“Damn, I ain’t never seen it turn so cold before!” shouted Marshall over the howling winds of the snowstorm. “Just keep going! As long as we keep moving we’ll make it to the cave by sundown!” Jackson yelled as he glanced up from the map of the mountain range, he could barely read the map in front of him let alone make out the entrance of the cave they were heading to. Daniel kept his eyes on the trail ahead of them, looking for any sign of cave they had marked on the map. The rumors of the cave in this area better have been true. The team had made a pilgrimage to the Yukon due to reports in the area of recently discovered gold. The cave they were heading to what was said to be an untouched vault of riches, just waiting to be mined. By this time next month, the trio would return to California as millionaires.
The team rode for what seemed like hours against the harsh, bone chilling winds of the blizzard before them, kept going only by the thoughts of the wealth they would amass. As the dim light offered by the sun obscured by the clouds in the sky got darker, and darker, and sank below the horizon the team finally was about to make out the outline of the mouth of a cave just out of the shadows on the edge of their lights. “There it is!” yelled Jackson, as he pointed toward the entrance to the cave. “Finally!” cried Daniel, “Any longer, and I’d lose my damn fingers!” The three prospectors gave it their all, and made one final push past the rampaging winds, and snow to make it to the sanctuary offered by the cave.
Upon entering the cave, Marshall, Daniel, and Jackson decided to set up camp, and start mining for gold in the morning. Daniel started a fire, while Jackson, and Marshall unloaded their supplies from the wagon, and placed all of their tools, and equipment down next to the walls of the caves. As they were sitting by the fire, the team filled their cups with whiskey they had brought. A preemptive celebration for what was to come the next day. Marshall looked to his friends, and said, “One month, my friends. Only one month of work, and we’ll head back to California as rich men.” “Yeah,” replied Jackson. “One month, and we’ll never have to work another day of our lives!” The men drank half the bottle between themselves, and decided to save the rest for long days of work to come. They would get more when they head back to town for supplies.
In the morning the team got to work on the mine, wanting to work quickly before word of the cave reached other prospectors. They worked tirelessly all day, craving out a decent sized hole in the wall that could be used as a passage deeper into the mine. While mining out the wall the two finally stumbled upon their first sign of gold, a single chunk of a nugget resting snuggly in the wall. “Jackson! Daniel!” cried Marshall, “Get over here, I found some gold!” “Really?” Daniel questioned excitedly, as he, and Jackson ran over to Marshall. The miners looked into the wall, and saw the chunk of precious metal looking back at them. “Well shit let’s get it out of there then!.” Jackson said, as he raised his pickaxe and struck the wall to release the golden ore.
“At last”, Jackson thought, their hard work was yielding rewards, one golden chunk for now, but so much more to come in the future. Just as Jackson finished his thought, the wall gave way, and the piece of rock holding the chunk of gold fell to the ground. Jackson bent over, and excitedly looked down at the gold, the payoff to all these long months of travel to the Yukon. To his surprise however, he noticed Marshall wasn’t as interested as he was in the gold they had just unearthed, instead Marshall was now looking into the small hole in the wall that was now left by the dislodged rock that covered it, holding up his lantern to illuminate the darkness within. “Holy shit”, Marshall said dumbfounded, not breaking his gaze from the small hole, as it was all he could do to say that.
“What is it?” asked Jackson, as he walked over to the hole his friend was staring through, as if he could see the gates of Heaven through it. Marshall stepped to the side so his friend could take a look, still unable to speak from what he saw inside. Jackson lifted his own lantern to see what was inside, and once he was able to see through it, he was just as shocked as Marshall. Through the hole was revealed to be a deep hallway, studded with many more veins of golden ore. He started for what felt like forever, until a sudden gust of strong wind came from the small hole, and extinguished the fire within his lantern.
“Dammit!”yelled Jackson as he struck a match to relight his lantern, as the light came back he looked into the hole again, only to reveal a bloodshot eye looking back into his.
