This Flash Fiction Friday story is my submission to the Writer’s Digest Your Story competition. The prompt was the featured image, the challenge to write less than 650 words based on the image provided.
Flash Fiction Friday – The Beast Within
Kaysee squinted into the dark tunnel that spiraled beneath the mountain. Cold air breathed into her face between the rusted iron cage that seemed meant to deter people from entering.
“What do you think?” she asked her boyfriend, Jordan, who stood slightly behind her, peering over her shoulder.
“Why not?” he shrugged, grinning. He was excited. He’d already turned on his headlamp, prepared for spelunking.
“Yeah, let’s do some exploring,” Jordan’s best friend, Matthew, agreed.
Kaysee eyed the opening dubiously. Somebody had placed the grate there to block the entrance, maybe to keep people from falling in. Or maybe for another reason.
The grate was heavy and moved grudgingly. Jordan and Matthew grunted as they lifted in tandem, barely raising it an inch from the ground. But it was enough to shift from the bulk of the cave’s entrance.
Jordan went down first, feeling with his feet for footholds as he lowered. Kaysee turned on her headlamp, trying to push down the feeling in her stomach that they should not explore this particular place. As she dropped down behind Matthew, she peered around. The entrance was short, and they all had to crouch, but with the lamp, she could see the ceiling of the cave rose several feet just beyond the light of the entrance. They crawled to the cavern and stood, allowing themselves a minute to adjust to the darkness within.
Puddles reflected in their headlamps and Kaysee could hear the water dripping from the ceiling several feet above.
Jordan and Matthew made weak attempts at echoing yodels as they splashed over the cavern floor, heading toward the openings that branched from the opposite side.
There were two; one seemed to slant upwards, seemingly back to another surface exit. Was that exit blocked as well, Kaysee thought. The other dropped steeply, leading further underground. Jordan and Matthew made a beeline for that opening, pulling rope from their packs. Jordan peeked down and whistled. The shrill sound bounced all around them, and Kaysee winced.
“This cave is a gem,” Jordan said, his smile broad and dimpled.
They made their way slowly into the hole, grasping crumbling hand and footholds. Rocks clattered far below, much farther than Kaysee cared. But her boyfriend seemed excited. She breathed deeply, bracing herself for his sake. He owed her a date night though, she thought.
Distracting herself with thoughts of cheese plates and rosé, Kaysee reached the bottom of the tunnel, stumbling a little at the sudden feel of flat earth beneath her feet. Matthew and Jordan were already moving on, lights flickering over the walls erratically as they chattered.
Their voices seemed unnaturally loud, and Kaysee wondered if they could dislodge any of the ceiling with the noise they were making.
A thunderous groan from within the darkness quieted the men. Kaysee felt her blood run cold and the sweat turn clammy on her brow.
“It’s probably just the earth settling.” Matthew finally said, though his voice was much quieter than it had been.
They walked on, slower, warily eyeing the walls and roof.
They walked until they came to another large cavern. A pit plunged into the most profound black Kaysee had ever seen in the middle of the room. They sidled up to the ledge, testing each step for weakness.
Jordan turned his headlamp up a notch, studying the pit.
“How far down do you think this goes?” he asked Matthew.
“We could find out?” Matthew replied, slapping his palm with a rope and lanyard.
Another deep noise filled the cavern. Kaysee, Jordan, and Matthew stared into the pit. The sound had emanated from its depth. Kaysee took a step back.
“I think we should leave,” she started to say.
A gust of hot wind erupted from the crater.
Red eyes blazed in the darkness. Then faded back to black.
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