Introduction

This blog is about the ongoing adventures of Frank Clay, the Quantum Unstable Man, and his team. This is the next draft of the story that was told a daily basis at https://twitter.com/QuantumUnstable then collected weekly at http://thequantumlyunstableman.tumblr.com/. Any questions or comments are appreciated.

Check out the Character List for Book One
Start from the Beginning
Check out the Character List for Book Two
Or jump to the beginning of Book Two.
Or if you’re caught up, see the Complete Character List that is (more or less) kept up to date.

Advertisements

My Doctor, the Fishman

The monster let out an answering scream and jumped back away from me. “What the hell?” it grumbled.

I paused. “…What did you say?”

“Geez, I was just coming to check on you,” the creature said, shaking out what must have been its ears. “You don’t have to scream at a guy. You nearly gave me a heart attack.”

It took my brain a couple seconds to process this. “…wait. What?”

“I said…” the creature began to reply before I interrupted with the most clever question anyone had ever heard, “You talk?”

“Of course I talk. How do you expect us to communicate?”

“I didn’t,” I admitted, looking away from embarrassment. “Until a few moments ago, I was expecting you to attack me.”

“And why would I do that? If we wanted you dead, we could’ve just let you drown. That’d been a lot easier for everyone.”

“Maybe you like your food to have some fight left in it,” I argued in my defense. “That’s not unheard of in predators.”

“Do I look like a predator to you?”

I gave him a serious once over. He had a more or less human upper half. Below his waist, however, was a fishtail, except it was smooth like a dolphin’s. Or maybe a shark. His hands were webbed and his fingers were long and curved. And his teeth were sharp and pointy. I figured ‘kind of’ was not the best answer, so I changed the subject. “Who are you?”

“My name is Pem and I’m the medical assistant here.”

I nodded, but his answer raised a very important question, one that I couldn’t hesitate to ask, “And just where exactly is ‘here’?”

“This is one of the medical facilities within our city.”

“And you city is…?”

“Merapolis.”

“And that is…where?”

The fish-man creature glared at me. “If you’re trying to ask if we’re still under the water, land-swimmer, yes, we are still underwater.”

That meant we were probably still close to where the island had collapsed. That was some good news. If we had to escape that meant it wouldn’t be that far to reach the portal and get out of this world. But to do that I needed to find the rest of my party. “And my friends, the others I was with? Where are they?”

“Those were your friends? They were very different from you. Much larger. Are you their child?”

“Child?” I didn’t know whether to laugh or be offended. But with this fishman watching me closely, I tried to stay calm. I still didn’t know who they were or what they wanted. And I didn’t know where I was, where my friends were, or how I could get out of here. All I knew, if Pem was telling the truth, is that I was underwater and that put me at a great disadvantage. Not only could he clearly get around a lot easier than I could, but judging by his gills, he could also breath in the water. And there was no reason for me to suspect he couldn’t just fill the rest of this room with water. It was already halfway filled. I was left without many choices. “No,” I told him. “We’re actually different species.”

“Ah,” he replied. “That makes more sense. Sort of. It doesn’t explain what you’re doing with them. Or why any of you are out here. You’re airbreathers, but I saw no, what’s it you call them? Those things that float at the upper edge of the water?”

“Boats?” I suggested.

“Yes. Boats. I saw none of those.”

“I hope you don’t mind, but I think I’d prefer to see my friends first before I start to share anything with you.”

Pem slowly nodded. “I can understand you feeling that way, but I don’t know how wise that would be.”

“And why’s that?”

“For one, the passage to where we’re holding your friends is all underwater and you and your friends don’t seem to handle water too well.”

“We can handle water just fine. We just can’t breathe it.”

“Well, you have to admit, that would be a problem in an underwater city.”

“You seemed to have been able to get us into these rooms, so it couldn’t have been that big of a problem.”

“We did. You want me to take you around in our holding pods?”

“If that’s the only way I’m going to be able to get around without drowning, yes. Then do that.”

“Ok,” Pem said. “Wait here. I’ll see what I can do.”

I chuckled. “Where else am I going to go?”

He stared at me suspiciously for several seconds before diving under the water and swimming away. I waited patiently – what else was I going to do – for about twenty minutes before he returned. “Here,” he said, as he emerged from the water. “Put this on.”

