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Spelunker: The Ascent

by Lemonite


A harsh cough wrenched Alexia’s throat as dust and gravel poured down on her. She hated caves, and it had nothing to do with the moist, grimy stones beneath her hands and feet. Nothing to do with her rock-ribbed, sandy-blonde hair.Issues like that never bothered her, even though a “proper lady” would run screaming at the mention such things. Alex took pride in being anything but. She slid the rest of the way down to the next cavern, her leather trousers the gravel from shredding her legs. When the loose stones had settled, she gazed around.

No, it was the dark that she hated. A suffocating blackness that pressed in on her, constricting her lungs and clamping a cold fist on her heart. Alexia struggled to control her breathing, eyes shut as she concentrated. She could do this.

She took a step.

Slowly, Alexia opened her eyes, deep blue gaze casting around the dark cave slowly. The lack of light seemed to suck the color away, and holding up her lantern did nothing to change it. Even her own green tunic appeared faded and gray.

The shadows were what drew her eyes, however. They seemed... deep, like endless holes in the world, leading on forever. But worst of all they appeared alive, sifting through themselves and lapping against the walls.

The lack of light sending chills down her spine, Alexia began moving forward, nothing happening at first.

She wanted to scream as dark tongues suddenly lashed out at her from the shadows, dancing and writhing in their attempts to reach her. So black were their appearance that that Alexia’s eyes were unable to focus on the creatures. She stepped through them, the cave just wide enough to stay out of reach of their flailing forms. She could still hear the creatures, however, a quiet whooshing sound, like a whisper, that was far more terrifying than any roar.

She kept her arms held in close, trying to to create as much space as possible between herself and the black tongues. It was then that she noticed a faint light coming from the cavern ahead.

The dark tendrils shrank back as she neared the light, their whispers fading to a thin whine. On entering the chamber, Alexia realize that there was a a thin line of light shining from across the cavern, by the opposite wall. She squinted at the light as she moved closer, stooping down beside it.

That was when she realized the light was shining through the balled fist of a corpse.

Alexia sprang back, stifling another scream. It took her several moments to calm down again, and it seemed like ages before she dared to kneel and inspect the corpse closer.

The body was male, and she couldn’t help but have a strange feeling of familiarity as she examined its face, like she had seen it before. Thin, dark eyebrows; long, almost feminine, eyelashes; a pale, round face: this was all familiar. but most familiar was the warm smile frozen on his face. Alexia had heard of corpses being stuck with the expression they had on their passing, but this one was... peaceful. It was as if he was trying to console her, reassure her.

Thoroughly confused, Alexia turned her attention to the strange light. The man’s hand clenched in a tight ball, light barely trickling through his fingers. When she rested her own fingers on the cold flesh, a chill ran down her spine, and, as if they could smell her fear, the black tongues all around the cavern grew menacingly, reaching out to her. Alexia closed her eyes again, calming herself, and the creatures sank back to writhe in the gloom once more.

Regulating her breathing, Alexia reached out to the corpse’s hand once more, gently wrapping her fingers around its clenched fist. Then, she opened it.

A sickening snap that wrenched Alexia’s heart echoed around the cavern, but the dark tendrils were unable to use the moment to attack. Instead, the cracking of rigor mortis was drowned out by an unearthly shriek, as the room was flooded with a warm glow. The creatures dove into the stones around them, sinking into any crack or crevice they could find in their flurry to escape the light.

Alexia herself had toppled backwards in surprise, cracking her head against the stone floor. She groaned, her eyes burning from the sudden blast of sunlight. She started at that. Sunlight? There was no sunlight in caves, but that’s exactly what hovered across the room from her. A ball of warm light had risen from the corpses hand, and now hung suspended a few feet off of the ground.

Alexia rose to her feet slowly, nursing the lump on the back of her head. What was going on? What was that thing? Where had those creatures gone?

Questions and warnings swam through her head, too many to even recognize, but she took a step forward regardless, holding a hand up to shade her eyes. There wasn’t really any reason to, though. As soon as she neared, the orb dimmed to a comforting glow, it’s warmth rippling over her skin. Alexia blinked several times, adjusting her eyes to the light. The orb didn’t move. It just hovered there, as if waiting patiently for her to react.

She did just that.

Reaching a shaky hand out, Alexia tried to touch the thing, but, again, there was no reason to. The orb zipped into her outstretched hand, startling her at first, but it simply hung there, glowing. She shook her hand slightly. It held firm.

