“It’s carapace, yes,” the Sharkwoman said as she raced down the pathway, dodging the thrusting tubes right and left, as I held onto her dorsal fin for dear life. “Be happy. There are worse places we could be traveling.”
The tubes continued to snap at us along every turn. We just couldn’t get away! I began to wonder just what those tubes really were. Were they fingers? Tongues? Hair follicles? At least I was pretty sure we weren’t literally inside the creature, though it was all around us. Dear god, it was everywhere! This path seemed to never end. I suddenly began to wonder, “Just how big is this thing?”
Then one of the tentacular tubes finally grabbed a hold of the Sharkwoman. Just the sheer amount of them, it was only a matter of time until they did. The tentacle wrapped around her tail and it pulled her in. I was thrown off, but I didn’t go flying far. Without the Sharkwoman to dodge, I was quickly caught up by one of the tentacles. It was slimy and gross and it gripped me like an anaconda.
A second tentacle wrapped around me and I was expecting the worst. Were they going to crush me or tear me apart? But surprisingly they did neither. In fact, the first tentacle let go. Then a third tentacle grabbed me and the second one let go. It seemed like they were passing me down the line. Were the tentacles carrying me to the other end of the cave? Could we be so lucky?
I could see the Sharkwoman was being passed as well, but she was taking it a lot worse than I. She thrashed about, then suddenly she grew into her full shark form and burst from the tentacle’s grip. She quickly swam forward and tore at the tentacles holding me. She ripped me free, but that allowed the Miboaq to grab her. Three held onto her, one on the end of her tail, one at the base of her tail, and one around her head. I climbed onto her and pulled at them. She shrunk again, even more than before to just a human body with a shark’s tail. I wrapped my arms around her neck as she swam free!
“Why didn’t you fight?” she growled.
I replied, “I hoped that maybe they were passing me to the other side of the cave.”
“They were passing you to its mouth,” the Sharkwoman said bluntly. “It was going to eat you! And it’s still trying to eat us both!”
The tentacles continued to lunge at us. “Well, what are we supposed to do?”
“Not get caught again. I was hoping we could get through it without waking the Miboaq, but that seemed beyond our luck. You otherworlders just taste too good. The creature is becoming frenzied, going down the pathway may just not be possible.”
“Then what can we do?”
“We only have one other choice. We have to use magic. This is something Lu Wu taught me,” she said, grabbing the pendant from her necklace. It was the one she had taken from me, the one Lu had given me. She mumbled something incoherently as she dodged around another couple of tentacles that were grabbing at us. Her hand began to glow bright red. Then she opened her hand and a bright red light burst from the pendent and burnt into the wall in front of us. The Sharkwoman flew inside it.
There were juices dripping from the top. I almost hoped it was blood. Of the many possibilities, that was probably one of the better ones. The tentacles tried to follow us, tried to grab us, but they couldn’t. They could only reach so far and we were past that in seconds. The tunnel was longer, and grosser, than I would have liked, but it wasn’t long until we were nearly at the end. I could see the sky ahead.
The tunnel began to shake, but it did little more than get gunk on me before we burst free of that whole mess. I almost laughed with joy as we broke free. I glanced back at the carapace and was surprised to see the whole mountain shaking. It began to quake violently. “Is that bad?” I asked.
The Sharkwoman glanced back. “Crap. Maybe I shouldn’t have burnt a hole through it. I may have pissed it off.”
“Yeah,” I said. “What does that mean?”
“Uh… I think it might mean that it’s coming after us.”
“Coming after us?” I looked with horror as the Miboaq began to rise. It was like the whole mountain was coming to kill us! Massive rock-laced tentacles whipped around, like as if a giant had multiple rock covered octopus hands and it was reaching for us. I was pretty terrified at the sight. I was pretty sure the Sharkwoman was just as scared. I don’t know how anyone could have not been.
Escape seemed impossible. The thing was just too big, too fast. We couldn’t outrun its reach. And then a small furry creature appeared in front of us. I thought it was a teddy bear for a second. It looked so much like one. I couldn’t figure what the hell it was doing there. The little creature grabbed a hold of the Sharkwoman as we flew past, as if it were the easiest thing. “Get off me, you little monster!” she yelled.
“In a rush, are we?” it asked.
“Well, there’s a giant monster trying to kill us,” I said.
It looked back at Miboaq, its many arms reaching. “Is that all?” the creature asked as the world quaked around us. “Well, I can solve that.” The little furry beast snapped its fingers and we were gone.
to be continued…