Once in a lifetime – chapter 11

The entrance to the mines was bizarrely well kept, and even modernized in some aspects. Cables ran across the walls, connected to dimmed electric lamps. Between wooden supports were ones made out of concrete. The minecart rails were rust-free, and built on top of a solid concrete foundation. 

Davis felt relieved at the fact that even if the mines allegedly were driving people insane, people were still sane enough to make it safe to enter.
Slipping on headlamps, the duo entered. They moved slowly, side by side, eyes scanning over each and every support beam. 

They moved deeper and deeper in until no more sunlight could shine in. The only noise was the light footsteps each of them took, and the passive sound of wind entering the cavern.

Not too far ahead, their headlamps lit up a clearing. 

They  two scanned around, finding a large cart elevator at the heart of it. Scattered crates and overturned minecarts were shoved against the surrounding walls.
Louise glared around, finding the cables connecting the lamps all converging to one point. She followed them, finding the source: It was an old looking panel, with a big red button, a big green button, and a few switches. The panel itself was connected to a gas generator, thankfully with an exhaust hose leading into the roof. She smiled, hovering her hand over the switches.

“Uh, I don’t think that stuff will work now…”

She glanced over to her partner.
“You saw those trucks out there though. It’s not too old, maybe this stuff still has some gas left?”
She pushed the green looking button, and the generator sputtered and shrieked. Cogs and wheels spun within, slowly grumbling to life. The rough noises from the generator smoothed out into a familiar hum of an engine.

All the lamps clicked on, one by one, the last one flooding the clearing. 

Davis gasped, pointing towards Louise.

“Behind you!”
She turned around, finding a skeleton. It was buried underneath debris, most likely from above, only its chest and skull visible.

It was missing some ribs where its heart would be.

She scratched her head, staring at the corpse.

“Strange… You don’t think this could have been one of the missing truck miners?”
“W-what do you mean by that?”
“Maybe whoever smashed up the car died here. Or maybe this is where he hid a body of whoever he killed?”
Davis stood silently, thinking about the possibility.

“You’re jumping to conclusions. For all we know this could be a century old corpse, that nobody bothered to touch.”
“I mean, if I were mining I wouldn’t want old bones here staring at me every time I’d have to turn the lights on.”

Davis stared silently.

“You don’t think it could have been gas? Like maybe some pocket of gas drove everyone in this town crazy.”
He rolled his eyes. “Conspiracy about this place aside, I think it would be the easiest thing in the world for cops to mention “Warning, toxic gas!” about this town. I don’t think they’d gain anything from hiding that fact.”
“True, true… But they could always still be lying.” She shook her head. “Why are we theorizing, the answers are down below!
She walked over to the cargo elevator, stomping her foot on the edge of it.

Dust kicked up from the floors, but it still stood firm. She stomped a few more times, watching the iron cable that held it. 

“The elevator seems safe?”
Davis walked over, investigating closer.

He followed the cable through the pulley system it was attached to. The system was well bolted down, and as far as he could tell, nothing was rusted.

“Yeah… Though I still don’t trust it all too much. What if we missed something?”
Louise pushed a switch on the elevator. The pulley motor let out a clang, and it creaked as it slowly spun.
The elevator continued to sink down until it was no longer visible. The pulley motor continued to spin. Following a clunking at the bottom of the cavern, the machinery stopped.

From there, Louise took the length of rope she took from the car. She tied it to a concrete support, and threw it down into the elevator hole. She heard the rope slightly bump against the elevator platform, and smiled.

“There, now we have some backup plan in case it breaks. Isn’t rope just great?”
Davis sighed in relief. 

“Yeah, I guess this is good. But remember, we’re turning around the second ANYTHING looks structurally funny. All right?”

Now on the machinery, the two rode it to the bottom of the mines. 

To Davis’s delight, the mines were pitch black. There were no lamps or electronics visible at all. 

Finally, a place he could cut loose with his power and not hold back Louise.

From the elevator shaft was a straight tunnel, barely big enough to fit three people in, with a decent amount of headroom. A minecart track ran right down the center.

Davis slipped on his goggles, Louise with her headlamp, and they ventured forth.

