40,322 / 50,000
This part was mostly fun to me. Some good descriptions, and some fun vocabulary. I've done better, but I've done worse too. =)
Charlie turned towards one direction, and his sister the other. The far reaching depths of the system of caves made the noise echo and bounce back over itself. It was impossible to tell where it was coming from, or even discern what it could be.
They feared the worst, and looked for somewhere to run, somewhere to hide. Charlie began to turn back in the direction of the church, but Adrienne grabbed his arm, and pointed at the archway nearby.
From the stairway, they were unable to tell just what they were, just that there were other connections to the tunnel they stood in. Now that they were closer, they could see that at least the nearest one was a doorway.
The hole in the rock was far from the perfect square of hallway they stood in. It appeared to be a natural gap in the rock, wide enough and tall enough for an average person to step through, if only just. Charlie's head came up almost to the top of the gap. A few more inches taller, or if the hole was a few inches smaller, and he would have had to duck through it.
Covering the gap was several planks of wood, nailed to two planks running across them, with a brass knob embedded on the side. As Charlie grabbed the knob and turned, they could hear the scrabbling noises growing closer. What once sounded like a few pebbles rolling down a hill, now sounded like an avalanche rushing towards them. The thoughts of falling stones were not the most comforting to go through their heads, given their current position.
The two of them moved through the open doorway and closed it behind them. There was no latch for the knob to catch onto, instead serving as only something for someone to grab onto. The hinges were sunk deep into the stone wall, holding it in place.
As whatever was out there passed by them, heading from deeper within the granite caverns and passed by towards the church. The noise coming from whatever passing by was far quieter now that it was upon them and not being amplified by the tunnels.
Charlie longed to peek through the large gaps in the wodden door and see just what it was, and at the same time he didn't. Even if his desire won out, he would have opted not to look. Once they were inside the room, they had shut off their flashlights. Any light coming from them would have been visible to anyone caring to look. A bat would have seen the light escaping through the gaps in the door.
They both leaned against the door to hold it shut, fearing whatever was out there may crash through at any moment otherwise, whether by accident or design.
Whatever it was didn't even make the door rattle as it scrambled along the rocky cavern floor.
Charlie and Adrienne waited behind the door until the sound faded off in whatever direction the other tunnel took them in. As they stood there, they noticed that the sound had not dissipated all the way. While most of it had gone, something remained outside the door, continuing to make noise.
Deciding to risk it, Charlie nudged his sister and she moved away from the door. The bat in her hands raised aloft as Charlie turned his flashlight on with one hand, and yanked the door open with the other.
All they saw when the door was opened was the rocky wall across the passageway from where they had hid. It wasn't until they heard a small squeak drifting up from the ground that Charlie pivoted his arm and saw a long brown rat looking back up with him with big, black eyes. Its whiskers twitched as it sniffed and regarded the intruders. The rat only stood there for a moment before squeaking once more, and then running away from the light and down into the darkness. Charlie assumed it intended to rejoin its brethren which had passed them by.
With the misinterpreted threat gone, Charlie closed the door once more, and turned his light upon the room they were in. He had only gotten the briefest of glimpses before he had doused the glow when they had entered the room.
Adrienne turned her light on as well, and stood back as Charlie investigated. If the room had a window, and bookcases, it could almost have been an ancient twin of the office they had left far behind. There was nothing in the room but wooden crates. Charlie gave a brief thought to the poor bastards who would have been tasked with carrying them down here.
Where the door seemed old, but not as old as the catacombs, the boxes were very new indeed. The door showed signs of aging, with some pieces rotting away already. As well as scratches along the base from the rats. Charlie thought that one swift kick would have made the boards crumble. The intricate carved entrance to these passages was older still, but in much better condition, and not kept hidden in the dank darkness of caves. The crates however looked to be made by professionals, unlike the hasty construction of the door behind them. There were no gaps between any of the parts, and the wood was new. Charlie could almost smell the fresh cut lumber.
Some of the crates were opened. Their pried lids resting against the crates, and the walls of the small storage room. Charlie stepped into the beam his sister was casting, and aimed his own into the boxes.
Inside, Charlie found nothing too special. More boxes, some opened, some not. One contained a pile of pendants packaged up on small cards, wrapped tight with the chains. They were unpainted, and some dark metal, reflecting the luminscent beams being shone upon them. On a whim, Charlie grabbed one and stuffed it into his pocket.
Next to them was another box within the crate, filled with cans of metallic blue spray paint. Charlie wasn't surprised to see their method of making the pendants their signature cerulean shade. He picked up a can and gave it a shake, listening to the small rattling noise it made, not unlike the rats that had passed by. He couldn't help but notice that they were using the wrong paint. Most people would have made the same mistake, grabbing whatever they wanted to use to get the job done, with much the same poor results the Order got. Charlie had spent enough time working in garages and paint shops to know you need the right bonding agents for the right materials.