I looked at the collar in his hand. “What is this?” I steamed. “Are you trying to chain me up? Am I a prisoner?”

The merman gave me a curious look. “This is a rebreather,” he said. “Basically a set of artificial gills. It’ll help you breath underwater. I thought you would prefer this over the holding pod, but if you’d rather be confined to a small bubble instead of just putting this on…”

I wanted to argue with him. I still didn’t like the looks of his ‘rebreather’, but if he was telling the truth, this was definitely preferable. I’d rather not be constricted more than I had to. I’d rather not be constricted at all, really, and putting on a collar felt like I would be. But I was stuck in this room already, at his mercy, putting on this collar probably wouldn’t be making things much worse for myself.

I took the collar and snapped it on around my neck. There was a noise that sounded unnervingly like a lock slamming shut. I tried to take it off, but it wouldn’t go. It was stuck! I couldn’t take it off! Just when I was about to scream at my captor for betraying me, I felt two sharp pricks on burying into either side of my neck.

to be continued…

Out of the Ocean and Into the Small Room Filled with Water

I woke up with a suddenness that almost left me on the floor. I was sitting up before I even knew where I was. I was surprised to find I could see, that it wasn’t dark anymore. And I was alive! At least I didn’t think I was dead. I didn’t seem to be dead. This revelation took me by such surprise that it took me a little while to realize I could also breath.

I wasn’t under water anymore!

I was alive and I wasn’t underwater. I was in air that I could breath. How did that happen? Where was I? I looked around. I was in a room. I was in an empty room. Alone. How did I get here? And where was here? And where was everyone else? What happened to the others?

I took a deep breath. I had to think. I was alive. That was good. That meant whoever had me probably wanted to keep me that way. I hoped. I wasn’t restrained. That was probably a good sign, too.

I let myself relax. I was safe. I was alive. This was good. I let myself feel that and put away the worry for a second. There had been such ever-present danger for so long, always going from one thing to the next. It was good to have a second to be calm. I was truly happy to be alive. I had not been looking forward to drowning. I was glad I was alive and I could breath. I was happy to be dry and away from all that water.

And then just as I started to let my guard down, I heard a unexpected noise. It sounded like something opening. Like a…door? I looked around, but there was no door anywhere I could see. How had I gotten in here without a…and then I saw the opening, about the size of a vent. And there was water streaming out of it. Within seconds, water covered the floor and it wasn’t stopping.

Wherever I was, they clearly hadn’t taken me very far away from where they had found me. The water smelled of the ocean. I was still in it or near enough to it. Was I in a submarine? If I was, I think it sprung a leak. Maybe it had taken damage trying to save us. If it had, then I was sorry. By trying to save us, these poor people had doomed themselves. Now they got to drown along with us. I wanted to believe that was true because as bad as it was for them and me, it was better than the alternative.

As the water continued to rise, I slid back on my bed away from it, as if its touch could hurt me. I stood up and started looking for exits. The ceiling was a single solid piece. There were no vents to crawl out through. I sincerely doubted I was going to be able to bust my way through it or through the walls. But I had to keep looking for a way out. There had to be one.

The water kept rising and rising, but I couldn’t find anyway to escape. Soon the water level was nearly up to the bed. I thought this was it. Soon the whole room would fill with water and I’d drown. I tried to take deep breathes to oxygenate my blood so I could hold my breath longer. Maybe after the room filled with water I could escape through the opening, the water pressure would have equalized so it’d be pushing against me as I tried to swim through. And go where? The whole place had probably filled with water. I had to try. I wasn’t going to just give up. I was going to just stand here and let myself drown.

And then, just as suddenly as the water had started, it stopped. Why did it stop? Did someone plug the leak? Did that mean that we weren’t completely submerged? Maybe we were on a boat that had smacked into a sandbank. That would certainly make it easier to escape than being in the submarine at the bottom of the ocean.

But before I could get my hopes up, I saw something swim into my room. Something big. I looked around again for some way to escape. I didn’t find one this time either. I looked for something to defend myself with, but there wasn’t anything in the room, not even a pillow on the bed.

