Chapter 18:

Down in a Hole

By the Shores of Time

Blood-curdling screams echoed throughout the vacant halls. Gunfire soon overlapped the frantic happenings in the upper eastern corridor. Victoria sprung ahead of the others, brandishing her pistol. Her eyes widened to the crimson horror imprinted in her sights. A soldier dragged himself away, severed in half as his innards trailed. The strange tendrils of the creature clung against the damaged door frame. She took aim, observing the pained contortion of her fallen comrade.Bookmark here

“Vaya con dios,” she muttered.Bookmark here

A single gunshot silenced his horrific pleas before being dragged into the darkness. She looked over her shoulder to find Greg and Elizabeth shaken from the event. Neither Celeste nor the priest was around, parting ways after her orders for staying put. Their collected worry only infuriated her further.Bookmark here

“We’re falling like flies,” she shouted.Bookmark here

“We’re missing a few people,” one of them spoke. “Maybe that thing—”Bookmark here

“Shit,” she muttered, glimpsing the scientist. “Then, if you find them they need to be quarantined. No, anyone whose been gone for too long needs to be separated from the rest!”Bookmark here

Victoria observed like a hawk as they went ahead. The lieutenant’s order began faltering in front of her very eyes with uncertainty infecting the hearts of her soldiers. Greg noticed her side glimpse, sending shudders within. He wondered what she would do, watching as she holstered her pistol.Bookmark here

“You better be right about this,” she said coldly, receiving a slow nod.Bookmark here

“How are you planning to quarantine them?” the nurse questioned.Bookmark here

“We keep them in the nearby rooms.”Bookmark here

“What? That’s where it's hiding!”Bookmark here

“Do you have any better ideas? We need to draw it back out somehow. If what Greg said before is possible, then we can assume all of them were … turned.”Bookmark here

“And the captives below?” Greg’s voice trembled.Bookmark here

“What about them?” she answered rhetorically before walking away. “We can assume it already got to them.”Bookmark here

Victoria didn’t add anything further as she walked away toward the second-floor railing. The armed soldiers watched over the rowdy crowd as arguments spread against the guards on the lower floor. The pushing, the grabbing, the slamming, and the confusion that came with the crumbling order raised questions on how the lieutenant would handle the rising disdain. As the nurse approached to look for herself, the cruel efficiency felt like things to come, however, Greg accepted it without concern.Bookmark here

“She is right,” he sighed, seeing her pale expression. “The same could be true for the others. Gabriel, Ricardo, Celeste—”Bookmark here

“We don’t know that,” she interrupted, remaining fixated on the anxious populace.Bookmark here

“We don’t, but that won’t stop Victoria. I—Can’t help but feel like it won’t get any better from here.”Bookmark here

“Shut up.”Bookmark here

Greg complied, walking along the railing while the guards were distracted. Elizabeth glanced over, seeing him walk down the stairs. She slipped through the thicket of the populace as he used the cover of darkness to enter the lower western wing. A smirk crawled along his face, glimpsing the nurse from the side of his eye.Bookmark here

“What are you doing?” she whispered as the doors opened.Bookmark here

“I am a scientist, after all,” he responded proudly before brandishing a few pieces of paper from his pockets.Bookmark here

“What’s that?”Bookmark here

“Something important. I—Kept it in my pockets before they took me into custody. I think we’re getting closer to the truth.”Bookmark here

Handing the papers over, she pocketed it as the elevator doors opened when they reached the holding cells. The electric output was low, as the overhead lights were dimmer than she remembered. They descended to the holding cells, finding an uncharacteristic silence. She let out a whimper after taking a few steps. Thick fog had layered the grimy floors, a sign of an opening toward the end of the dark path.Bookmark here

The scientist grabbed the flashlight on the security desk. The electrical current could fail at any moment. Elizabeth heard sobbing further down, instilling fear, as it was the only thing they heard. Greg followed closely, looking into the bloodied, empty cells. His cell was open with a pulsing light over an injured soldier. Their moans drove the nurse to hurry to their aid, but something was amiss.Bookmark here

“Hey,” Elizabeth said soothingly as she went to his side. “Are you alright?”Bookmark here

The soldier couldn’t speak, although he tried. Greg noticed the bone-crackling spasms throughout his body. The nurse was too focused on his delirious stupor. Using his light, he saw tooth filling next to the soldier. Greg lowered his flashlight, uncertain of what to do.Bookmark here

“Greg?” she asked. “What’s—”Bookmark here

Before she could finish, he shoved her away as the incapacitated soldier leaped at her. Falling into the slick corridor, she knocked her head, hearing Greg’s agonized screams filling the foggy air. She clenched her throbbing head, looking over to the gruesome sight the flashlight revealed. His eyes widened from the intense pain of the soldier’s body absorbing his. The familiar bone-crunching and melding flesh overtook his weakened cries distorted.Bookmark here

“Go!” he let out his last plea before his face smashed into the ground.Bookmark here

A loud crack silenced him as the pinkish flesh absorbed him. Elizabeth wept as she ran ahead, hearing it trail behind her. When she reached the security gates, she buzzed the door shut before its tendrils could reach her. With the last bit of light, she saw the scientist’s distorted face imprinted on the creature’s body. The light shut off, as the buzzing sound was replaced by the internal shifting of the monstrosity’s body. The eerie fog cast its strange light upon its amorphous body.Bookmark here

“S—Shit,” she panicked when it broke apart to squeeze through the bars.Bookmark here

With the power out, the elevator was disabled. There was little time as she saw the gelatinous thing slither through the cold metal bars. She ran toward the adjacent stairwell, cutting through a straight path while the blob reformed. She cracked the door open, slipping through as it sprung at her. The door dented from impact, although it tried to breakthrough. She stood in darkness, shuddering after each slam.Bookmark here