They went down the tunnel, sticking to the cart tracks. Support beams were evenly spaced, which helped reassure them of the cave’s safety. Louise was still taking the front, only slowed down thanks to the uneven surface of the cave floor. Davis lingered further behind, still scanning for any sort of warning sign that the place would cave in. 

The flat surface of the tracks soon became a slope, leading deeper into the earth. Louise slowed down even more, now to the pace of Davis, for the safety of her footing.

The minecart tracks came to an end, and they entered an area splitting off into two crude looking tunnels. They were only half as wide as the tunnel they were currently in,, but still had tracks running through them. 

Davis felt his heart beating faster than normal. He took a breath, and his eyes widened. He grabbed Louise’s sleeve.

“I’m not sure if we should continue. I don’t think this mine is well ventilated enough.”
Louise picked the path on the right, and continued to move.
“I’m breathing just fine, don’t worry! We’ve fought several cryptids together, and it’s a cave that’s got you cowering?”

“None of those monsters could just asphyxiate me. I really think it would be better if we turned around.?”
“Then where will our investigation leave us? There’s nothing on the surface that can help us.” 

“Well we can always find another lead, this one might not be worth it.”
She scrunched her face. “What if the cave was alive and begging for your help? Maybe then you’d be a bit more motivated, huh?”
Davis clenched his teeth. “Seriously just… Piss off!” he shouted.
Louise flinched.

“Sheesh all right… Just trying to tease a little bit.”
“If you’re going to tease, don’t take stabs at my feelings like that. It wasn’t easy letting that shapeshifter go like that! It… Just forget it, and don’t mock me about that!”

Louise shrugged, staring into Davis’s annoyed eyes for a few moments. Davis took a few deep breaths of the thin air, looking away from her.

Now’s not the time to get worked up. Just stay focused, don’t waste your breath.

“Fine, we’ll continue. Let’s just find out what’s going on here as soon as possible then get out.”

The tunnel grew more craggy as they continued deeper. Several bits of rock and dirt jutted out of the walls, and the flooring was becoming more uneven. There were fewer and fewer support beams, and the slope seemingly grew more steep.
Louise was glancing at Davis’s heavy boots, thinking his style was actually helping him out for once.

They eventually came across another fork in the tunnel;

The passages looked more like aggressive gashes in the walls of earth, forced open for greedy miners to crawl through. There was only enough room for some tracks, and barely enough room to squeeze between a cart had one been on there. 

The path on the right immediately caught Louise’s eye as one of interest.
It led to a dead end, and at it was a tipped over rusted cart. Above it, however, was a vein of quartz, gold glinting from her headlight. 

Louise rushed in through the gap, Davis stumbling behind.

She moved right up to the ore.
Calling it gold quartz was not aptly descriptive. It seemed more like a giant chunk of gold with bits of quartz within.

“No way this can be real…”
She ran her hand across a nugget that was jutting out of the wall, grabbing and pulling.

It popped out with barely any effort. She stared close, making sure it wasn’t pyrite.
She continued to investigate the precious metal, as Davis walked to the end, staring at the minecart. He squatted down, trying to lift it with no effort.

Out of the corner of her eye, something within the ore moved.
She dropped the nugget and wiped some of the dirt off the ore, staring carefully.

It was a skeleton.
“Yo Davis, take a look over here! Something is IN this gold! It looks like a body!”

Davis shot to his feet and ran over.

The strange object inside the rock dissipated as Davis arrived.

“Where is it?”

He put his eye as close as possible to the mineral.
He turned to her, squinting.

“Are you just trying to mess with me or something?”
“Did  I lie to you about the moving mannequins in the factory?”
He thought back to his close call. “I suppose not…”
“It just disappeared, I swear!”
He stared at the ore, and back to her.

“So, there’s corpses trapped in the gold. We’ve confirmed the place is haunted. We should probably turn around, report our findings, and never look back.”