The creature swam into the room and came right toward me. I kept looking for a way to escape, but there really was nowhere to go. Everywhere but where I stood was covered with five feet of water. The water level seemed to have stopped rising, so at least I wouldn’t drown. No, all I had to worry about now was the massive creature swimming into my room, heading right for me. The large creature sprung out of the water barely a foot away from me and reached out toward me. I screamed for help.

to be continued…

The Island Becomes Quantumly Unstable

“What?” Tam shouted back as they tried to dodge tendrils. “You know how to beat them? Then what are you doing standing there like an idiot? Do it already!”

“Right,” I said before reaching into my back pocket for my travel instability extractor. I pulled it out and extended it. Then I slammed it hard into the closest tendril I could find. I pressed down on the bottom and instantly the tendril began to glow!

I watched as the glow spread down the tendril. Then the other ones began to glow. Soon the entire room was lit up by the glowing tendrils. “Frank,” Crag yelled. “What the hell is going on?”

“It’s ok,” I told him. “This is supposed to happen. I’m stabilizing the instability. This should give us a chance to escape.” But then, as if to defy my comment, then tendrils began to thrash wildly.

Oh, right. Here comes the painful part.

As the tendrils convulsed, we did our best to avoid them, but our best turned out not to be so good. The trolls especially took a beating. Tam and I who were a good deal smaller than them, managed slightly better. But then the brightness got too bright. Covering our eyes wasn’t enough, we had to squeeze them to keep from being blinded by the light. And that still wasn’t enough. Dodging became impossible. All that was left for us to do was curl into little balls trying to block all the light we could and hope for the best.

Then the shaking stopped and I realized that the light was gone. I started to open my eyes. I could hear the others start to make relieved sounds. As I blinked away the leftover spots in my eyes, I began to look around. There were no tendrils in sight. None. They had completely disappeared. We had won! It was over! The monster was g…

And then, just as we began to feel happy in our seeming victory, the island began to collapse underneath us.

The ground beneath our feet was caving in right under our feet. We had to run as fast as we could, but every one of was so worn down. We couldn’t escape the collapse. Even if we had had the energy it might have been impossible, but in this state we barely managed to put up much effort. Almost as one, we all fell down into the hole beneath us. I was expecting to hit rocks and be crushed from the avalanche coming down from above, but there was no floor. We fell for several feet and then hit water, smacking into it hard and with great surprise. It hurt when we hit it but at least it wasn’t rocks, I told myself.

Though there was no hard floor, that didn’t mean the ceiling still wasn’t falling on us. There was no way to go up and most of us were too tired to swim, so we sank. We sank further and further under the water. We did our best to stay away from the falling rocks, but we could only do so well in the slowness of the water.

I lost track of the others quickly. It became increasingly dark. And everywhere I looked there were rocks. I had no choice but to swim down away from them. And as I got deeper any source of light got further away. But then air started to become a problem, specifically my lack of it. I could feel the need for more start to grow in my chest.

Except going up wasn’t an option. Up were rocks and those rocks were coming down. So I was forced lower and lower, away from my next breath. I could feel my lungs starting to burn with the need for more oxygen. I tried to swim around them. I couldn’t worry about the others, wherever they were. I couldn’t save them and myself. And saving myself was looking to become my abilities. The only light that remained down where was Tam’s and it was growing dim.

I had no choice. I had to go. Me dying wouldn’t save anyone else. I tried to swim up, but there really was no way past the rocks. So around it would have to be. I swam down and out, but I couldn’t swim fast enough. I had gotten too close to the rocks. They were coming down too quickly and I couldn’t get away from them. Down I went again to try to get around them, but I was too slow. I couldn’t get past them.

This seemed to be the end for us. We escaped dying at the hands of a giant lifesucking tendril monster only to drown when it collapsed in on itself. The monster had pushed us to the limit and now here we were being pushed past that limit by water and falling rocks.

But I couldn’t give up. I knew I was going to lose, but I had to keep trying. I had to keep trying to get around these rocks. I had to keep trying to get back to the surface. I had to keep trying to help my friends and I had to keep trying to get back home. I couldn’t give up even as the entire island fell in on us, pushing us down into the bottom of the ocean.

But as I swam with all my remaining strength, my lungs continued to sear in my chest. I couldn’t keep from thinking that this was the end.

And then I saw a light.

At first, I thought it was Tam, but the light was not red and hadn’t they fallen in the other direction? The light was coming toward us and it was getting brighter. It distracted me enough to slow my swimming and get hit by a falling rock. The little air I had left in my lungs was knocked out of it. I watched with terror as bubbles escaped from my lips. I tried to push off of the rocks, but it was pushing me down too fast. I couldn’t escape it! This was going to be the end.