“Goddammit, Greg,” she bawled when she slumped against the wall. “That wasn’t your bullet to bite.”Bookmark here

By then, the creature lost interest as it crawled away from the door. She wiped her tears, remembering the papers he gave her when she felt her shirt pocket. Looking toward the darkness above, she ascended with hesitation.Bookmark here

Meanwhile…Bookmark here

Gabriel panted behind cover as the strange pink creature crawled along the grimy rooftop. He witnessed several soldiers being absorbed by it after unloading rounds of bullets into it. The screams fell silent after being melded into the lump of flesh. At some point earlier, Ricardo split after coming across it. With jittery hands, he looked around cover, seeing it trail off over the edge.Bookmark here

“And here I was chasing after this thing,” he gulped as he stood.Bookmark here

The guns and inorganic things were left behind after its grotesque process. He reached down for a rifle, slinging one over while having another on the ready. He walked toward the edge, glimpsing many more of the creatures traveling under the cover of the lingering white cloak. Heaps of dirt left the mass grave a hilly terrain.Bookmark here

“Dear god,” his voice became parched. “Why?”Bookmark here

“Gabriel!” Celeste emerged from the rooftop entrance. She saw his gesture of silence as she slowed down to see the strange view.Bookmark here

“Are those—” she gasped.Bookmark here

“I chased it through the west wing. Bad idea.”Bookmark here

“You did what?”Bookmark here

“To think we can lose everything tonight. All that time… and effort. I watched four soldiers get absorbed alive while that thing spat out the bullets.”Bookmark here

Celeste glimpsed the withheld despair in his eyes, one that had become uncharacteristic of him. She remembered what Greg said about what the creatures could be capable of, but she didn’t care. She stood by him without concern or doubt.Bookmark here

“We still have each other,” she smiled hesitantly.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” he nodded. “But for how long?”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“We can’t stop these things. And if there’s more—”Bookmark here

“There has to be a way. We’ve figured it out before, we can figure it out now.”Bookmark here

Her unshakeable enthusiasm moved his heart. Perhaps if it were the last day together, they’d go out as one. She reached for his hand, reminding him of the warmth from a cold world they grew accustomed to. They heard someone frantically climb up the ladder, huffing, and puffing as they climbed over. Ricardo returned a disheveled mess, stumbling toward them.Bookmark here

“Ricardo, you’re alright?” Gabriel tried to move forward, but Celeste held him back. “What?”Bookmark here

“We can’t be too sure,” she spoke with her eyes cast to the side. “Those things multiply by infecting able bodies.”Bookmark here

“What are you talking about?” he raised his voice, stopping to the sound of a cocked hammer.Bookmark here

“Easy there,” his friend insisted. “There’s a lot we don’t understand.”Bookmark here

“I would’ve attacked you if I were one of them.”Bookmark here

“Would you?”Bookmark here

“Celeste?” Ricardo redirected his confusion.Bookmark here

“It—Was an observation Greg made,” she responded. “Although I believe you aren’t one of them, we can get too careless.”Bookmark here

“You just showed up too, right? Wouldn’t that mean you could be one of them?”Bookmark here

“That’s enough,” he spoke over them. “We proceed with caution. Ricardo, this has nothing to—”Bookmark here

One of the monstrosities jumped onto the roof, his friend barely dodging in time. Being much larger than most, Gabriel observed the towering creature crawling toward them. Ricardo ran along the side to meet up with them from the other side. It let out a horrid gurgling sound that kicked up debris. Its large tendrils struck everything away as it tried to reach them.Bookmark here

“What now?” she asked, after glimpsing the tall figure behind cover.Bookmark here

“I—I don’t know,” Gabriel’s voice cracked. “This is it—Goddamn it, this is it!”Bookmark here

She suddenly leaned in for a kiss, smiling afterward as she nestled her head against his. Holding his hands, she realized they both felt the same. The inexplicable horror and the oneness they felt.Bookmark here

Ricardo watched the thing crawl away from the center to reach them. He imagined people below the glass ceiling, unbeknownst of the things happening. Had it been anyone else, he’d let the two get consumed. After taking a deep breath, he ran along the glass roof.Bookmark here

“Hey you big piece of shit,” he called out. “Come get me! Do it! Do it! I’m right here.”Bookmark here

The monstrosity maneuvered quicker than he imagined, drawing his awe before he ran along the glass. With each step, the thin ceiling cracked before the creature finally tumbled forward. A wave of glass shattered beneath the colossus as he fell through.Bookmark here

Gabriel and Celeste ran toward the edge, seeing steam and the hellish screams of those caught by the creature. Celeste averted her gaze while Gabriel watched. Its tendril thrashed about, absorbing everything within reach.Bookmark here

“Ricardo,” his voice cracked as a tear ran down his face. “Why?”Bookmark here

“We should’ve never come this way,” Celeste sniffled with a slight quiver. “I’m so fucking stupid! What the hell was I thinking?”Bookmark here

“You never meant to do this.”Bookmark here

The creature’s frenzied feeding sent shivers down her spine as she collapsed on her knees. He forced a saddened smile evoking something that kept her going. But she couldn’t return the mutual comfort, clenching her fist in anger. The sin she committed was damning as she had to live with it. Although she wanted to speak, the words never quite left her lips.

Things are certainly getting stranger... Reality is but a perception,
And as such is her world... Eh, enough with being cryptic! Hope you enjoyed!
If you like what you read, leave a comment and a like!
Quibbles? Feel free to comment! I'd appreciate any feedback!

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