“We can’t just leave! This is just the surface of this. If it’s something that could threaten the town, we have to figure out WHAT it is and deal with it!”
Louise started pacing back and forth.
“I mean like, what if the mines are like some kinda giant creature! Maybe it uses mind control or pheromones, or something to make people crazy, then it eats them after they’re dead!”
Davis shone his light around the walls and roof of the cave.
“Then why hasn’t the mine eaten us yet? You’d think it’d be really hungry after a few decades or something.”
Louise shrugged. “I’m just hypothesizing here! Where’s your theory on what’s going on, huh? Why are there skeletons in the walls?”
“Maybe just like the reports said, they could be lost spirits? Maybe we should investigate further before jumping to conclusions.”

“Well then. There’s only one way we can go: Deeper.”

They slowly continued their spelunking, creeping further down the cramped tunnel. The minecart tracks abruptly came to an end a while back. The walls grew more and more narrow, ranging from packed dirt or bedrock, to sometimes smooth cuts of quartz. The path was no longer a straight slope, but a jagged stairway, continuing lower and lower.
Though the air was still very thin, they would come across few, but just enough air ducts.
It had felt like they were trudging through these caves for hours, mostly thanks to their slow pace. Every breath of outside air was a literal breath of relief for Davis. 

They continued down the tunnel, finding more and more gash-like passages in the walls every so often. Most of them ended inches past, but others went far deeper, too deep for their headlights to shine down at least.  With the constant branching paths and haphazard structure to everything, it was more comparable to an ant farm rather than a wealthy gold mine. 

Louise still took the time to shine her headlight down each and every one. One of them, however, did have a surprise for her.
Shining into another innocuous gash, her light lit up the dusty bones of an old skeleton.
Her eyes widened, and she scuttled into it to get a closer look.
Davis gasped, and then huffed.

“Louise, are you going to deface every corpse you find?”
She squatted close, finding that the skeleton had a pickaxe in its ribcage, the aforementioned bones shattered. In its hand was a rusted flask. To its side was a rotting crate, containing a few sticks of dynamite and a roll of fuse.
“Jackpot!” Louise grabbed the sticks without hesitation. Davis took a step back.
“You can’t seriously just be grabbing those! They’re ancient, who knows if they even still work? What if the fuses are busted? Plus, dynamite is really dangerous.”
She turned back to the boy with a smug grin. “How potent are those fireworks you carry again?”
He shut his mouth, uttering no more protest.
His head hurt again. He heard something speak.

Help me.

It was incredibly faint, and he whirled around, trying to figure out where it came from.

He shook his head, chalking it up to the lack of air.

Back onto the main path, Louise continued to diligently investigate any crevice that wasn’t too deep.

The deeper they went, the more bizarre the tunnel began to shape, and the more strange the splits became. For the most part, it was a short, thin tunnel only one of them could fit down, but other times it would splay out into larger areas, connect to other sudden tunnels above their head via ladders, sometimes have smoothed out paths and walls. SOmetimes there were even lines of tracks just randomly placed on the floor.

She shuddered, thinking back to the factory’s shifting maze-like interior. 

If deadly mazes are all this town offers, maybe we should just give everyone a bunch of emergency candy wrappers.

One room they came across was flattened and smoothed, with some supports set up on the walls. There was a minecart, flipped over in the center of it.
Louise pushed the cart over, revealing a skeleton in the fetal position underneath.
She squinted at it, as Davis looked in despair.

She saw that there were scratches on the inside of the minecart. 

She looked closer, finding the scratches were actually writing.

“It’s fool’s gold. We’re all dying for nothing.”

Louise scratched her head.
“You think the mine conditions were this bad? And that gold didn’t LOOK like fools gold or anything like that…”

The deeper they got, the more clutter they found in the tunnels. There was a variety of garbage and tools left behind: Rotting crates, paper, torn up clothes, thoroughly rusted pickaxes, and even some smashed oil lanterns. There were more skeletons as well. Louise took time to investigate the first few, only finding that they had some trinkets on them like rings, some rotting paper money, coins, or other jewelry. But as they continued to appear, she opted to keep moving on, not expecting to find any clues from them as they were. She wasn’t a criminal investigator, she thought.
However deep they were, Davis only assumed that the more modern prospectors certainly hadn’t come down where they were. Perhaps they would have at least thrown the corpses into a pile or at least cleaned up everything? Maybe build some better supports. There were still old wooden ones that seemingly stood firm, but he couldn’t entirely trust them.
The cramped tunnel finally gave way to a larger room. It was cylindrical, with more of the gash-holes randomly dug through the walls. There was a large pit in the center, with a wooden ladder running across it.
Also glinting in the dark were several textbook-sized chunks of gold and quartz embedded in the wall, divided by packed dirt and rock.