And then the bright light was upon me. I could feel something grab me. Something hard and unyielding wrapping around my waist. I could feel it pull on me into its bright light. And that was the last thing I saw before everything went black.

to be continued…

The Island is Going to Kill Us

The floor of the cave, the entire cave itself, was shaking. For a second, I thought there was an earthquake. But. no, I realized, it was the tendrils. They were beneath the ground and they were angry and they were all trying to come up.

I ran to the nearest troll I could find. It was Toleuk. She was lying on the ground, unconscious. I tried to shake her awake, but I couldn’t shake her any stronger than the ground was already shaking her. “Toleuk! Wake up! Or we’re all going to die!”

Toleuk’s eyes slowly opened, but only half-way. She was still very groggy. The tendrils had sucked out too much of her lifeforce. “Come on,” I told her, trying to pull her up, but she was too big, too heavy, to just pick her up. “You have to get up. We have to get out of here.”

“Huh…?” she mumbled, clearly not registering anything I was saying.

“We have to go! We have to go right now!”

“Go…?”

“Yes, we nee…”

Then tendrils began to erupt from the ground! They were larger tendrils than the ones we had faced before, thick like tree trunks, and they began to tear the ground beneath us apart as they bursted out into the surface. They were going to tear the cave apart. “Up! Up! Up!” I yelled at Toleuk and thankfully she started to get to her feet. “Come on! Come on!”

“I am, I am,” she said. Her voice was barely more than a whisper. Her movements were almost in slow motion. I looked to the others. They weren’t doing much better. Tam was trying to get Domoban to his feet. Crag had one of the deputies up, I couldn’t see which one. We were all so weak, but the tendrils they were going strong and the ground was being pulverized from below. It would be gone soon enough and then all there would be was us and the tendrils.

“We need to move,” Tam said, coming toward me, holding Domoban up. I would’ve been impressed with their strength if the entire cave wasn’t threatening to come down on our heads. “What’s our plan to get out of here?”

“Our plan?” I replied, still working on getting Toleuk up.

“Yes. Where’s that magician friend of yours? Or Kink? Do you have a transport?”

“Are you kidding me?” I said. “We had a gerbil, that’s it.”

“A gerbil?” Tam growled. “You came to rescue me with a gerbil!?”

“We had a gerbil. It’s gone now.”

“So then we have nothing?”

“We have what you see here. That’s it.” I gestured around us. We could barely make out the trolls amidst the tree trunk tendrils.

“We need to go!” Crag yelled, two deputies leaning on him. “We have to get out of this cave before it kills us!”

“I don’t know if climbing is going to be enough”

“There has to be somewhere on this island that is safe.”

“I doubt that,” Tam yelled back trying to be heard. “I don’t think this is an island at all.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Crag asked.

“It means,” Tam said, “that I’m pretty sure that this creature is actually the entire island.”

Crag looked like he wanted to argue further, but we were quickly losing ground that didn’t have giant tendrils sticking out of it and the cavern ceiling had started to fall in on us. The ways we could die was quickly increasing and the means of escape were vanishing.

“We need to escape and we need to escape now!” Tam yelled at me, but that was looking less and less likely. The rocks beneath us were being smashed, a line of escape was disappearing. The walls were coming to pieces, climbing out seemed unlikely.

Giant tendrils were everywhere and more were appearing every second. And everyone looked like they could barely even stand up. The trolls were out on their feet. Only Crag was managing it without any great effort and that was because he barely spent time in a tendril. Tam was standing, but they were doing it with great concentration.

I, on the other hand, was feeling surprisingly strong. How could that be? I had been wrapped tightly in tendrils and been seconds away from being eaten. I’d felt the energy being pulled out of me. And yet, I felt nearly as strong as I always did. There was something I was missing. What made me different than everyone else?

Well, I was the only unmodified human here. That was different.

…Or wait, I’m not unmodified, am I? I do have a modification, don’t I. My quantum instability, that was what separated me from every other person in the world, across the timestream and all the dimensions. That’s what I had going for me that no one else had. My quantum instability had been building up for the past couple days. And if that’s what the tendrils had pulled out of me, then that would explain why I was feeling so strong and no one else was.

