43,005 / 50,000
*makes a face* The very, very ending of the chapter kinda fizzled for me. It's not exactly a page turner that will make people wait for tomorrow. It's not horrible, and is where I wanted to break the chapters, but urgh, it just came out awkward. Ah well.
Charlie stared after his sister, the hulking, lurking thing forgotten for the moment. At least as forgotten as something piercing the air with its scream can be.
He tried not to curse, and thought he only did so inside his own head, but Charlie let slip several four letter words as his sister drew further and further away.
Before she could go too much further beyond the arc of his light, Charlie gave chase. The corridor flickered between darkness and light as the beam swung back and forth with Charlie's pumping arms. He heard his footfalls echoing through the stone caves as he ran, just audible beneath the cries of the monster.
Remembering the reason his sister ran off, Charlie gave a look back over his shoulder. The thing was still there, watching, unmoving save for the quivering of its body from crying out. It just stood there as best it could and watched the two humans running from it.
Charlie could see a sadness in the things eyes, even as dead as they were. It watched the runners as a child would when left alone by others. Charlie felt a pang of pity for the thing, but he needed to focus on the real issues at hand; his sister and the caves.
Fearing he may end up breaking something, Charlie resumed his attention to the fore, before he could run into a wall, or trip on the uneven floor.
He had closed the gap by the barest of amounts, but he was gaining on her. Charlie poured on more speed, and as the gap closed even more, his sister disappeared.
Charlie skidded to a halt. He was aware, but didn't really hear loose pebbles of granite scatter ahead of him from his sudden stop. Charlie aimed his flashlight ahead, and with the light steady, he could see a turn up ahead in the distance.
As he was about to return to running, Charlie heard the noise of someone walking behind him. Someone walking, and dragging what sounded like a sack of potatoes. The sound was different than what he had heard before, but the thumpthump and scrape could only be the screamer back in the darkness advancing upon him.
Charlie didn't need to look back to confirm his thoughts, and instead sprinted forward once more. At the rate the thing shambled along, he would have no problem outpacing it.
He rounded the corner without losing much momentum, hoping he could catch up with his sister. They had passed several more doors in their run, and Charlie regretted being unable to stop and check each one. Now that they were past the first few storage rooms of uninteresting, everyday stuff, he thought they were bound to hold the good shit. However, his sister was Charlie's priority, and so he tried to catch up with the panicking Adrienne.
Charlie hoped Adrienne had not gotten too far ahead of him, and around even more corners in the time he had taken to get this far. As he paused to direct his light with a steady hand down the new hall, Charlie caught a glimpse of what might have been his sister. He thought about the downside of wearing dark clothes while committing illegal acts was that it made finding your partner in crime just as difficult for others but also for you.
Deeper and deeper Charlie followed his sister, following with each twist and turn. He knew if he didn't find his sister that he would have a hell of a time getting out of these labryntine corridors. He had turned so many times, broken off down so many branches that he was lost. Even in her state of shock, Adrienne would have been better at remembering every turn she took.
He considered calling out to her to make her stop, but Charlie didn't want to make any noise. Either he would just alert the creature at his heels or its friends, or worse yet, something else. Something like other monsters hidden in the blackness, or something more sentient like Richard and other members of the Order.
At one point, Charlie lost track of his sister entirely. She had gotten far enough ahead of him and turned several corners in rapid succession, at a juncture. He took a bit of time to consider just how large this structure was, all buried and hidden away beneath his otherwise sleepy, nothing little town.
Charlie looked back and forth from one direction of the juncture to the other. Each way was short, and led to another cross path not long after the t he stood in. Adrienne could have gone in either direction and turned in any of two directions each. The longer he waited, the further away she got, and could go even deeper into the corners and angles of this buried town within a town.
He picked a direction at random and almost skipped the few long striding steps from one split in the path to the next. He flashed his light down one way, then the next. Both were long corridors like the ones they had first come across, and the light caught no glimpse of Charlie's sister in either direction.