“Jesus Christ!” Jackson screamed, as he fell back onto the ground, and hurriedly lifted the lantern back into the hole to get a better look at whatever was in there, only to find the eye was now gone. “What happened?” Daniel asked as he helped lift his friend off the ground, and on to his feet. “I think there’s an animal or something in there.” Jackson replied, as he tried to catch his breath. “Looked pretty big from the size of the eye that was looking back at me.” “Alright, we’ll get to work on this wall here. Hopefully there’s even more down that passage,” Marshall said, as he grabbed his pickaxe, and placed his pistol in his holster just in case the animals down there were dangerous. Daniel, and Jackson both picked up their own pickaxes as well, eager to get to work on the gold, and mine all of the gold the three of them could carry. With the three of them working together the wall would be brought down, and the gold would be mined in no time.
The miners worked endlessly for the rest of the day, chipping away at the rock wall with their pickaxes in hopes to make the small hole big enough for the three of them to get through, each kept going by the promise of the gold which littered the passage beyond the wall. By the end of the day the team had made a promising amount of progress on the hole. It was now about half the size it needed to be, and the men agreed it would be best to rest for the night, and continue tomorrow morning. During the night Jackson dreamed of the passage the men had been working towards, when he looked through it earlier he saw only darkness, however, now he could see further down the hallway and heard a voice call to him before waking up.
Jackson woke up in the morning bursting with energy, he knew today was the day they’d break through that wall, and collect the gold beyond it, and from the dream he had he believed there would be more gold to come the further they went down the cave. With first light the trio got to work with mining the wall, putting all of their might into the swings of their pickaxes in an attempt to bring the wall of the cave crashing down. They worked for hours and were finally rewarded with a hole big enough for all of them to fit through. Cheers emanated through the mine as the team had succeeded in their efforts, and were now rewarded with the riches that waited patiently for the just beyond the rock that separated them.
The crew would spend the next few hours collecting the chunks of gold that had been revealed to them in the hallway. There were about four pieces of ore in the passage, each being roughly the size of golf balls, while that was all that was contained in the hallway beyond the wall Jackson believed there was so much more waiting for them deeper into the cave. “I have a feeling there’s more further down,” Jackson said remembering the winding corridors of the passage that had called to him in his dream, he knew there had to be a reason for it. A distress call from the gold down there just begging to be liberated from the depths below. “Alright we’ll head down there now,” Daniel said as he, and Marshall both picked up their pickaxes, and followed Jackson further down the passage.
Daniel, and Marshall were led by Jackson deeper into the passage below them, Marshall dragging a rock across the wall as they walked to mark which path they had taken to get there. Walking for what seemed like an eternity, the passage grew wider, and opened up to what appeared to be a grand crypt containing several ornate sarcophagi, made of gold, and embedded with jewels all placed before them. “Holy shit!” Marshall cried as he ran over to examine the coffins. Jackson, and Daniel followed his lead, throwing down their tools at the entrance, and running over to the first sarcophagus they saw to help him open it. The three men all stood on one side of the lid, and pushed it off with all of their might, the lid fell onto the ground, and the three looked inside, inside was a mummy, decorated in fine pieces of jewelry, talisman, and other artifacts of unknown origins that had come from a land unknown to them.
“Look at all of this!” Daniel cried, “If all the other coffins down here are full of things like this we’ll be rich, and famous by the end of the day!” “This expedition paid off all right!” Marshall exclaimed as he reached into the coffin, and took everything of value within. The team got to work opening each sarcophagus, and taking everything from inside, making sure not to damage the lid, as they all had some strange text written on the front in an ancient, dead language. Someone would want to come down later to attempt to decipher it, perhaps some archaeologists, or researchers from some university, but that was another job left to a different team.
