Fawkes Malone lives in secrecy below the foundations of Johnston Middle School. Living off school funds, he spends his days drinking espresso, listening to music and studying. But his quiet life is disrupted when he is offered a job investigating a problem bigger than anything a book can teach: the supernatural. From a mysterious manor, to hidden labyrinths, to creatures crawling out of the ground, Fawkes finds himself in a world of nightmarish intrigue that will test his mind and draw him closer to a menacing danger he is destined to face.
The Second Tunnel
It took me the rest of the morning to recover and by evening, with the help of a to-go order from the Shadow Sludge, my strength revived. I ate ravenously and prepared for my return to the investigation. As we walked, Fawkes updated me on the progress of the case.
“We have collected a list of moving item.” He told me and handed me some notes.
“Knives, candle holders, a fire poker,” I read. “the chair, chains, belts, farm tools, garden tools, shovels, a cow bell, watches, and other silverware. All symbols of harm, I suppose, except the chair.”
“Well not necessarily.” negated Fawkes with a grin, and I remembered how he had been attacked by the chair on one of his night watches at the Manor. “There is some reason why the ghosts chose these items. Can you discover the connection?”
I replied that I could not.
“So that leaves us with two remaining enigmas.” summarized Fawkes. “The strange code Eh-Sb-Eh and the Safe.”
“And the monsters that attacked the Wilkins.” I added.
Fawkes assented to this addition and we continued down the wooded trial.
Twilight covered the property with a haunting beauty. But a deafening stillness startled my nerves, and as I listened to the cheeping of crickets, I began to feel an intense hostility gathering against us.
We plodded towards the back of the manor, and suddenly Fawkes’ shadowy figure halted.
“Did you see that?” he asked in a whisper.
I didn’t know to which shadow he was referring. But when I turned Fawkes was looking downward.
His flashlight illuminated the ground below and revealed a fresh set of footprints. A chill drifted over the grass and up my back, as I surveyed the details of the mysterious trail.
The prints were like a man’s, but they tore into the ground in a frightful, rugged path. Where there should have been spaces between the steps, there was only the boring of feet turned outward, reflecting sluggishness and a deadness of mind.
“The walking dead.” I murmured
“These are the prints I saw earlier.” whispered Fawkes. “The creature has returned.”
Fawkes’ face filled with excitement and alarm as he followed the footprints along the grass, tiptoeing in a gangly hunch like some preying Frankenstein creature of darkness himself.
Suddenly Fawkes stopped again. He stepped back in scrutiny. With a horror that shook us to the bone, we realized the footprints had ceased suspiciously, in the same way as Fawkes had described them halting at the tunnel. Fawkes and I exchanged exhilarating looks.
“Another tunnel?” I verbalized, my voice trembling.
Fawkes’ ghastly face became ecstatic. The footprints clearly broke off at this patch of grass, suggested another secretive entrance
“Come on, dig Robbins!” hissed the corpselike investigator.
Our hands quickly found frays in the grass, under which we touched a second trapdoor. The grass lifted with the trapdoor as we dug and soon we viewed a shaft below, through which a second underground bunker shown. The rope ladder still swayed slightly.
Chills stole over our bodies as cool air rose from the second subterranean.
“Some creature has recently gone in here.” Fawkes warned, as he descended the ladder. “Those prints were fresh.”
The reality of this idea filtered through my mind as I descended into the unknown.
The glittering web of tunnels that met us looked familiar, but these were not the clean, sparkling rooms of spotless bunkers. These tunnels were marred with chaotic details. Fallen rubble, broken pieces of metal, crumbled walls. Seared patches marred the floor and walls where fire and explosion had occurred. The marks of war.
Suddenly we turned around and a frightful notion struck us. Through which passage had we come? The metal tunnels had slowly transformed into caves and we now looked upon the barren rock walls below the earth. We retraced our steps backward, through many diverging tunnels, but we could not navigate back to the man-made subterranean.
I looked at the rocky floor below us.
“Fawkes, these weren’t here before.” I said, nodding to a trail of footprints, the terrible, dragging, footprints of the dead. The awful feeling struck us. The idea we had been dabbling with the whole of our journey was now realized. Some slinking creature was trailing our steps, following us.
Fawkes moved steadily down the tunnel.
“We must have wandered into a natural cave system.” he remarked under his breath. “We won’t be able to find the exit, unless we search every passage. This could take days. We must be swift.”
We had brought no food and were without a phone. No one knew about these tunnels. If we were missed, there would be no way to discover our whereabouts. We could be lost forever.
“It’s hunting us.” I gasped, spotting a shifting shadow in our trail.
Fawkes kept walking, and stealthily grabbed a stone from the ground.
The strange face lurked out from behind a corner. Its barbarically long jaw lurched in an underbite, and a monstrous hunch, with inhuman, long arms reached toward us. This was not the dead man I had seen come alive. For the monstrous face, he appeared calm and reserved. Was it watching us, biding its time, or was it innocently curious?
“Go, Go.” I murmured, pushing Fawkes forward. “We have to go.”
Is it a Sasquatch or a mutant ape! I wondered in horror as we ran.
“Do you see this?” Fawkes whispered coming to a fork in a road. Two tunnels were outlined with primitive markings. We saw one was a fish and the other a pond.
We quickly chose the path with the pond and continued.
Suddenly a rumble sounded at our feet. A large stone had been thrown. Fawkes and I rushed forward. Abruptly our feet slipped. Our bodies toppled as we slid in a terrible descent down the side of a pit. Fawkes’ quick grasp gripped a boulder and protected us from sliding over the final edge.
A hideous peel of laughter rang through the cave that chilled our very souls.
In terror and shock, we crawled back into the tunnel under complete darkness.
“He tried to run us off the cliff.” I gasped.
Fawkes grasped a lighter from his pocket and held it aloft.
“That sign was a pit, not a pond.” He said, standing.
Suddenly a club shot out of the dark.
Fawkes and I dodged just in time as it thwarted the earth. Fawkes shut off his lighter.
“Run!” he screamed, and we raced down the tunnel.
Hideous laughter followed. And there was a dumb groan, communication not by syllable and phonetics but emotion and rage. We knew not where we ran. After a few seconds, Fawkes lighter illuminated again.
To our surprise, we looked down at metal pathways below our feet.
“The Subterranean.” cried Fawkes. “Thank God, we found it!”
But my feet hesitated. There was something else, a strange object lying on the subterranean path, some sort of miniature light. I grabbed it and pressed onward.
“Go, go!” I whispered, and we plunged through the chambers as fast as we could. Our hearts soared in relief with every moment that we fled further and further from the monster’s lair.
Finally our hands grasped the steps of the ladder and we plunged into the pouring rain. We sat staring and gasping in fear as the figures of the overland calmed us. We blinked for several seconds, caught our breath and shut the trapdoor.
I lifted up the light I found.
“Look at this.” I clicked a button on the side of the small light, and to my surprise a purple light illuminated the night air.
“Come on Robbins.” Said Fawkes, standing and shuddering.