The two cautiously approached the ore. 

Louise glared hard, trying to find any skeleton or body trapped inside.
Davis’s imagination pictured a miner being sucked into the ore. He stood back a few feet.

Louise took her pickaxe and swung it against the wall with all her might. Davis jumped at the BOOM echoing through the caves. A big clump of dirt was knocked off the wall.
Louise kept hammering away, gold nuggets plopping to the floor.

Behind the wall was another large vein of gold-quartz, and a skeleton perfectly embedded inside of it.
“I guess you can say we struck gold here!” Louise said with a grin. “I knew it wasn’t just me, how the heck did this get in here?”

Davis felt faint again, hearing something again.
“Pl ease, h elp m e.”
It was still in a hushed voice, but it was a lot more clear. It was coming from the quartz.

“Please tell me you heard that.”
Louise cocked her head.
“What now?”
“The skeleton in there, it spoke to me. It needs help!”
He ran up to the quartz, forgetting his previous fears, and placing his ear up against it.
He could hear the whispering very clearly now.

“Please help.” Spoke a somber voice. “We’ve been trapped for centuries. Free us.”
Louise placed her ear against the quartz, scrunching her face in confusion.
“Please! Please…”
The whispering faded away.

“You heard them, right? Come on, we gotta get them outta there!”

He tried to grab her pickaxe. She held tightly.
“Hold on hold on, I didn’t hear anything! Davis, the heck are you talking about?”
“Seriously, you gotta trust me! Whatever is in there, this cave, maybe it is trapping people’s souls or something!”
“I mean that’s the legend, but I don’t think freeing a skeleton is gonna do anything. Don’t demons or something trap souls? Don’t we have to kill that?”
“Look, I know some things about ghosts, and we just have to get it out! Hurry, before-”
The skeleton faded away slowly into the quartz.
Davis huffed. “Why didn’t you just believe me? You know for a fact I don’t make this stuff up…”
She slung the pickaxe back to her pack. “Hey I’m sorry, just I was… Really confused.”
Davis took a deep breath, trying to relax himself.
“Yeah, maybe… Just…” He grabbed his head. “I hope we didn’t screw this up for good…”
“Well then… What did the voices tell you exactly?”
“It was whispering. Like, they were asking for help, saying they were trapped for centuries.”
Louise’s eyes lit up. “Oh, please tell me you understand what’s going on.
He stared at her, confused.

“Whispering, hello? Did you forget the name of the mines? So the miners talking about gold whispering to them were actually dead spirits calling for help! Whispering leads to gold, therefore this gold is haunted! I’m willing to bet it’s a classic tale of cursed gold! Maybe it’s like an anglerfish, using trapped souls to lure more victims…”
“I mean, I guess that makes sense.” He rubbed his chin. “But then what caused all the accidents and that stuff? Are there vengeful spirits among them? Possession maybe? And there’s so much death outside of these veins too. Whatever this thing is, it clearly wants these skeletons inside of it for… whatever reason.”
“I dunno, you’re the ghost guy here right?”
He frowned. “I told you I’m NOT a ghost or part ghost or anything like that! But… “
He stared at the floor. “I kinda know a bit. I read once that spirits are typically bound to corpses, and how if they’re not properly put to rest, they’ll stick around and do.. Ghost things I guess? Maybe the gold absorbed these people and stopped their spirits from resting properly…”
“So we just gotta get these corpses outta the gold and that’ll fix this stuff?”
“That’s just a theory, but it’s something?”
She nodded. “So we’re lookin for gold! If only we could get rich off of this while freeing the trapped souls too… You think cursed gold would sell for extra? It’s more rare than normal gold.”
“Let’s just, not? Let’s find the bodies, put them to rest, and be on our way home.”
He felt chills run across his body. “Something still feels up about this place, and I’m not liking it at all.
Scanning the rest of the room, the only outstanding feature was the pit in the center.
Davis continued to stare at the quartz as Louise casually walked over, shining her light into it. Her eyes bugged out of her head.
“Hey, uh, just found some! So how do we put them to rest?”

