The entire cavern shook and echoed under the hideous growl of the beast as it opened it’s ugly mouth to wreck hell with its fearful voice. It spread its wings in anger and stretched its huge head to roar again, this time shaking stones loose from the ceiling and sending them crashing down to the floor below.
Nick leapt out of the way as it attempted to bring a clawed, scaly foot down atop him to crush his body and moaned as he tripped on a rock, stumbling clumsily to the ground.
This was too hard, he couldn’t do this… How did he fight something like this? How could he fight against hell’s angels?
He heard the scream from behind him and turned his blood smeared face towards the sound. In a small hole far up on the cavern wall, he could see Brian’s pale face staring down at him, pleading to be rescued. It was too high for him to clamber down himself and the beast would soon stop its prey from escaping. His eyes glanced over to the next hole on the other side of the cavern where he could see AJ looking down at him. On the other two walls were similar holes only they trapped Howie and Kevin. These men were his only friends, his only family. He had no one else in the world. Without them he would be alone. They were counting on him to save them from the beats that had so ruthlessly trapped them. They were going to die unless he saved them.
“Nick, watch out!” Kevin yelled frantically.
Nick glanced up and screamed as he saw the tail of the beast being flung towards him. He rolled away just as the black, scaly lump shattered a large rock beside his former position. He covered his head as debris rained above him, showering his blond hair with dusty shards of stone.
He heard a growl from above and slowly raised his head. High above him the beast arched its black neck and bared its blood splattered fangs – fangs covered in the blood of its former victims and Nick swore that his dear friends wouldn’t be next.
It gave a screech as its malignant black eyes stared down at him and then it decided to strike.
Nick jumped to his feet and ran between the beast’s legs, gasping as he heard the teeth viciously smash the rocks of the ground. Desperately he tried to avoided being crushed as it stamped its feet down on the cavern floor, anxious to kill the one that had invaded it’s precious nest and to stop it from taking the food it had so carefully gathered.
He seized hold of a sharp rock and hurled it at the beast’s head, but such a tiny and pathetic missile upon its massive bulk did nothing to hurt it.
His eyes darted to the craggy walls which would lead up to the holes where the beast had made its terrifying nest. That was were his friends were, but he couldn’t reach them. If he did not think of something soon then they would die… The eggs in the slimy nests would hatch. They would hatch and unleash more of these filthy beasts upon the world, but as soon as they were born they would be hungry, hungry for the fresh blood that would spill from the veins of his friends once their claws tore into them.
“Nick, we can’t move! We’re stuck!” AJ called.
Nick had tears in his eyes as he dodged another blow from the beast’s paw. He had nothing to fight with. Now weapon, no strength and… no hope. He had always been taught by his mother that there was always hope but he had felt that slip away after she had been killed.
He grabbed a handful of sharp stones and hurled them one by one at the beast’s face. It gave a shriek of pain as one smacked it in the eye and it raised a claw to its face protectively and began to bat away anything else Nick had hurled at it. He stared about him for something else that he could fight with and his eyes fell upon a rusty metal pole in the corner. No doubt it had been left over from the destroyed mine that had once been here.
Nick made a dash for it but suddenly a claw came crashing down upon him pining him firmly to the ground. Nick screamed in agony as he felt one claw piercing the soft flesh of his shoulder and spilling yet more of his blood onto his filthy, tattered rags of clothing.
He heard the beast above him cackle in delight as it realised its victory was imminent. Nick struggled in the fearsome grasp, screaming in pain as he felt the claw burrowing through him until he swore he could feel it punching through the skin of his back. One of his arms had been pined back beneath the paw to almost breaking part and he could feel shards of powerful white, hot pain rushing through his veins causing him to moan in pain. Desperately he tried to stop his mind from blacking him out into a world of nothing as his fingers stretched to try and reach the pole.
Tears were oozing from his eyes as he watched the black beats opened its mouth and lean towards him, the corrosive green saliva dripping from its bloated tongue and landing on his face. It lowered its great head to sniff the blood from his shoulder and Nick screwed his face up in revulsion as the breath of the dead brushed over him; cloying sweet with old, decaying flesh. He wrinkled his nose as it breathed harder, blowing the greasy hair back from his face.
Nick opened his eyes and looked the death bringer in the eye, knowing that this could be the last thing he ever saw. He had always hoped that the last person he would see would be a loved one, but this foulness was everything but loved. They were so much terrifying in reality than in the imagination. As a boy his tiny village had been untouched by the monsters as they rampaged about the larger colonies for the richer pickings.
They had always been around. Nick couldn’t remember a single day without living in the shadow of fear that they might come. There was nothing they could do to defend themselves form those fangs of brutality.
He had watched while they slaughtered his family and left him crying as he curled into a tin, insignificant ball. He remembered sobbing desperately in the arms of his only friends while they soothed him and held him close, promising that they would never leave him alone in this cruel world.
