Her ankle twisted painfully, before she landed on her side with a grunt. For a second, the pain shaking her body blinded her senses and glued her to the ground — which groaned in response.
Gasping for the air that had abandoned her lungs with the fall, she forced herself to roll on her back. "What are you made of? Rocks?" she wheezed out.
She felt his glare through the darkness, heard her own shock reflected in his voice.
"That's what I should ask you," Andrew shot back as her hands searched the grains of dirt around her. "You're heavier than you look."
Her left eye twitched in annoyance.
"And you're dumber than you look."
He clicked his tongue, but didn't drag the argument. Shaking her head, Lynn lifted her gaze towards the hole they had fallen through. A few stairs seemed to have appeared from it, stretching out towards them and sending her a mocking stare.
Oliver's panicked face slid into sight then, and a relieved breath left him when he found her unscathed.
"Can you see my torch anywhere?" Andrew asked her, causing her to tear her eyes away and glance at her murky surroundings.
"Here," called Oliver from above while making an attempt to pass it to him, who stood up slowly.
Soon, a bright light was cast upon her form. Squinting, she swatted at Andrew and pushed herself up with some difficulties. Her ankle throbbed; blinding pain shot up her leg the second her weight fell on it.
She winced, but no complaint left her mouth. Leaning against a nearby wall, Lynn felt its rough surface and trailed her fingers along the stone. A frown crept up her shadowy features, before she quickly glanced towards her companion.
"Do you see anything?" she asked, noticing how the man suddenly took a couple of steps back. "What is it?"
From her spot by the wall, she could only see the long shadows of darkness creeping around her.
"This is not a room," Andrew muttered as he pointed the torch downwards. The light went through the inexistent ground and got lost somewhere under their feet. "It's a cave."
As the man observed what spread at the bottom of the cliff, Lynn took a second to try her ankle and figure out the degree of her injury. It hurt, but not as much as it had the first time she had rolled it; the pain made it uncomfortable for her to walk, but she could push through it for now.
"There are some stairs here that lead to the bottom," Andrew voiced, grabbing her attention again as he neared the other side of the platform they were standing on.
Lifting her head, she noticed Oliver was still watching them. "We'll handle it from here. Stay with Nick, and keep the cat close in case that monster appears."
Uneasiness danced in his green eyes, but he gave a slow nod.
"Look for something we can use to start a fire," Andrew cut in. "And bring it to us as soon as you find it."
"Be careful," she called when the man disappeared from sight, before her eyes flickered to Andrew. "Lead the way."
He assessed her for a fleeting second, probably having noticed the shadow of pain clouding her gaze and the way she walked without leaning on her left foot.
"I sprained it on the fall," she explained with a touch of annoyance in her voice. "It's not going to slow me down, so move."
Much to her delight, he didn't make a comment and complied. As he started his way downstairs, she searched her pockets and let out a relived sigh. Pulling out her phone, she turned on its installed torch and followed him.
Darkness had them wrapped in a suffocating embrace, and an eerie silence surrounded them. Her fingers ran along the stony wall as she took quiet steps into that seemingly-bottomless pit, feeling the air growing more humid with every passing second.
A strange smell wafted towards her suddenly, drawing a grimace on her features. As if on cue, Andrew glanced at her over his shoulder.
"Do you smell that?" he asked in a low whisper, as if he didn't want to disturb the darkness.
Lynn covered her nose with the back of her hand while trying to find the source of the putrid scent with her torch. "I think we're close."
The smell of death grew heavier with each step, until it slithered inside her body like new veins. But then, her torch found the end of their descent — no more stairs spread before them. Her feet dragged across the hard pavement as she glanced at her surroundings, taking in the dust and dirt with which time had coloured the surfaces of furniture.
Lynn tilted her head towards a round, wooden table and noticed the amount of books spread over it. Her grip on the phone tightened at the sight of black spiders webbing across the pages. Dread formed in her stomach, and her throat became dry as she tried to get away from their terrifying presence. Yet the sound of their quick paws rang in her ears, amplified by a sense of sadism born from her fear.
"So this is where Grandma kept everything," she heard Andrew mutter as he approached a rocking chair and poked it.
Her blood ran cold as it squeaked in response — the noise echoed in the small space, making the walls rumble and the floor tremble beneath her feet. It made her fully aware of her situation, and her eyes narrowed upon his nonchalant face.
"Stop playing around," she hissed, satisfied when his body stiffened and he met her anxious glare. "We're not here to take a trip down memory lane, Andrew."
He opened his mouth to reply, but the voice of Oliver rang from upstairs and they turned to look at his bulky form looming over the cliff. Not quite understanding what he was shouting as his words were swallowed by the walls, Lynn only managed to catch a glimpse of something he held in his hand.
"Drop it! I'll catch it!" Andrew yelled while waving his torch above his head.
Something caught her eye as white light illuminated the space behind him, and she took a step forwards. A small table, dusty and old — just like the rest of furniture — sat against the rough wall.
"Andrew," she called, motioning for him to turn around.
And so he did, thus finding the oil lamp she was still staring at. Fortunately, it wasn't empty and dim light soon reached to battle against the thick veil of darkness. Putting her phone away, she grimaced at the sight of the spiders on the big table — now easier to see.
"Shit!" Andrew suddenly exclaimed.
Her eyes glanced at him, finding him at his previous spot. He had walked back, ready to grab whatever object Oliver wanted to give them. But he wasn't looking at the glass bottle the man had dropped; he was staring at something on the floor. His olive skin had paled considerably as he stood frozen, features twisted into a horrified expression.
She limped towards him. "What—"
The glass bottle crashed between them, spraying its alcoholic contents over the bones. A lump formed in her throat as her eyes remained glued to the discomposed body, noticing its abnormal position and the amount of cracks along its structure.
"Is it her?"
Andrew drew in a breath and moved his foot back, away from the empty skull. "It has to."
Tearing her gaze from the horrid sight, she glanced upwards. "She fell."
"Or she was tricked and pushed," he mused.
Suddenly, the trapdoor slammed shut.
Her body became rigid as a gust of gelid air assaulted her, and she glanced at Andrew to see her own panic reflected in his blue eyes.
YOU ARE READING
*ONC 2020 SHORT LIST* Something evil dwells in the black lake by the misty woods, something that will claim the souls of those who dare to dive into its realm. Lynn Morris is ready to enjoy some well-deserved holidays in the company of her closest...