Another crate was filled with blankets, and another with non perishable food supplies; mostly canned goods, and prepackaged containers. A last opened crate was completely empty, save for some flattened cardboard boxes. Whatever it had once held was already long gone, and now the box was just being used to keep the remaining garbage organised.
"Nothing out of the ordinary here, I'd say." Charlie looked again, moving boxes just to see if he missed anything. He could have opened up the other crates with the prybar at his side, but decided not to bother. "Everything here is pretty normal. Hell of a weird basement, but nothing too bad here. Nothing we can use."
Charlie turned his back on the boxes, and passed his sister to exit the room.
They ventured further down the hall, further from the church, deeper into the caves beneath the city they had known all their lives, but never known at all.
They found other rooms, almost all identical to the first. Each containing more boxes and even more boxes. Charlie suspected that if there was something up, they were keeping as much of the normal stuff up front as they could, to look as benign as possible should someone show up to investigate. Someone like Charlie and his sister. He was not oblivious to the idea that everything might look normal for the simple reason that everything was normal, but he kept plunging ever deeper into darkness.
The passageways soon turned, and Charlie was grateful that it wasn't another branch. Having a clear path to follow was welcome. They turned right and continued onwards.
The hall continued for a few meters before they reached another doorway. Charlie pulled this one open as he had all the others, with a sudden, quick motion while his sister stood at the ready with her bat. His hand was primed to move from the knob to the crowbar dangling from a belt loop at the slightest sign of need.
Which was a good thing, since standing there inside the doorway was the same creature Charlie had seen outside Adrienne's house. All three of them stood in silence, staring in shock at each other, no one making a move.
Charlie was the first to regain a sense of himself, and his hand did as he had wanted it to do. The crowbar was being held between him and the creature almost before he knew he had even done it.
His eyes spared the briefest instant to look over at his sister. He could see Adrienne's hands shaking, and sweat beading up on her brow. Her eyes were wide with fright, unblinking.
Even though his timing may not have been the best, he spoke, keeping his voice the barest of whispers. "Do you believe me now?"
Adrienne struggled to reply, and all that came out at first was something that reminded Charlie of steam beginning to eminate forth from a teapot, but not quite at a whistle yet. She tried again, and this time managed to force out a choked, cracked squeak not unlike their earlier rat visitor.
Charlie knew how she felt. The reason he was focusing on his sister rather than on the flabby, flapping folds of wrinkled, mottled skin was so he could keep a clear mind.
As if suddenly becoming a parrot, the creature opened its mouth, and echoed his sister's noise, in the same eerily close but very different way in which it did so. The noise drew Charlie's attention back towards the hideous man-thing, and he wished he hadn't done so.
With the light shining on it, Charlie could see how thin the creature's skin was. Through it, he could see yellowy masses of flesh, and black veins pumping whatever passed for blood within that thing.
His light shone straight into the thing's mouth, and this time he saw purple splotches dotting the inside of the mouth, rotting away his insides as surely as his outsides were falling apart. Charlie was also able to see a few teeth remaining, all yellow and broken, if not rotting away. All the rest were long gone, leaving bare gums that were oozing something that Charlie could only imagine what it could be, and he did not choose to do so.
With his attention drawn back towards the creature, he raised the crowbar even higher, running on pure instinct as he did so. Seeing the sudden movement, the creature reacted in fear.
It lurched backwards, and Charlie could see it's organs shifting and straining underneath its thin flesh. He was expecting the paper thin skin to tear, releasing the undulating massed inside out onto the cold stone floor at its feet.
As well as watching the creature move, Charlie could hear it now as well. Without the cover of crunching snow beneath its feet, the insides of the creature made noise that was quite audible. It made the noise of several masses of water balloons all stuff in a bag being shifted around, mixed with the schlurping stickiness of pulling a rubbery boot out of a mudhole.
The creature reared back in fear, and let out it's familiar baby like cry. In the cramped confines of the caverns, it was all the louder. Other cries came back, and Charlie was unsure if they were echoes, or more creatures within the dark depths, crying back to their brother. Or sister. Charlie was not about to speculate one way or another on the sex of the beast. And taking a look in any appropriate area was right off the table.
As he thought of this creature's siblings, Charlie remembered his own, and turned to his sister. He was ready for them to run straight out of here and forget they had ever come.
Adrienne had much the same idea, and her small form was even smaller and fading quick in the light of her brother's flashlight. It pained Charlie to see where she was headed. He wanted to go back the way they came, back to the church stairwell and out. However, in her panic, Adrienne had gone the opposite direction, and plunged deeper into the caverns, towards who knew what.