The pit was around twenty feet deep, and at the bottom were dozens of corpses. Some still had rotting flesh and bone, while a good majority of them were bleached skeletons. 

The pit was full of stalagmites, which some skeletons rested against in desperation.
Davis grabbed his head. The whispering began again.
It was a whirlwind of “Help me, free us, won’t you free us, please help! I can’t take this! Free us free us free us free us”
A non stop barrage of whispering that began to drown out his own thoughts. He shook them off, hurting over to his friend.
She was pushing him back, gripping the pickaxe tight. From the hole, three of the corpses climbed out. 

Their decayed flesh looked embedded with the rocks and gold quartz, and their exposed, skeletal joints were still fused together by rock and mud. Their heads were missing, replaced by a large, skull-sized nugget of gold.
Across their body were mouths made of a stony material, constantly chattering and twitching.
Every step, they twitched around erratically, swinging their arms wildly.

“Save us save us save us save us”
The whispering continued through Davis’s head.

Louise, however, felt more empowered. Whether it was a just need to put these spirits to rest or keep her friend safe, she felt emboldened. All she needed was a means to harm what were presumably ghosts.

Continuing to back up, Louise picked up a rock, and threw it at one of the monsters. It soared like a professionally thrown fastball, the wind swishing behind it. The monster dodged out of the way, and the stone crossed the gap, shattering on the wall behind it.
Louise grinned, preparing to charge. Davis grabbed her sleeve, stumbling.
“You’re really going to charge in?”
“If it avoids a rock, it thinks that a rock is a threat. That means, I can physically beat up these ghouls!”
The whispering turned into screaming. It sounded like dozens of people, all screaming in unison for help. They all yelled over each other, hoping for their pleas to individually be acknowledged.

That was the only plea he could make out of the chorus of cries.
She charged forward, pickaxe high above her head. Davis screamed.

“Please, stop! Don’t do this to them!”
Louise hesitated, skidding to a halt, and turning to her friend.

One of the monsters swung. A blow from one of its heavy, stony appendages struck her on the side of the head, knocking her over. She lost the grip of her weapon as she hit the floor, dazed
Another monster scuttled over, outstretching an exposed bony arm. The bone split open, several gold tendrils wrapping around her.
By the time her head stopped spinning, she was restrained. Even with her enhanced strength, she still struggled to break free from the stony bindings. The monster began to drag her to the pit.

Davis watched fearfully, still hearing the screaming. With whatever willpower he had left, he sprinted forward, swooping up the dropped pickaxe. Then, he vanished into darkness.

The voices had stopped. He moved to where he saw the figures of Louise and the other monsters, and re-materialized.

The voices screamed into his head again. He grimaced and swung the pick.
Davis had shattered the bone of the monster. The gold tendrils dissolved into nothing, freeing Louise.
He grabbed her by the hand and tugged her to her feet.
“Sweet, now let’s-”
“No, we gotta run now, we can’t fight!”
“What do you mean?”
The three monsters moved closer, attempting to encircle the duo.

“I gotta explain later, let’s just move!”
He yanked her back to the tunnel they entered from, fleeing as far as his body could manage. Louise glanced back at the monsters, staring daggers at them.

In one of the roomier, smoothed out tunnels, he sat against the wall, gasping for breath. Louise stood over him with a cross look on her face.

“Seriously, you better have one heck of a good explanation why you just wanted to bail like that. Not to mention, almost getting me killed too!”
He took a few more heaving breaths.
“We can’t just kill those monsters.”
“Well why not? They clearly want us dead.”
“They’re like… the spirits of the dead miners! They were screaming in fear when you were about to attack them…”

“I mean, yeah. I’m glad they understood I was gonna pummel them to dust.”