Charlie found himself almost wishing his sister had worn the heels of doom. At least then, he thought the distinct clicking upon the granite might give him some idea which way to go, or at least have slowed her down enough to keep her in sight.
However, Charlie realised that the sound would have been more apt to have echoed around the caves and just left him all the more confused.
As he doubled back upon his own path and took the other route he had forgone before, Charlie did stop and listen. He had been so intent upon his chase, that he had not noticed the screaming from his pursuer had ceased. The caverns were almost as quiet as a grave. Charlie could hear over his own heartbeat the distant drumming of water dripping somewhere. The thump and scrape of the creature was somewhere in the distance, still pursuing, still gaining, still there. It had only stopped its scream.
And somewhere amidst the scattered sounds, Charlie could hear it. A familiar chuff-chuff-chuff of someone running, amidst the clattering of stones against stone, as she kicked around the loose pebbels strewn about down there.
It was difficult to pick a direction out of that noise, but at least Charlie knew Adrienne was out there somewhere. He could tell she was nearby though, the sound was too loud, too clear to be distant echoes in the wind. If he focused hard enough, Charlie could also tell that it did indeed sound as if she was in the direction he was facing.
Charlie did not want to waste any time, but he backed up a few steps as quick as he could, past the juncture where he lost his sister, and a little beyond.
Yes, it was clear that the sound at least appeared to be further now. With the screams gone, Charlie could at least get some sense of direction on his sister, although it was little more than a vague sense of 'that way'.
Once he got back to the last split in the path he knew Adrienne had come to, Charlie stopped just before it, closed his eyes, and placed a hand upon each wall. He hated wasting the time to focurs properly, but it was better than running blind on a hunch. At least if he had some assurance he was going in the right direction, it would not seem like he was just wasting time by running.
Slow and steady, Charlie thought.
He heard the two main sounds of the cavern; one thing coming closer, and the other moving further away. One moved slow, and the other fast. The first was heavy, struggling, while the other was quick and light. Charlie took a deep breath, and pushed the thudding drumbeat of his own heart to the back of his mind. The tunnels did not make it easy, but he felt confident enough that one direction would lead him to his sister.
Charlie dared only to take one more second to listen, one more second to hope he was right, and tried again to close the gap between him and his sister. Also to put more distance between himself and his friend lurching behind with the ever present thudthud skkkrtch as it tried to walk.
He bolted to the left, and took another corner not long after, grateful that it was not another split.
Once he had homed in on the sounds around him, picking and isolating each one in his mind, Charlie found himself able to pick whichever one he wanted to focus on. The monster's pursuit was fading more and more with each footfall he made upon the granite. He was unable to tell if he drew any closer to Adrienne, but at least she did not sound as if she was outrunning him.
In fact, he was almost positive that he was closing in on his sister, but part of him dared not to hope that much. It may have all been wishful thinking that he was even going in the right direction. The tunnles split off and rejoined and turned so much, he could just be running in circles as his sister does the same, neither of them getting any closer to the other.
Charlie hoped that wasn't the case, but the thought still made him start looking at the walls for familiar signs. Something that showed he had come by this way before, be it a patch of moss, a particular large vein of white through the grey.
It was something else that caught his eye though, and made him skid to a halt. Charlie stopped so quick that he almost lost his balance. There were symbols on the walls, both painted and carved. There was even some overlap, with carvings having been done over some of the paintings.
The existence of such designs was not what caught Charlie's eyes, however. They were common enough in caves, although he had heard very little literature on them in Vermont.
What caught his eyes so much was that he had seen the symbols before. They were very similar to the ones encircling the obsidian mirror back at his sister's home. Charlie cast his light back down the hallway he had traversed so far, and saw even more symbols. He could not tell how far back they went. So engrossed in his pursuit of Adrienne, he had not even noticed them.