As the men filled their bags with what appeared to be the last of the valuables from inside the coffins there was a mighty tremor which shook the entire room, the three men ducked, and covered their head with their hands, and waited for the trembling to subside. Once the room had stopped shaking, all of them got up and took a look around, the passage they had entered from was now covered by rock, and blocked the entrance they had taken. “Shit shit no!” Daniel screamed as he, Marshall, and Jackson all ran to the entrance, and attempted to remove the rumble by hand, and their tools were now swallowed by the avalanche that was before them. After they realized their fruitless efforts had gotten them nowhere, the three men stepped back to assess the situation. They were now trapped down here, their only exit now buried underneath a small mountain of rubble, their only hope would be to find another way out.
“Ok, everyone stay calm,” Jackson said, trying his best to speak calmly, and keep the situation under control. “Stay calm?!” Marshall screamed “How the hell are we supposed to stay calm when we’re trapped down here?! Especially when the tools we need to get out are now destroyed!” “It’s ok,” Daniel said, we’ll find another way out, maybe one of the passages down there will lead to an exit, or circle back to where we came in from.”
“It’s our only hope,” Jackson told Marshall. “We’ll find another way out; we have to. You still have the rifle, we need you to keep cool in case there’s anything down here.” “O-ok ok,” Marshall said shakily, trying to collect his thoughts, and keep his fears in check. With that the three men attempted to collect themselves, and headed off deeper into the caverns below.
Upon heading further into the caverns it was discovered that these caverns were actually catacombs. The walls were dug out to make room for the same looking sarcophagi in the main crypt, all still adorned with the same gold, jewels, and ancient text as those that were seen before them. These tombs most likely also contained the same manner of riches as the others, however the issue of finding a way out was more pressing to the team. “Who do you think all these people were?” Marshall asked, trying to keep his mind focused on something other than the terror of being trapped in these catacombs. “Don’t know,” Jackson replied.
“They don’t look like any caskets I’ve ever seen.” “Why don’t we leave that to someone smarter than us?” Daniel said. “Right now I’m just focused on us getting the hell out of here. Whatever else is down here can wait until we find a way out.”
The miners walked for what seemed like hours, hunger growing between them, slowly running out of light, and anxiety between them growing, as they started to fear they were walking in circles, and may never find their way out of the caverns. Suddenly, all those thoughts were interrupted by a sudden sound deeper in the catacombs coming from the endless dark that was before them. “What the hell was that?” Marshall asked, suddenly snapped back into reality by whatever was awaiting them. “Probably just some rocks falling or something,” Jackson said, trying to keep his companions calm. “The mining down here probably shifted some around. And made them loose.” “Y-yeah. Probably just that,” Daniel gulped, looking to accept any rational explanation to the noises down there. Marshall knew deep down that it wasn’t that, but hid his feelings to not cause a full blown panic. He reached down his thigh, and patted the pistol at his side, ready to grab it at a moment’s notice to defend himself.
Finally, the tunnel they were heading down opened up into a wide room with a dropoff leading to a dark chasm, barely illuminated by the increasing dimming light in the oil lantern. Just out from the darkness came the source of the noise the men had heard earlier, a giant man, approximately 15 feet in height. Clad in robe with motifs whose origins were unknown to them, bloodshot eyes that appeared to stare directly into the soul. The giant outstretched his hands, his fingers were missing parts of the skin, bone visible on some parts on his fingers, and on his palms. He spoke in a deep, booming tone of voice, simply saying, “Welcome, new residents,” revealing his teeth, many broken, but those that remained had a shark-like appearance, sharp enough to bite through flesh.
“What the fuck is that?!” Marshall screamed, drawing his pistol from its holster, and firing at the giant. The pistol proved ineffective, the bullets did nothing to the creature before them, if his skin was too thick to be pierced, or if he simply did not care about the injuries he had just received, they did not know. Once it was realized that the bullets had done nothing, the three men turned around, and ran as fast as they could, not daring to look behind them, out of fear that the monster was right behind them. Their fears became reality as the creature caught up with them, fast, and grabbed Marshall by the bags of treasure that hung over his back, Jackson, and Daniel still running as they heard the sound of more gunfire mixed with the sounds of the final screams emitted by Marshall. The two ran forward, determined to not share the fate of their fallen friend who failed to escape from the giant that occupied the catacombs.