“No, but the pummeling was the issue. If you killed those monsters, who knows what kinda damage you would have done to innocent spirits.”
Louise rolled her eyes. “Oh COME on. I thought you just said that if we put those corpses to rest they’ll be fine and dandy?”
“I said that was a THEORY. One that is wrong, if these spirits are right.”
“So how are we going to put a bunch of violent cryptids to rest then?”
“I don’t think they’re violent by choice, maybe they’re still possessed somehow? Something is forcing them to do bad, they don’t want to do it, and they need our help to free them. Maybe they can tell me how to help or something. We need more information. I need to find them, and speak with them or something.”
“No, look, we can’t take this risk again.” Louise shook her head. “We can’t just have a chat with things that are trying to kill me. Are you just going to start feeling sympathy for everything that’s out for my blood?”
“They aren’t bloodthirsty! They’re innocent!” Davis clenched his fists.  “We can’t just kill them and doom them to this mine forever!”

“You don’t know that for sure! How do you know they aren’t like those vengeful spirits, trying to manipulate you so they can kill you easier? If they’re trying to kill me, I can just destroy them. The town isn’t threatened, and I don’t have to needlessly risk my life.”
“You can’t just punch away every problem you know!” Davis shouted. “We don’t know what we’re dealing with here! We could be making these mines far worse by just, smashing everything up.”

“I don’t see any evidence against my methods so far.”
“But we haven’t dealt with like, ghosts before?”
She groaned. “Yeah, you’re right, but the only difference I see is that these ghosts are speaking to you, and leaving me out of the loop. Why didn’t they ask me not to pummel them?”
Davis scoffed. “Not like you would have listened to them.”

“Well then before that? Why are they only talking to you and not me? If these ghosts were nice, they’d be like ‘Oh hey there, evil monsters trapped us here. If you kill the monsters, we’ll suffer more, please do something about it!’”

“Look I’m not an expert on ghost stuff… I don’t think any actual experts on ghosts exist. Like qualified ones… That’s beside the point. I wanna at least trust these spirits, and not cause any more suffering.”
“Well you know what matters more than some old dead miners? Us, the living, and the safety of Tomahawk Hills. We can argue all we want later, but right now the town’s safety comes first.”

“Don’t these spirits get a say in safety too?”
Louise gave a frustrated glare. “Why should we give safety to the things that ARE the safety hazard?”
“But not all of-”
“I don’t care. If they don’t want to be trapped forever or whatever, perhaps they can, you know, not attack me?”

She walked back to the tunnel.

“Look Davis, I trust you that you’re hearing these ghosts n stuff, but unless you can figure out how to exorcize them and save them, I got another plan.”
She pulled out a stick of dynamite.
“We know there’s plenty of those corpses trapped and rotting in that pit, so I’m gonna blow them all away. Hopefully that’ll put them to rest, right?”
Davis began inhaling, harder and harder. He turned away, pounding the wall with his fist.
“Just go. Doom a bunch of innocents to hell or whatever. I want none of it.”
“Hey, just at least… Stick around here for me, at the very least, all right? I just wanna make sure both of us leave these mines together. You and I are still priority number one here.”
She left the tunnel, leaving her friend behind.
Davis curled up, cursing Louise. He had to think of some kinda method to both stop those creatures, and how to actually save their spirits. It could even be some kinda lie, but he had to think of something.

“If you can hear me…” He spoke out into the caves. “Please, just could you give me a hint or something?”


He called out again.

Still nothing. 

He rested his head against the cave wall, pounding his fist into the earth. His heart was racing in a panic, trying to fathom the fate that these spirits were doomed to.


A minute later, voices began to scream in his head.


A continuous cacophony of desperate cries flooded his brain. It sounded like an arena of innocents, meeting an untimely doom.

He grasped his head as the voices continued to scream. He clenched his teeth until they began to ache.
He stood up, and broke into a sprint down the tunnel.
He passed through twists and turns, following the screams. It wasn’t the same path to the large room with the hole. Instead, he came upon a new clearing.
Entering a larger room, there were several bones, chunks of stone-like flesh, lumps of gold, and pickaxes strewn across the place.
One of the monsters was still alive, writhing.

“Please…” He heard whispering inside of his head, coming from the barely-alive monster. He walked over, crouching down to it.
“You need to stop her. Before she dooms the rest of us.” It pleaded, sounding like the last of its life was escaping its lips..
It stretched out a bony arm, a small spike of gold ore forming.

