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…

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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…

All Wrapped Up with Nowhere to Go

I followed the tunnel at the bottom of the cave, moving slowly as I covered my eyes from the light streaming in from ahead, careful not to trip over anything. I ran my hand along the wall to better follow the path. It was warm and I could definitely feel some kind of vibration coming through it. Then to my great surprise, the wall moved. It almost…shivered. The light suddenly got dimmer, almost as if something were now…blocking…the…tunnel.

Oh no!

I froze as large tendrils came slithering out the tunnel toward me. As they came nearer, I swung around and ran awayy as fast I could. But it turned out, I was too slow. The tendrils had already caught me, snaking around me, tangling me, binding me. I tried to fight it, tried to slip free. I tried to climb out, to punch my way out, to push my way out, but it was no use. I couldn’t escape their grip.

Bound tight, the tendrils pulled me back down the tunnel. The tendrils carried me quickly deeper toward the reddish light. The tunnel came to an end at a massive cave. It had to be at least a quarter of the width of the entire island, if not more, and it went down…

Beneath me was the red glow. It was so bright it took me a couple minutes for my eyes to adjust, all while the tendrils brought me further into the room. Even as my eyes were getting used to the bright light, I could see there were other thick tendrils moving about in the massive cave. Slowly, I began to be able to see that the closest one to me was holding onto something. Holding onto…someone! It was Domoban! I could tell those piercings from anywhere! He, too had had been caught in the grip of the tendrils.

But where was Crag? I turned my head so I could see the other tendrils undulating in the air. Some of them were just writhing unencumbered, but some of them weren’t. Some of them were holding people. My eyes were adjusted enough that I could see it was the other trolls! They were all here! There was Crag and Toleuk! And there was the Sheriff! It was all of them! But we were all ensnared by these tendrils and it seemed no one could get out. Some of us were down lower than others. I had to imagine that that was not a good, that the closer they got to the bottom of the pit the worse things were for them. At the bottom of the pit was the source of the bright red light and I couldn’t imagine it would go for anyone.

“Sheriff!” I yelled at the top of lungs so I could be heard over the vast distance. I could hear my voice echo back. “Do you know where we are? What has us? What’s going on?”

The Sheriff’s head moved slowly toward me, but he said nothing.

“They’re out of it!” Crag yelled to me. “None of them will say…anything. And I’m feeling a bit…a bit drained as well.”

“It’s the tendrils,” I told him, though he must’ve realized that himself. “They must be draining our energy, feeding off of us! We have to get free of them!”

“Yeah? But how?”

That was an excellent question, I thought. Struggling against the tendrils had given me no results. Not to mention that the Trolls were much stronger than I was, if any of us were going to muscle our way out it wasn’t going to be me. “Do you have any weapons?” I asked him.

“On me?”

“Of course on you.”

“No.“

“Nothing you can use to free yourself?”

Crag took a second to look. “No,” he said.

I had no weapons on me either. Things have been too chaotic lately to gear up. But maybe I still had something that could be used. Maybe in a shoe or in a pocket, if only I could get to them. Not that I had anything in there that I thought could be much help, nothing sharp. No knives, no blades, not even a pin. I almost laughed at the thought of stabbing these thick tendrils with a tiny pin. But of course a pin, I conceded, might actually be something I could get to as it most likely wouldn’t be trapped in one of my pockets, but instead it would probably be attached to my shirt…just like…“Your badge!” I yelled.

“Huh?”

“Your badge! You can use it to get yourself free!”

“How’m I gonna do that?”

“By stabbing it with it!”

Crag looked at his badge and grasped it as if it were precious, then, looking around at our predicament, he must have realized we had no other choice. Crag pulled the metal badge off of his shirt and stabbed down hard with it into the flesh of the tendril. It responded immediately. The thing began to shake violently. Crag tried to hold on, but he couldn’t fight it as it threw him across the cavern.

“Crag!” I yelled, my voice echoing across the chasm. I heard the thud of him slamming into the far wall and watched as he slid down. “Crag!” I called as loudly as I could. “Crag! Can you hear me? Are you all right? Crag!”

But there was no answer. He wasn’t moving.

to be continued…