Once in what they believed to be a safe distance the two remaining men dropped to the ground to catch their breath, and weep over the loss of their companion. “What the fuck was that thing?” Daniel asked in between sobs, and labored breathing. “I don- I don’t know,” Jackson replied through his own tears, “Oh god, Marshall, I’m so sorry.” “We have to go back,” Daniel said “We can’t leave without something of his at least, something to remember him by.” “You’re right,” Jackson agreed as he finally caught his breath. “I think that thing was what I saw when we got the first piece of gold out. If it was up there with us there has to be a way back to the entrance we made to get in.” “Ok,” Daniel said, now rising to his feet. “We should grab his gun too, maybe if we shoot that thing in the eyes or something we can kill it, or blind it so we can run away.” Daniel offered his outstretched hand to Jackson to help him up, Jackson accepted and let his friend pull him to his feet. This plan had to work, they had to make it out, for Marshall.
The two men quietly made their way back to the chamber they lost their friend in, constantly looking over their shoulders, and listening for the faintest noises that could indicate the monster being anywhere nearby. The path was lit only by the soft glow of the dying oil lantern they had brought with them, both now slightly grateful for the fact that the light was much less noticeable than before. Jackson covered the light in front of him with his coat, attempting to hide the light pouring out of it to the best of his ability while still making the path before them visible. They had probably only run a few hundred yards away from the room they had encountered the giant in, but now it felt like they had been walking for miles, all the while slowly inching towards certain death. At last, the passage opened up again, and the duo snuck their way into the room they had fled from earlier.
Upon entering the room the light they were holding slowly revealed to them the half eaten remains of Marshall. The monster had bitten off his right arm, and tore out a large majority of his throat, and his upper chest. The two of them looked away in horror, now seeing the mangled remains of their friend, torn to shreds by the abomination that was now hunting them. Jackson slowly walked over to Marshall’s body, attempting to take his necklace as a momento from his corpse, and reach the gun that was still in his hand. When Jackson, and Daniel made it to the carcass that belonged to their comrade, they saw that Marshall was still alive, bleeding out, and slowly choking to death on his own blood. Once they crouched down to closer to him, Marshall finally recognized them, reaching out his arm to hand them the gun that had failed to save his life
“P-Please…” Marshall choked out from the blood pouring out from his throat, “P..lease sh-shoot me.” Jackson took the gun from his friend, and considered their options. If he took the shot he could very well alert the giant that they were still there, and they could be killed next. However, Marshall was his best friend, and it tore him up inside to see him suffer like that, all it would take would be a single shot through the head to put him out of his misery.
Jackson knew Marshall wasn’t long for his world, he was losing so much blood on top of the blood he must have already lost when the behemoth had grabbed him, and would probably die soon anyways. But that didn’t change anything, if shooting Marshall would bring him peace even a second sooner Jackson would deal with the consequences of that for his friend. With that Jackson shakily lifted the pistol, and gave his friend a teary goodbye before putting him out of his misery.
For a moment Jackson simply stood there in silence. So much raced through his mind as he was stuck by the crashing waves of grief, sorrow, and remorse for bringing his friends down into these mines. In the back of his mind he had at least hoped that if they were all to die down here then at least they would die together, but Marshall had died slowly, in pain, and all alone. Tears streamed down Jackson’s face, and he was suddenly snapped back into reality by Daniel grabbing his shoulder, and pushing him down to the ground. He hid the lantern with the side of his jacket, and slowly led his friend into a corner of the room behind a large boulder. The giant had already entered the room.