“This is a binding. It won’t kill her, but it will restrain her. Please. Stop her, and then you can save us.”

It grew limp, and the voices went silent. He grasped the golden spike firmly, staring deeper into the tunnel.

Louise was lost.
She had turned down a few tunnels here and there, expecting to return to the giant room with the pit, but the path there was most likely the more straightforward one.
Her mind was still preoccupied with Davis. His stupid thoughts and ideas nearly got her killed, and now he didn’t want to stick around anymore.
I can handle just a simple dynamite drop on my own at least.

She kept thinking back to Davis’s actions, and that thought.
She stopped walking, and remembered.

If her dynamite caused a cave-in, she would be in severe trouble.

Her thoughts began to simmer down, as she continued to think about what Davis said.

Maybe there was some better way to handle all of this.

You can’t just punch away every problem.

She remembered back to the mysterious Von Chad.

Maybe a kick for him, but certainly not a punch…

She groaned. He had some points. She should apologize, but at least draw the line that she’s not gonna let the cryptids walk all over her. Maybe just, find a less explosive way of dealing with all of them. Punching was still going to be an option, however.

She turned around, following the tunnel that led back upward. That would at least lead her back to where he was.

Though, she encountered him much sooner than expected.

Davis’s face was flushed red, and stained with tears. He wore an incredibly distressed look, gripping the gold spike tightly. He ran his thumb over the tip of it, confirming that it was a blunt edge. It wouldn’t hurt her.

Louise was looking away nervously, taking deep breaths.

“Okay, so I should start off by saying… Ugh…”
She looked back up, seeing Davis on top of her, spike reared back.
“I’m really sorry, but I have to do this.”
He plunged the spike onto her shoulder. To his relief, it didn’t pierce the skin, but it expanded outwards. Golden tendrils spread all over her, forming a binding cage around her body. Her eyes widened, all this happening in a flash.

“Davis you ABSOLUTE MORON!” she screamed in terror. 

“Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of here safely. But, you just can’t cause all this suffering without consequences.”

She wriggled around, and in a fit wormed her legs to sweep his legs. He fell over crashing against the cave wall.

“Get me out of here before something happens! You’re being insane! Are you seriously going to backstab me like this for some ghosts you don’t even know?”
“If it’s to stop you from just being so cruel to them, yes! You can’t just be so awful-”
He staggered as the surrounding tunnel began to change form and shape. It turned from a rocky brown, to glimmering gold.
Then, the two began to sink into it.
Louise started screaming violently, trying to break free out of her bindings as the ore began encroaching her body. Davis began to panic, staring around. His feet were stuck in the floor, still sinking like he was in cement. He leaned forward.

“I… I’M SORRY. I SCREWED UP, BUT I CAN FIX THIS!” He screamed. “JUST GRAB MY HAND!” He reached over, outstretching his hand towards hers. Even bound, she could still grab ahold of it, but only if she wanted to.
“You serious?” She screamed in return. “How am I supposed to know this isn’t some other ploy for you to sell me out to these dumb ghosts?”

Louise huffed, and grabbed it. Not like anything could be worse than this, right?
Then, nothingness.
At least for Louise, that’s how it looked. She couldn’t make out or feel a single thing. She knew she was lying down, but she couldn’t feel what it was. The only tangible thing she could feel was the warmth of Davis’s hand.
“I’m just, really sorry. I completely screwed up here.”
He tugged her across the shadowy terrain. She knew she was moving, but she still couldn’t feel what she expected to be dirt and gravel scraping against her shorts. Her head spun, and she felt sick.

Davis was wheezing with each tug of the girl.

After they were far enough, they re-materializing several feet away from the shifting gold pile. 

He fell to his knees, coughing and gagging for breath.
Louise’s head was spinning, feeling the coarse dirt ground. She felt like if she stood up before her body re-adjusted, she would puke as well.
The two of them recovered around the same time. 

Davis’s face was flushed red, and stained with tears.
Louise had a look of murderous intent in her eyes.

“I just didn’t want anyone else to suffer… or any spirit. It just sounded so real and,”
She punched him hard in the shoulder.

