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!”
“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…