A chase down cold halls

He inventories his options. The monstrous thing looms above him, the multitude of pale, twitching ganglia that could only be eyes blistering the skull above an enormous bristling jaw. Its hide is grey and leathery. Bullets would only be an annoyance, and his machete, as sharp as it was, would not be effective. Looking past the thing's head, he had a moment of vertigo as the ceiling seemed to ripple.

"What's wrong, son?" his father asked. They were in his study, a place of comfort for the youngster. There was the green library lamp on a stately oak desk piled with a controlled chaos of leatherbound notebooks and manuscripts. The walls were lined with bookcases, and the old volumes upon the resplendent wood gave the room a musky, pleasant smell. The boy shook his head in reply.

His father watched him peruse the complex arrangement of chessmen; they were both skilled players, and the father privately thought that his son would soon surpass his senior. Something inherent in boy's character rebelled at the idea of retreat. The father smiled, because it was so much like the boy's mother. 

"You could move the queen, you know? Then you could reinforce the king's defenses with that bishop..." The old man's tones were gentle, encouraging. 

"No!" The boy grunted. "I'm not chicken. I'll find a way!"

"There is no shame in strategic retreat when you find your options narrowed. You run to fight another day." The Senior smiled indulgently when the boy grudgingly fell back and eventually came upon a winning combination of moves. He clapped a hand on his son's shoulder and said, "Didn't I tell you?"

 The boy never forgot this lesson. When the creature's steamshovel jaws opened for a massive bellow, the ceiling seemed to disintegrate into a rain of dark grey particles. There were more than one!  A whine filled the air, like ancient machinery long out of tune.

Adventurer extraordinaire and treasure hunter Kansas Rhodes stumbles backwards and flees, running flat out across the marbled expanse. There is a crack of displaced air as the creature leaps, dragging a cold shadow across Kansas, skidding directly ahead, to throw up a miasma of dust. 

What Kansas had previously thought as dust... were the remnants of bones, hundreds of thousands, from the looks of it.  His boots smash them as readily as if he were running across a forest carpeted with dry twigs. As he veers towards the wall at one end of the chamber, skidding the Charleston at the abrupt change of direction, he sees it is lined with ornately carved openings. 

The buzzing of the descending horde becomes almost unbearable, setting even the marrow in his bones trembling. His teeth rattle in their sockets. The quality of the light has gradually degraded into a gloom. Kansas, in his mad flight, is glad of his death grip on the torch.

He dashes through an opening easily five meters tall, down into a dank corridor. The torch is a pitiful beacon, barely illuminating two meters ahead, but Kansas doesn't dare look back. His chest is a mass of flames, and each burst of breath is agony. Only sheer adrenaline keeps his legs from collapsing.

The walls resemble swiss cheese,  by design, it seems, but Kansas doesn't have the urge to stop and inspect. The creature uses the walls to its advantage, pursuing with a series of powerful leaps. The mouth of the tunnel fills with the horde of its brethen, and the noise drowns out all other thought but that of a primal urge to stay alive. 

There is only the eye of darkness ahead, the island of light here, and a gruesome death behind.

Kansas Rhodes hurtles on.

The End

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