Hunter Casey, Contributor

My body is aching like it has never ached before. Begging me to stop, constantly reminding me with terrible pain. It’s reaching out for me; I can almost feel it. Need to run faster. Can’t stop. If I do it’s all over. But, do I want to stop? No. Can’t lose hope. Have to keep moving. Not running, but sprinting. The air down here is so thick it makes it very difficult to breath. Can’t look back, there’s no time. This is not just some average joggers chest cramp either, it’s all over. It’s the pain you can’t mentally recover from. So thirsty, so so thirsty. Need to find somewhere to hide. AH! Oh my God I can hear it breathing behind me. Panting like an unprepared marathon runner. So much pain. So much fear.

The damp mist in this musty air added to this grey darkness makes it almost impossible to see far distances. I can’t see anywhere to hide in this darkness, especially with these twists and turns. I should have never left her. I hope she’s alright. We should have never came down here, this place– it’s so big. Too much running; I’ve lost my sense of where I am. Wait. The breathing. It stopped. All of a sudden like a gift from God, the heavy breathing behind me disappeared. I can no longer hear it. Has it slowed down? Has it given up on me? While still sprinting I look back. Nothing’s there. I stop.

What in the world is happening? Need time to catch my breath. Body’s freaking out. Rather be dead than to feel this… this… there are no words to describe this feeling. The sickening ache piled on top of this maddening breathing. In and out, in and out. It’s almost impossible to catch my breath here. I’m underground yet feel as if I’m on the top of Everest. At least I can still think clearly. That’s good. Great, actually. One needs to stay focused down here. There is no time to lose your mind in a place like this, because when you do, it’s lost forever.

The sound of a prehistoric screech echoes in the distance behind me. I must be quiet. This is of uttermost importance. Step by step, tiptoeing through darkness, I hope, no, I need to find an exit. Can’t afford to lose focus. Not here. Not now. Complete silence, footsteps so soft any snake in the world couldn’t feel the vibrations from the ground. Is that a light? Have I gone mad or is this another gift from heaven? Right-left right-left softly I trudge towards the mysterious light. Bigger and bigger it gets, “a way out!” My excitement has caused me to blurt out. That was dangerously loud. Has it heard me? Another screech echoes in the near distance, much closer this time. Need to hurry. There is no longer any time to be quiet. This is now a race to the exit.

Against my body’s better judgement I begin to sprint at full speed. 50 meters. 40 meters. 30 meters. “The breathing. Its back.” This sent a chill down my spine that reached my toes. I started to sob. It all got to me. The fear. The pain. The self realization that I might not make it out. That we might not make it out.

So close to the exit; I can’t give up now. The sobbing stops. Time to get serious. Just about 20 metres from the exit I feel the claws on my neck. It’s reaching out for me again. The warm breath behind me is so close I can feel it. In a flash, the breath on the back of my neck behind me turns into the grip of a cold hand, big enough to connect fingers around my head. I let out a painful screech as I’m instantly pulled to the ground. The pace we were running at caused our inertia to slide us a couple meters, scraping my back. Thinking on my toes I remember the fork I had put in my pocket earlier today from breakfast. As fast as my body allows I whip the fork over my shoulder in then out of its rotten smelling hand, turn around and climb on top of the figure. I continue to use the metal fork, stabbing anything and everything I can hit in this darkness. This creature is so big it’s almost impossible to miss at this range. My continuous stabbing caused a screech as loud as a Boeing 747 to be pushed out of the creature. A screech so loud my vision went blurry, and I felt my ears begin to bleed. Fwoosh, the sound of me being thrown off of the creature directly towards the exit. This thing– it’s so powerful. Must keep my distance.

I stand up as fast as I can. It’s blurry but I can see the creature’s figure in the dark mist, about 10 meters away. Just standing there. I think to myself how weird it was to put that fork in my pocket during breakfast. But, I sure as hell am glad that I did. That thing is so strong it could have killed me with the squeeze of its grasp. “CHRISTIAN!” A pain filled, fear brimming scream gets let out in the far distance, grabbing both me and the creature’s attention. As we stand in a face off, 10 meters from each other, contemplating our next moves. “HELP ME!” she, my helpless friend, screams again. As soon as the second cry for help ends, the thing darts. The creature turns around and sprints into the darkness. “It must have gone back for her” I whisper to myself. She’s alive. I can’t just leave her. It’s not right. “Either we both get out of here, or neither of us do.” I take a deep breath and one final look at the exit. Five short meters in front of me, the stairway to salvation, my salvation, as I turn around and begin to sprint back the other way.