Nudge blinked, narrowed his eyes, focused. Only a fool would deliberately court danger…
But only a fool would run from a bird. The shadow moved loosely, semi-solid, restless.
Birds. Swooping down, cutting the light. It had to be.
They're not out to get me. The light shifted again, and Nudge relaxed. Easy. Birds in motion. No problem.
He took a cautious step forward. What if it's bats? The shadow told him little, but a vision of bats roosting on a protruding stalactite made him fling an arm protectively across his scalp.
I wouldn't know bird dung from bat guano… What if all the crap he'd been sliding in had been only a small percent bird, and the rest, hundreds—he swallowed convulsively—no, thousands, of bats?
Rabies. I've been breathing rabies… He spat, attempting to get the unwanted taint out of his mouth. The shifting, then settling, then shifting again shadow pattern fit all too well. Bats disturbed, bats winging, bats settling, bats flying…
Man of steel. Nudge tensed, nerved himself to duck and go, and managed a determined pace. Face your fears. The bats wouldn't hurt him in the short run, and in the long run?
Bent but moving, he stole forward. He didn't know when it occurred to him that the bats might be restless because of his flickering light. The beam was as shaky as the hand holding it.
And the shadow beyond meant daylight. Somewhere up that side tunnel lay the angled rays of the afternoon sun. With a courage he didn't know he possessed, Nudge flicked the flashlight off.
He'd been right, on almost all counts. There was a source of radiance from the passage beyond, a stray shaft of weakened lumens. He stood there, a million square feet of black at his back, then practically dove for the source of luminance, bats or not. The regular click clack picked up, but if he could ignore bats, he sure as hell could ignore birds.
He tore into the fissure, crouched and tense, flashlight at the ready…
…only to find there was a problem with his reasoning. He was in a cave as big as his house, but that damned click clack?
It wasn't birds.