Daniel held his finger up to his lips in a silent request for his friend to stay silent, perhaps the two of them could still slip away if they stayed quiet, moved slowly, and kept out of the monster’s sight. Just as Daniel had finished this thought, the boulder the two were hiding behind was lifted by the giant, and thrown with a great force across the room. Daniel screamed as the monster had taken hold of him, his screaming intensified as it started to crush his bones in his arms and legs with its overwhelming strength. Jackson could only watch in horror as the giant had taken another one of his friends in front of him, watching Daniel scream in agony as his body was crushed, and he was crumpled like a paper ball. Jackson was now the last man standing.
Jackson watched in horror as another one of his friends had been killed in front of him, his only option was to run to the passage the two had hoped would be an escape, and offer salvation from the terrors of the catacombs. Jackson looked behind him as he ran towards the opening, realizing the giant was now nowhere to be seen. The tunnel he had run through was completely shrouded in darkness, Jackson made his way down the hallway, illuminated only by the matches he had to light his cigarettes. The tunnels had now expanded into a labyrinth that seemed to go on forever, hope slowly fleaing as he felt more and more lost in the never ending maze deep under the mountain. His only means of survival were the matches he kept with him, and Marshall’s gun, which only had two bullets left.
Jackson was snapped back into reality by the sound of someone calling his name, the voice calling to him was deep, and booming. “Jackson,” the voice said, “It’s me, Daniel. I managed to escape. Come here, and we’ll find a way out.” Jackson stood in shock, and fear as his matched barely showed the figure of Daniel’s contorted body being puppeted by the hulking abomination behind him. The veins from his torn open wrists, and shoulders were being controlled by the giant to move his arms, and the giant’s hand moved Daniel’s now broken jaw in some sick attempt at ventriloquism. Blood poured from Daniel’s mouth as his jaw moved up and down, now making Jackson aware of his dying moans that were being muffled by the blood in Daniel’s throat, indicating that Daniel was still alive, and on the verge of death.
Suddenly, the giant dropped Daniel on the ground, and began walking towards Jackson. Daniel’s weak screams, being muffled by blood, were almost silent as his body, and finally his skull was crushed under the massive weight of the monster. Jackson turned, and ran away after seeing what remained of his friend on the ground, running as fast as he could as he could head the footsteps of the abomination behind him, now squelching with the gore from Daniel’s head under his feet. Jackson ran down whatever passage he thought would get him the furthest away from the creature he worried could grab him at any moment, from any angle, hoping he was following one that would lead him to safety. Jackson believed he finally saw the way out when he saw a dim light at the end of the tunnel he was currently following.
Jackson’s hopes had been completely shattered upon seeing the lights coming down from a massive canyon below the cliff that the passage had opened up to. The light in the canyon illuminated a giant, ancient city living below the caves, a city made of gold, and surrounded by statues commemorating once powerful leaders, or old Gods, a city of the dead. With nowhere left to run, Jackson turned around only to see the giant slowly make his way out of the tunnel he had followed him down. “W-what is this place?” Jackson whispered in fear. “This,” the giant said. “This is our wonderful city, and I am here to welcome all of you as our new residents.” Jackson saw now that there was never any hope of them escaping, they were all destined to die down here the moment the walls had caved in, and trapped them down here.
Still, Jackson wouldn’t die a slow, agonizing death at the hands of the monstrosity standing before him as his friends had before him, he would die on his own terms. Jackson slowly pulled the pistol he was carrying up to his chin, and fired. As his life flashed before his eyes he thought about the friends he had come down into the mines with, the friends he had promised riches to, but had gotten killed in their pursuit of wealth. He thought about the place he was now, the final resting place for him, and his friends, their bodies becoming the new “residents” for the ancient city below the mountains. These caverns weren’t a catacomb, they were a necropolis, a necropolis they were now all doomed to spend their afterlives in.
Credit: C.M Campbell
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