Chapter Twenty - The tunnels

23.3K 226 3

I grabbed my coat from the cloakroom, and a torch from the overhead shelf, and left the sanctity of the house.

“Where are you off to?” I heard Beth shout as the door closed behind me. I didn’t stop to answer. I didn’t want anyone trying to stop me. Whatever surprises the tunnels held; I could handle them. I was a tenderfoot wasn’t I? I’d proved my powers on more than one occasion. What could be so different this time?

Three sets of footprints in the snow led to the now familiar cave entrance. Inside, it was dark, damp, and eerie. I pulled the torch from my pocket and turned it on. The light from the bulb was feeble in comparison to the flaming torches that had graced the walls on my previous visit, and did nothing to dispel my feelings of nausea.

I made my way past the shafts to the back corner where I knew the entrance to the tunnels was, and found it blocked by a gate, a twin to the one where I’d first met Tokala. Luckily, the padlock on this one was unlocked, and I crept silently into the passageway.

The tunnel seemed endless, and the further I travelled, the more nervous I became. Perhaps this hadn’t been such a good idea. I suddenly felt claustrophobic, but I willed myself to continue. Ahead, the tunnel split into a fork, and I chose the wider route, plunging deeper and deeper into the unknown depths of the mine. It felt as if I’d been walking forever. Around yet another bend the passage widened into an open area with a very faint shaft of light emanating from a small split in the high, tubular ceiling. The stench of death permeated the air, rancid, as if a college full of students had overdone it on a Saturday night and left the evidence all in one place. Bile rose in my throat. I wretched, grasped at my sleeve to cover my face, hoping that it would keep me from gagging, and tried not to breathe. Peering into the darkness, I could see that three more tunnels radiated from the central area, but I was spared the choice of which one to take by a scraping noise coming from the one to my left. Hurriedly, I switched off my torch and flattened my body against the cave wall.

The noise grew louder as the source came into view. I squinted at the shape. A skinny boy of about my age, dressed like a tramp in a dirty overcoat and tatty boots with the soles flapping, shuffled into the opening. He walked with a limp, and his hunched back seemed to sport an extra hump. Poking around in the rotting rubbish, that had been strewn around the perimeter of the cavern, scavenging for food, he kept nervously turning his head as if studying the complex sounds of the caves, and I noticed that under his dirty blonde, knife and fork haircut, his face was more rat than human.

Another, larger, shape appeared out of nowhere, a huge Minotaur like beast with a wolf’s head and claws for fingers. I froze with fear. Momentarily startled, the boy dropped his meagre pickings and tried to flee, but the beast pounced, adeptly landing on the boy’s back, pinning him to the floor and devouring his head whole, before ripping the rest of the body limb from limb.

I let out an involuntary gasp. The werewolf forgot its meal, lifted up its head, sniffed the air, and then turned to my direction. It seemed to stare straight at me. It didn’t matter that I hid in the shadows; it knew I was there. I felt the colour drain from my face, and I panicked. My heart rose in my throat, and began beating wildly, as the beast crept slowly towards me.

I should have known what to do. That was how it worked wasn’t it? But I had no idea. My only hope was to summon help from Tokala and pray that she answered, so I grabbed the pendant and closed my eyes, willing for some kind of assistance. It didn’t arrive.

The werewolf was getting nearer. I turned on my heels and fled. Under my feet, the floor felt slippery and hard to navigate. In the blackness, I felt my way along the walls as I ran. I stumbled on a loose stone and almost lost my footing. The beast was getting closer. Heavy, padded footsteps pounded towards me. I could hear its rasping breath and…shit…feel its warmth. It was almost upon me. Oh God, was this it? Was I going to die…savagely, like the poor rat boy? Here, alone in the dark? I whirled my head around to meet my pursuer, and mentally said goodbye to my Mum.

The werewolf stopped, confident that its prey was conquered. It was close enough now for me to see. Matted, black hair covered its whole head, red eyes bored menacingly into mine, and drool mixed with blood dripped from its mouth. I stared into the eyes of my killer.

Foxblood: A Brush with the MoonRead this story for FREE!