She pressed herself against the cold stone wall and fought to control her breathing. Her lungs burned and her legs ached. How long had she been running?
It all started as a simple dare. How did it go so wrong?
Five. There were five of them that entered the newly discovered crypts beneath the city. There had been tales of creatures - twisted humanoid things - living beneath the city. When the crypts were discovered, there had been signs of habitation. Archaeologists assumed it was refuge to the homeless, but the old tales of monsters sprang to life once more.
They spread like wildfire, these stories. Kids started heading into the crypts. Some went missing. One, a popular YouTuber filmed her descent into the darkness. She didn't last two hours before she fled the crypts screaming.
The video went viral, and more kids were drawn in. An internet challenge was born - survive a night in the crypts.
That's how she ended up here. Alone.
Five. There were five of them, including Maya. There had been a pact that they would all stay together, no matter what. But things started to go wrong. First Alice screamed, and when they all turned around, she wasn't there any more. Bradley went berserk and left the group to go find her. Fifteen minutes later, his screams echoed down the tunnels.
What followed was a desperate flight through winding tunnels created from stone and skulls, searching for Bradley.
Then... the shadow. It loomed from nowhere, crossing their vision in a misshapen flash, like a grotesque in motion. The group panicked. They ran.
Somewhere along the way, Maya was separated from her group. By the time she realised they were gone, it was too late. She stopped running and looked around, he tiny torch doing nothing to illuminate her surrounds.
"Hello?" Maya called meekly into the murk.
Her voice bounced between the skulls making up the walls, making her wince as her own voice bounced back to her. Then there was another sound, a sighing hiss in her left ear. She didn't even turn to look. She ran.
Footsteps followed her; light and sure.
Maya slowed, only to hear a rasping voice mock her. "Poor, frightened rabbit," it said. Laughter dogged her flight as she screamed and ran again.
Rounding a corner, she ran full into something. It was tall and impossibly slender; nothing but skin stretched over bone. Thin, strong fingers wrapped tightly around her upper arms. She lost her voice, unable to scream as she stared up at the thing. A gaunt, dark face, skin paper dry, split into a wide smile, revealing a row of yellow teeth, each one filed to a sharp point. It was created for life in the dark. Eyes, so large they dominated the face, giving the thing a distinctly insectoid appearance.
"Hello, little rabbit," the creature hissed.
Thought abandoning her, Maya fought back. She lashed out with the butt of her small torch. The carabiner at the base of the torch caught the skin, tearing it away from the monster's skull. It screeched, a shrill inhuman shriek that pierced Maya's ears painfully. The sound jolted life back into Maya's limbs. She turned and ran again, the creature's face still stuck to the carabiner on the end of her torch.
The shrieking behind her stopped, replaced with a single, bone-chilling scream of rage. Maya sobbed as she ran, shaking her torch violently in an effort to dislodge the skin caught on it. It fell to the ground with a wet slap. Maya did not stop to see where it landed.
On and on she ran, turning blindly around one corner and another, not knowing where she was going, but desperate to get there all the same.
Footsteps behind her told her the creature was in pursuit. She rounded a corner, and saw a small, dark alcove. Knowing she could not run forever, she ran in, and pressed herself flat against the wall. She swallowed back her pants as she heard the light footsteps grow closer.
Heavy breathing reached her ears. The creature hovered nearby, rasping as it drew in its breath. A growl, and then it was gone, footsteps padding lightly away. Maya waited, trembling with exhaustion and fear. When nothing happened, Maya stuck her head out of the alcove, leaning to peer around the corner. There was nothing. She lifted her torch to scan the area. Again, nothing.
Maya thanked her lucky stars. She had forgotten to turn off the light when she hid. Her body must have shielded the light from escaping.
Sighing in relief, Maya leant back against the wall. Her back his something that was not there before. It was hard and tall and poked into her back. She stiffened as long, strong fingers wrapped around her throat.
"Poor, frightened rabbit," a voice hissed in her ear. "I can still see without a face."
YOU ARE READING
From Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge post dated 20 May, 2016 and due 27th May 2016. Read about it here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/05/20/flash-fiction-challenge-kids-say-the-darnderniest-things/