Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 5, part 2.18

Posted by harmony0stars on February 5, 2010

Perhaps it was because her vision was so severely limited by the lack of light, but the tunnel after the crystal field seemed to be littered with hidden potholes and uneven flooring. A definite breeze whispered past them, but it could have come from any number of sources, including out of one of the many holes which attempted to trip her up in the dark. The passage also meandered, drunkenly curving back and forth, up and down, without warning. While it went up, it filled Glory with hope that they might soon reach the surface, but it never lasted. Hours seemed to pass, though it was impossible to estimate the passage of time or how far they were actually traveling. Soon the tunnel had a definite downward trend, and Glory despaired of ever getting home before Robert got home from school.

And there was still the matter of the ghoul boy. The deeper into the darkness they wandered, the closer he walked to Glory until he was practically underfoot. She couldn‘t see the others well enough to know how they felt, but his anxiety, when he’d been so bold at the outset of their journey, made her nervous as heck.

So when he dropped to all fours with a suddenly whimper, she tripped over his crouching form before she even realized he‘d stopped. Mrs Jacoby who had been leaning heavily on her arm in exhaustion was also pulled forward, falling to her knees with a grunt of pain. Glory scraped both her palms raw on the bits of gravel as she flew over the boy‘s head. Her crystals shards clattered as they hit the ground. They didn’t just fade into the darkness though as they scattered their dim light across the floor. It seemed as though they reflected weakly off of some flinching surface for a moment before their chiming was snuffed and their light swallowed by whatever it was they struck.

Before she could even begin to sit up, she heard Ehecatl gasp out something in a strained voice, ending the phrase with a strangeled “Yig!” In a tight voice, he choked out, “Glory… be very quiet and back up very slowly.”

Considering the noise she’d just made in her fall, being quiet now would probably do little good. Still, without bothering to sit up, she crept backwards on her hands and knees as carefully and quietly as possible. Whatever was in front of her shifted with a strange splooshing sound as it approached, quickly closing the distance between them despite her care.

Phoenix, I need light now! she practically screamed in her mind, but he was seemingly unimpressed by the danger. We’ve got no energy for light! he hissed back in disdainful annoyance. Some instinct made her fall onto her stomach, and she felt something shoot over her head with alarming speed. Whatever this thing is, you can eat it! She conceded frantically.

That was all he needed to hear it seemed, as fire blossomed from her hands, though very much diminished. He obviously hadn’t been lying about their lack of energy.
The glow did not enlighten her as to the identity of their attacker however. It remained a black, glistening mystery as it regrouped into a gelid crouch before shooting another elastic pseudopod in her direction. Whoever had conceived of Gleep and Gloop of the Herculoids had somehow intuited such a creature’s existence but gotten its temperament completely wrong.

“Is it… is it a shoggoth?” Mrs Jacoby whimpered uncertainly, barely discernable by Glory‘s weak light. Somehow despite her exhaustion, she’d managed to retreat several yards down the tunnel and away from the battle. Glory didn’t blame her for running away, or Ehecatl who stood beside her with Chusi clutched to his chest, though it did kind of make her feel a little abandoned. The cinder-man was just coming into view further down the tunnel. They’d outdistanced him without even realizing it, which in turn made Glory feel like a hypocrite for almost leaving him behind. He paused between Ehecatl and Mrs Jacoby before continuing his steady tread towards the battle. Apparently he meant to help, or maybe he was just hungry. The ghoul boy crouched against the wall of the tunnel half way between Glory and the others as if uncertain whether he should run or help, his pupils dilated to tiny pinpricks from her light.

“No,” Ehecatl wheezed in dread. “It’s one of Tsathoggua’s spawn.”

Had it been waiting there for them? A trap set in their path by its… parent? It was a morbidly paranoid thought which Glory tried to dismiss without success. After all, how would Tsathoggua have even have known they’d be in the tunnels now or at any point in the future?

Glory wondered if she should try to reason with the thing and felt Phoenix’s derision even as she dodged the tarry tentacles that shot past her. Yeah, it was a pretty stupid idea, but brute force didn’t sit well with her. An intelligent person used their words to resolve conflict. Only a bully used their fists, or in this case, a cleansing fire.

For several minutes, it was like playing a game of dodge ball except she was trying desperately to avoid catching. Her success only seemed to infuriate the formless thing as it redoubled its efforts to hit her, sending out multiple pseudopods, some sharply pointed and others bulbous like huge organic bludgeons. This was only a ruse however as it suddenly lashed out at her feet, sweeping them out from under her. She landed on her back hard, momentarily stunned by the impact, but that was all the thing needed. Wrapping a tendril around her ankle, it yanked her towards it. Glory yelped as whatever slime covering the creature’s skin almost immediate began eating into her pants leg and the skin beneath. She only had a second to reflect on the similarity to what had happened when Tsathoggua tried to eat Robert before she was bouncing over the uneven floor towards the thing.

The speed and violence with which the creature dragged her made twisting her flame covered fingers to the offending tentacle nearly impossible. It occurred to her though that there was no reason Phoenix’s flames could only appear in her hands. He reacted to the thought almost immediately with an explosion of flame from her foot. The spawn reared back in what she could only describe as a wordless scream of pain. Scrambling backwards as quickly as she could, Glory did not even bother getting to her feet. Unfortunately the thing was only momentarily distracted. It followed, close on her heels, swinging massive club-like pseudopods against the walls, floor, and ceiling in anger. Though it had seemed very much like a gigantic single celled organism at first glance, its tentacles impacted the rock around it with alarming force and solidity, sending dust and debris everywhere. Glory collided with something just as the creature was upon her. Looking up, she just had time to recognize the cinder-man before the spawn launched a massive pseudopod at him, leaving nothing behind as it retracted.

toBook 5, part 2, page 19

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