Charlie bit his lip, staring at the symbols, and looking in the direction he could hear his sister. Cursing under his breath, he dug into his pocket and pulled out the mobile his sister had given him months ago. He paged through the menus and found the camera settings. He skipped past all the tweaks he could make, and focused instead on just taking pictures. The flash from the built in camera filled the caverns with more light than they had seen in centuries or more. Charlie was blinded from the sudden bright white light filling his vision. He blinked away the spots, and looked at the shots he had taken. They were far from great, and only just adequate. They would have to do however, and he continued his chase, resisting the urge to pause and take more photos of the walls.
As Charlie turned yet another corner, he could no longer hear his sister running. All he could hear - far, far away now - was the ever present thudthud skkkrtch of the creature. However off towards the end of the particular tunnel he was in, Charlie could see light. He wasn't sure if that was good, or bad. It might be a way out, somewhere well lit or maybe even so much time had passed it was morning. On the other hand, it could very well lead to others. Others who were waiting for him, and already in custody of his sister.
Charlie turned off his flashlight, plunging himself into darkness, save for the tiny dot far ahead to guide him. That was all he needed, though. It was straight ahead, and the tunnels were all very well squared off. He hoped that if anyone was waiting down the path that they had not seen his light in the darkness.
He advanced down the rocky path, making each step slow and deliberate to make as little noise as possible. He struggled to hear anything at the end of the line, but it remained quiet.
As he got closer step by step, Charlie could see more beyond the end of the tunnel. It wasn't daylight that he was heading towards, but instead it looked like candle light. And a lot of candles at that. It looked like a room he was nearing, and he could see shapes beyond in the light, but not what they were.
Charlie's pace slowed, wishing he had more of a plan, or more cover. As his fears of being seen mounted, a voice called out. "Hurry it up, Charlie! We can see you down there, and are getting a little bored sitting down here with our thumbs up our asses."
At the call from the voice, Charlie stopped mid stride, and he realised how ridiculous he must look. One foot was in the air, toes just touching the ground, with his arms raised for balance while he crept forward. When he was called out, his face took on the expression of a deer caught on the headlights. Charlie knew he looked like a right fool standing there trying to sneak when anyone, whomever they may be, could plainly see him in the not as dark tunnel as he hoped.
Charlie straightened and adjusted his coat after it had ridden up from his attempted sneaking. He hoped he could salvage some dignity by striding proudly the rest of the way into the chamber that awaited him.
Once he stepped into the light of the room, Charlie blinked into the bright candles surrounding the people inside. He was encircled on all sides by people in dark blue robes, which surprised Charlie not the slightest bit. They had hoods drawn high over their heads. The flickering lights cast dark shadows upon their faces, obscuring their identities.
One of the figures held his sister. One arm wrapped around her waist, and clutched her small frame against their much larger one. Clearly it was a male that had her in their grasp. His other hand reached around and covered her mouth. It was clamped tight over her lips, and Charlie could see the knuckles were white from the pressure. Adrienne's eyes were still filled with the same panic he had seen what seemed like ages ago. Her breath was quick and shallow, her chest rising and falling with each gasp of air she could manage through her nose.
Another of the robed figures stepped forward from the pack. The rest moved to close the sudden gap in their circle, and others filled in the rear, closing off Charlie's means only means of escape. Not that he would have used it. He was lost, and knew there was something in there that scared him more than a cult in blue robes.
The figure that had stepped forward reached up with a lone hand and pushed back the hood over its head. When Richard's face was revealed to be beneath it, Charlie just crossed his arms and stared. He wasn't surprised that this was whom the order chosen to be their mouthpiece. Charlie was a bit surprised that he was actualyl involved with them, though.
He smiled that same disarming smile. Aside from being dressed in a robe that hid every detail of him save his head and hand, there was no difference in the way Richard acted. "Well now, Charlie. It looks like you've done gone and caught us down here. What are you gonna do about it?"