So if the tendrils had absorbed my instability that meant it was in them now, meaning… “I know how to beat them!”

to be continued…

Tam Put on the Red Light

A hand, a large hand enveloped my own and began pulling at me, pulling me up. But the tendrils stayed wrapped tightly around me. The hand was pulling me up, the tendrils were pulling me down and that left me frozen, stuck in the mouth-like hole at the bottom of the cave.

It was Crag! He had leapt to save me. And even more miraculously, he had managed to catch me before I had completely vanished down the hole. I had been so sure he was going to be too late. But here he was, holding my hand, pulling me with all his might. But the tendrils hadn’t given up either, they were still pulling me down. I could feel both of them tug at me. I could feel the opposing forces tear at me. It was so painful, but I held on with all I had. The other option was unthinkable.

But the tendrils weren’t going to give up so easily. I could feel their moistness slip over me, moving up my body. Thin little tendrils geow upwards towards my chest and my upper back. They wrapped around my shoulders and up my arms. I knew that whatever this creature was, it wasn’t going to give me up. It was hungry and wanted more. We were running out of options.

Then it came to me, our one way out. “Tam!”

“I don’t think she’s going to be able to reach you,” Crag said through gritted teeth.

“I know. That’s why you need to go and free them.”

“Them?”

“Tam! You need to free Tam! Only they can get us out of here!”

Crag glanced up behind him to the prone Tam, wrapped in tendrils, held aloft just over his head. “Are you…?”

“Just do it!” I shouted.

Reluctantly, he let go of me with one hand and reached up. He tugged at the tendrils holding Tam, but nothing happened. They wouldn’t give way. “It’s not working,” he told me.

“You have to let go of me. Completely.”

“I can’t.”

“You have to.”

“But then you’ll die.”

“I’m going to die anyways. Freeing Tam is the only way I have a shot at living. That any of us do.”

As soon as I said it, I could feel the truth in that sentence. I could feel my life’s energy leaching out of me through the tendrils. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold on for much longer, that none of us would, that it was already too late for us to try to fight back. But that red glow emanating from Tam, what I had already seen them do with that energy, I knew they could save us.

Or at least I hoped they could. We needed them to. If they still had enough energy. We had no other choice. “Do it,” I told Crag. “Free them.”

Crag reached up toward Tam, but he couldn’t reach. “You have to let me go,” I told him.

“But then it’ll pull you under.”

I could feel the tendrils squirming their way upwards, closer and closer to Crag. It was going to get him, too, and then we’d all be out of luck. “You have to do it now! We’re running out of time!”

“But…”

“Now!”

Crag let go of my hand and I was tugged quickly down beneath the lip of the mouth. I reached out desperately to grab onto anything I could. But all there was to hold onto were the tendrils, the slick slithering tendrils. Any grip I could mange slipped out of my hands almost immediately.

I was being stuffed into the hole, into the mouth, and all seemed lost when suddenly the tendrils began to convulse wildly. I was thrown back and forth by their distressed spasms. I could tell immediately that something was wrong.

It was Crag. I could see just a bit of him through the top of the hole. But I could see that he was trying to free Tam. He was pulling violently at the tendrils wrapped around them. It must have been effective because it seemed to be hurting it. The tendrils were in pain. It was only a matter before they struck back. And then we’d all be in serious trouble.

I could see the tendrils swarm toward Crag and within seconds he disappeared from my view. I could only assume they had him. The tendrils once again wrapped around me, tighter this time. They covered nearly every inch of my body. I was completely unable to move. They pulled me downwards into the mouth. I was being consumed. There was nothing I could do to stop it.

And then came the red light. It washed over everything. It was brighter than ever before. Even with my eyes closed and the tendrils covering most of my face, I could still see it. It seeped through every crack, filled every corner. And it hurt. It hurt me, but even more than that it hurt the tendrils. It really hurt the tendrils. They began to spasm uncontrollably, shaking and convulsing. Which would have been a good thing if I hadn’t currently been in their grasp. For as much as they were tossing me back and forth, I could’ve escaped from the tendrils’ grip if only I’d had something else to grab on to.

And then a giant hand appeared. I looked up and saw Crag’s face. It took a second for him to pull me from the spasming tendrils. He lifted me up out of the mouth with ease. My eyes quickly found Tam who was sitting in a tendril-free area of burnt rock. Tam was breathing heavy and their glow was all but gone. “You all right?”