Friends. That was all he had now, or it had been until the beats had taken them, but Nick wouldn’t let it win.
He watched the nose come ever closer, his hand slowly trying to drag itself towards the pole, his last hope to save himself and his friends. His eyes drifted upwards to the holes in the walls and another tear rolled down his cheeks as he saw Kevin backing away from something. They were hatching… His eyes locked with Nick’s but Nick refused to accept the resigned look he saw there. They wouldn’t die. He wouldn’t let them.
“Why did you come here?” the beast hissed, its tongue lolling out to lick the blood form his shoulder before hovering above Nick’s face.
“I wanted to save them,” Nick whispered.
The beast laughed. “Why even try? One day they will die anyway. Everything dies. What is wrong with today? If it is not today, it will be another.”
Nick suddenly felt his hand grasp the pole. Slowly his finger entwined about it. “Yes,” he murmured in reply to the beast. “Yes.”
He suddenly brought the smashing down upon the floor, sharply cutting a toe in the proves and bringing black blood bubbling up through the scales.
The beast roared in anger, the blast stunning Nick as his mind reeled at the sound and the spittle flying from the beast’s mouth and covering his face. The clawed cage was removed as it instinctively pulled its foot away and nick rolled as it angrily brought its second foot down, trying to pound him to the ground but he sprang to his feet, the pole raised like a bright sword of hope.
The beast laughed, the rumble echoing about the cavern like thick waves of oppressive thunder. “You are all ready too late! They are dead!”
And then he heard it, the screams of agony, pain, suffering mingled with the delightful squeaks of foul, new born young as they excitedly ripped apart and devoured their first meals.
He raised his face to the nests high above him in the walls. He could still hear the infernal cries, hear the shredding of flesh, see the blood in the air.
His legs went weak, heart almost stopped as he crashed to the ground, ignoring the pain as his knees heavily ripped into the craggy stones below.
No hope now. Nothing left.
His entire body was seized by a painful numbing coldness that started in his stomach and then rapidly spread until it contorted his chest. His voice spurted out as a mingled, gurgling moan and he couldn’t fight the hard, vicious lump of vomit as it forced its ugly way up his parched throat and through his mouth.
His body shook and trembled and then the tears came, not silent but desperate sobs of deep grief that erupted from his swollen lips.
“Why? Why! Why did you do this? You took my family and left me and now you do the same with my friends! I wanted to save them!” Nick screamed, his voice filling with more hysteria with every pain filled word he spoke. He felt the ground shake as the beast approached him. Nick watched as the clawed feet stopped beside him and he raised his tearful, red face to stare up into the snout. “Why? It could have been anybody. Why them?”
“Why not? All are the same. If it wasn’t them, it would have been others. All are loved. All will be mourned in death. Their lives feed others.”
Feed others…. Yes, he could still here the young feeding on the blood and lives of his friends. He could still feel the grief eating at his own heart.
He wanted to climb to his feet. He wanted the strength to vanquish these monstrous beasts from the world, but now his weak legs would not even allow him to move. His strength wad gone. Love was gone. Hope was gone. He had nothing anymore, nothing to live for. His life was over.
The beast lowered its head and leant down beside Nick, its dark, intelligent eyes staring at him, but there was no sympathy there or light of mercy. “You feed from animals, we feed from you. That is life. You do not mourn a pig or a cow and we do not mourn you.”
Nick raised his head to stare at the holes in the cavern walls. He couldn’t see the spawn of the beast, but he could hear their frantic screeches as they ripped at his friends’ now dead bodies and fed upon their flesh. Their suffering in this world was over now, but Nick’s was just beginning.
His eyes closed as he bowed his head down, tears dribbling down his filthy cheeks in untidy trials.
“You spared me when you took my family. You would do the same now?” he asked faintly.
“I have no need for more food at present. You were a minor intruder. Then you were a mere child.”
Nick sniffed and wiped his nose on a ragged sleeve. “I don’t’ want to live in this life. I don’t want to be left behind again,” he whispered wretchedly.
The beats was silent for a second before it spoke again. “Then I can grant that wish if you desire.”
Nick nodded his head, so slowly and so miserably. He did not want to live like this. He did not want to live without love.
The beats reached out with paw and then stretched out a single claw to place it against Nick’s chin. It tilted his head up and nick opened his eyes to meet death’s stony gaze.
He did not feel nervous, afraid or hesitant. He only felt nothing. Nothing but the certainty that this was what he wanted. He could walk free, but he did not want to.
The pressure of the claw increased and the beast trailed the claw down from his chin to the soft skin of his throat.
“Thank you,” Nick whispered to the beast.
Then the beast did Nick its kindness, slitting his throat cleanly with one single stroke. Death greeted him instantly as he departed the cruel world that had brought so much despair upon him.
No more despair now, only blissful oblivion.
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