he was laid out flat on his stomach, his chin hitting the stone floor painfully. As all moisture vanished from his mouth and throat, he knew exactly what was happening. The thing from before had caught up to him and was now pulling itself up his body. He stretched an arm out in an effort to get free, but it had a tight hold of him and wasn’t about to let go.
His whole body felt stiffer and harder to move, making it seem even less likely that he’d be able to get free. Now that it had a good grip on him it began pulling on him—not just physically. It seemed to be pushing deep into him, trying to drag something out. He moaned, seeing no other option but to give in and let it have what it wanted.