“Just great,” they said. “You?”

“Oh, yeah. Real peachy.”

I looked up to spot the others, but they weren’t up in the air anymore. The trolls had been thrown about the pit by the spasming tendrils. “We need to get the others,” I told Tam and Crag. “And we need to get out of here as soon as…”

And then the ground began to quake.

to be continued…

Into the Mouth He Goes

I was being pulled down lower and lower, closer to Tam. They watched me get closer, our eyes met. They reached out toward me. I reached out and took their hand. “It’s not over yet,” I told them. “We can still get out of here.”

“Oh,” Tam whispered, thin tendrils stuck to their face. “How?”

“We’ll find a way,” I told them. “We always do.”

“Do we?”

“We do,” I assured them, though things were looking pretty grim, all of us captured by these tendrils, our live energy being sucked out of us. The Sheriff and his deputies were already too weakened to help. And me being pulled down further toward hole at the bottom of this cave. I could see it beneath us, widening, undulating. This was where the tendrils had sprung from, this was where the monster lived. It reminded me so much of a mouth that it was hard not to believe that this creature was trying to eat me.

“Hold on, Frank!” I heard Crag yell. I glanced over and saw him still climbing down the wall. “I’m coming!”

Crag was still free and mobile. He was the only hope we had left, that I had left, but he was still several feet up and many, many yards away. It seemed impossible that he could reach me in time. But, then, to my utter surprise he made the stupid decision to push off of the cave wall and let himself drop down to the cave floor. No, I wanted to yell to him, don’t. Stop. It was suicide. He was going to hurt himself. But, even if I’d had the energy to yell loud enough so that he could actually hear me, it wouldn’t have mattered. It was already too late. He was already falling. There was no stopping him now. All I could do was pray that he’d survive it.

Crag dropped like a brick toward the bottom of the cave. But there was one thing I hadn’t take into consideration, that I hope he had, and that was that the cave floor was covered in tendrils. It wasn’t the rocky cave floor that he slammed into, but the rubbery tendrils laying across it. Crag bounced when he hit and went flying back up into the air. He came down again and bounced again, coming closer and closer. By the third time he hit, the impact had diminished enough that was able to turn it into a run. But before I started to have hope, I realized that it was only a matter of time before those tendrils turned on him. Sooner or later they’d grow tired of being stepped on and they’d wrap themselves around him and he’d be ensnared like the rest of us.

But did I even have that long to wait? I was being pulled even further down. My feet were nearly at the gaping mouth. I clung tightly to Tam’s hand. Even though they were very clearly weakened, their grip was still surpringly strong. I could feel myself being pulled between them, between Tam and the tendrils, between the tendrils holding me and the tendrils holding Tam.

Suddenly, Tam let out a pained gasp and I realized that it wasn’t just me in peril here. Tam was being pulled at, as well. Holding their hand, tugging on them, was hurting them. They were weak and I was pulling at their arm while the tendrils holding the rest of them there, suspending them. I had to let go. I was going to pull their arm out of their socket and I couldn’t bear to hurt them anymore. Tam tried to grab me again, but they were in no position to help, not anymore. With nothing holding me back, I was pulled down quickly toward the gaping mouth. My feet disappeared inside before I heard the scream.

It was Crag. He was running toward me with long bouncing strides. “Hold on, Frank! I’m coming!”

Desperately, I tried to find something to hold on to, something to slow my descent. I was too far away from Tam. I couldn’t reach them. I was now halfway down the hole. Everything below my waist had been pulled into the creature’s mouth. Crag was still bouncing toward me.

“Frank!” he yelled, as he came ever closer. But he would be too late. I was sinking lower and lower. He was getting closer and closer, but I was now pulled down below my chest. I had to crane my neck to see him and only then when he bounced at the top of his arc.

I was down to my neck. I held my hands out, reaching for him, even though I knew he’d never get there. I was being pulled lower and lower. I could see Crag running. I could see him dive toward me as I slipped beneath the hole.

I remember thinking it was the last I would see of him, the last I would see of anyone. The only place to look was directly above me, to Tam lying there, suspended in the air, unable to move. My hands were the only part of me above the hole. It was down to my elbows, my forearms, my wrists, my palm, my fingers… I was almost completely consumed. All seemed lost. I thought that was the end and then…something grabbed me.

to be continued…

The Source Revealed

I continued crawling onward, closer and closer to the red light. Warm became hot, bright became searing, the itch became a burn. But I was getting closer. I was nearly there!