“ARGH, ow ow ow ow…”
He stopped crying, and rubbed his shoulder.

“Just, save it for later. You got a lot more making up to do too!”
She yanked him up to his feet.
“But we still got a job to do, yeah?”
Davis stared, pouting his lip. He burst into tears, hugging the girl.


She smiled, patting him on the back.
“Hey, come on now, I only half blame you. It’s clearly the work of manipulative spirits, AS I THOUGHT. So you better not give me any ‘what if they’re good’ talk for the rest of the day.”

“But it’s the gold that’s evil, not the spirits-”
She smacked him on the back. He coughed.
“They’re evil until they prove they aren’t. Like maybe they should save our life first before asking for our help. Now, if it’s the gold that’s evil, I’m still set on blowing it up with dynamite. Let’s find that thing and-”

His eyes lit up.
“Actually, I got something better. But let’s get moving before it catches us. I can explain.”

The two turned, now moving up the winding tunnels. 

“You only got a few sticks of dynamite, but we don’t know how many things of gold are around. We know it’s the gold that’s evil for sure. It whispers and lies, then eats them after luring them in. So what if instead, we use that dynamite to seal the cave entrance? Nobody can get into the mines, nobody can be at risk, PAIN can’t discover what’s here, we all win.”

Louise opened her mouth for a second, but closed it, pondering.
“That’s… true. Sealing away cryptids that can’t be killed is a good long term option. But someday, I’m gonna come back with more dynamite, all right?”
Davis nodded. “Don’t know how you’ll get all that, but if we can do it without killing ourselves, I won’t object.”

They hurried up, swerving through tunnel after tunnel, but at least knew as long as they were going up, they were getting back to the entrance. 

Adrenaline kept both of them moving. Loose dirt caused them to constantly slip and fall onto their arms, but as soon as they hit the floor, they flung up more dirt to push themselves back onto their feet. They miles of cave tunnel they entered to begin with, that they so carefully trekked down over hours, was being covered in over half the time. 

It was much much later, their clothes covered in small cuts and dirt stains, they found the minecart tracks. 

Nothing but flat, even ground ahead. Nothing could impede their escape.

They broke into a full blown sprint until they found the elevator. With Davis on the platform, Louise smashed the button and hopped on.

The old motors revved to life once more, and they slowly ascended, back to the rusted entrance of the mine…

    Louise had set up dynamite near the two concrete supports near the entrance, and set up as long a fuse as she could. It was still short of the mine entrance, but it was a sprint she was positive they could make. 

Taking one of the flares, she turned to Davis. He was sitting against the wall, drenched in sweat and panting.

“We’re going to run together, but if you lose any ground on me, I’m going to pick you up again, all right?”
Davis’s face flushed. He shot up to his feet. “Oh you BETTER NOT DO THAT AGAIN!”
“Or what, you’ll die from embarrassment, Or will death by landslide be better.” She said with a smug grin.

“Look, I don’t need to be picked up again! I can keep up just fine!”

“321-GO” Louise yelled, lighting the fuse and breaking into a sprint. Davis stumbled, nearly falling over trying to break into his. Louise ran back, and scooped him up, to his dismay.

Halfway out of the mine, she heard a massive BOOM, followed by a gust of wind from behind.
She increased her running pace as she felt the ground shake. She didn’t need to look behind her to know hundreds of tons of soil was hot on her trail.
Light was soon literally at the end of the tunnel, and the collapse sounded close on her tail. She threw Davis ahead of her, and dove out the entrance of the mines. They tumbled, swallowed up by a plume of dust from the shaft. 

The dust slowly settled, and Davis coughed. Louise laughed.
“Guess we can call that another job done, yeah?”
“Guess so…” Davis coughed again.

“Now, you still owe me for that literal backstabbing back there…”
Davis gulped. “What did you have in mind exactly?”
“Do you two realize you aren’t allowed to be around here?” A shrill voice cut in.
Louise stood up, finding three others standing not too far from the rest of them.
They were the boy and girl who were with Kirino, Dom and Clarice, along with a boy she had never seen before.


2 thoughts on “Once in a lifetime – chapter 11

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