But then a tendril curved down toward me! I didn’t see it coming until it was too late. It grabbed me and wrapped itself around me. I reached out toward the figure at the center of it all, the source of the light, but I was being pulled up by the tendril, away from the source. I yelled at it in desperation and, to my surprise, the figure turned its head and looked directly at me. I gasped. I knew who it was. I think I did. It was hard to see. But I think, I’m pretty sure – I think that the figure was Tam!

“Tam!” I yelled as the tendril pulled me away.

The figure raised their hand to reach out toward me, but I was much too far away. I couldn’t reach them and they couldn’t reach me. They disappeared beneath the bright light, but I swear I heard them say, “Frank. Help me.” I swear I did.

“I’m coming back!” I yelled, hoping they could hear me. “I’m going to save you. I promise!” But the tendril had me and it was pulling me up and further away. I could feel it leeching energy from my body. I was going to have to escape soon or I’d never be able to escape at all.

Then I heard a voice. It was soft at first, but it got louder. I could tell they were calling my name. “Frank!”

“Tam!?” I yelled back.

“Frank!” I heard again, louder this time. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure, but it didn’t seem to be coming from below me. There were echoes and reverberations in this large cavern, but it seemed like the yelling was coming from above me. I looked up and saw Crag waving his hands and yelling. He was still alive and he was free! The tendrils hadn’t captured him again! It looked like my attempts to free myself hadn’t been for nothing. Yes, I was captured again, but at least he was still free. Someone could still save us.

“Crag! The source of the light, it’s my friend. They’re down there! You have to go down there and save them!”

“Ok.” He looked down from the cliff he was standing on, then back at me. “How am I supposed to do that?”

“I don’t know,” I told him, “but do it quickly! I don’t know how much longer the rest of us can survive like this.”

“Oh, great,” he muttered loud enough so I could hear, which may have been a volume that disqualified it from being a mutter. “No pressure.”

Crag began climbing down the side of the cave. I wanted to hurry him on, but I didn’t dare rush. I knew how hard it was what he was doing. Still the tendrils were draining my energy, I could feel it being pulled out of me. And I knew the others were even worse off than I was. Crag was our only hope and I knew that he knew that. I didn’t want to make an incredibly difficult task even harder.

I watched impotently as he climbed down the cave wall. As he started to slip out of view, I began to look for ways that I could help. I quickly found there weren’t many options. I was really only left with the same choice I had been left with before: using my teeth. So I opened my mouth wide and I prepared to bite down, but, to my great surprise, a small tendril grabbing the back of my head stopped me. Even smaller tendrils shot out of it across the rest of the back of my head, taking full control of my ability to bite down. Then the largest tendril let go of me and I was left hanging in the air by the tendril holding the back of my head. It was not fun.

I grabbed at the tendril with both of my hands and tried to pull it off, but it held on too tightly. I tried to pull the tiny tendrils off individually, trying to dig my fingers beneath them, but I couldn’t get them to pull free. But, too my shock, I realized I was going down anyway. The tendril was slowly lowering back down to the bottom of the cave. Why was it doing that? I couldn’t comprehend why it would. Was it bringing me to Tam? Why would it do that? It couldn’t want me to free them. Then why? Was I to join Tam on the ground to have my lifeforce drained from me? Why’d it need me down there to do what it was already doing?

As I got closer, I saw Tam begin to rise. They were being held up by tendrils, too, but they looked like a different kind of tendril, different than the ones holding the rest of us. Their color was darker and they were much thinner. Liquid dripped from them. I saw more of them rise from beneath Tam. As I was brought closer, I could see that they were indeed a different kind of tendril. They were covered in a saliva-like moisture. I could feel the moisture as they grabbed onto my legs, seeping into my pants legs. The sensation was pretty stomach churning. They wrapped around my legs and began working their way upward. The tendrils on my head let go. I now belonged to these new ones.

These lower tendrils coiled their way up my legs to my waist to my chest. I tried to struggle against them, to fight them, to pull them off. But they wouldn’t come off. I couldn’t get myself free. I was stuck. I was trapped. They began to pull me down.

to be continued…