Alexia had no time to ponder this development, however, as a horrifyingly familiar whisper suddenly drifted into the cavern. She spun around, her blood running cold as she saw pitch-black shadows slowly leak from the walls, dripping to the floor like tar. The black tendrils lifted up from their clouded pool, arcing high into the air as they probed forward. The walls continued to pour blackness into the room, the bulbous mass rising up behind its dark appendages. A mouth gaped open, rows over razor-sharp teeth shining unnaturally bright against the black body; and two hideous, red eyes pierced the caves gloom.

Alexia had never been so afraid in her life.

She wanted to run. She wanted to find the nearest way out and take it. Something inside her was pleading with her to do it, telling her that these creatures couldn’t be stopped, that there was nothing she could do but escape. She didn’t, though. The orb in her hand glowed brightly, and warmth seeped through her body. The screams inside her head muffled, eventually dying out completely; and suddenly she felt calm. Setting one foot back in a fighter’s pose, she stared defiantly up at the behemoth. It stared back.

Then it attacked.

Alexia barely had time to dodge as a hulking black tendril shot out at her. It smashed into the wall just behind where she had stood a moment earlier, completely shattering the wall. Rocks and gravel poured down from the cave ceiling, pelting Alexia’s head and arms and sinking slowly into the behemoth’s body. When the stones had settled, the creature’s hideous face turned back to her, teeth bared as more tendrils poised to strike. What happened next was almost too fast for Alexia to register.

The behemoth struck, an earth-trembling roar rolling forth as its appendages shot forward. Then, faster than she could blink, Alexia’s hand whipped around, the orb emitting a blinding flare at the creature. The roar turned to a high-pitch shriek as the rushing tendrils suddenly dissolved into thin air, leaving behind mangled stumps that slowly morphed back into the rest of the body.

The thing’s eyes squinted to slits as it pressed itself back against the far wall, hissing and shrieking. A look of realization donned on Alexia’s face. She stepped forward, thrusting the orb out at the creature. It gave a hideous squeal and shrank further into itself.

The warmth that the orb released sent waves of triumph through Alexia’s body. This creature, whatever it was, was hurt by light. With the orb, she could get away from it. Alexia took another step toward it, holding the light out in front of her. The behemoth gave another squeal, hissing as it pressed desperately into the wall.

As the orb flared in her hand, Alexia moved closer, now within a few feet of the beast. In some twisted way, the thing’s pain brought her relief, and she watched as its clouded form began to hiss and bubble like pitch-black tar. just as she thought it was fading away, however, the beast’s eyes flew open, rage shining in the red pits. Alexia had no time to react as a thick black tendril rose from her own shadow, striking across her back like lightning.

The blow threw her roughly to the ground, knocking the breath from her, and sent the orb flying across the cavern. It fell to the ground several feet away and lay there, glowing dimly.

With a groan, Alexia rose up on her hands, her breathe coming in shaky bursts. The hole that the warmth had left in her after it left was filled with cold, dark fear now, and every muscle in her screamed to run as Alexia slowly turned to look up at the behemoth. It grinned maliciously down at her, rows of razor teeth glinting. After taking a moment to savor her horror, it struck.

But she was already moving.

Ignoring every flight instinct she had, Alexia practically tripped to her feet, stumbling toward the dim light that rested a few feet away. On seeing her intent, the shadow beast roared, black tendrils reaching out, doing anything to stop her. they struck at her lags, tried to latch onto her, but nothing worked. With skill she didn’t even know she had, Alexia avoided every attempt the beast made to stop her, dodging swipe after swipe from its dark appendages.

Finally, with a booming roar, the monster threw itself at her, its great girth sending her crashing to the ground.

Alexia looked up at the beast as it loomed over her, razor-sharp maw dripping with tar-like shadow. It moved closer to her, hissing in satisfaction... but it hesitated. The creature felt no fear coming from its prey, Alexia just stared up at it defiantly. She wasn’t afraid anymore. If it was time, then she would let this creature that she had not truly been defeated.

Then she realized the the orb of light lay less than a foot away.

The behemoth brought its gaping maw down on Alexia, its black form completely engulfing her. just as it struck, she brought her hand down on the orb, twisting it around at the beast. Everything else happened too fast.

There was a soul-wrenching screech as Alexia plunged her fist into the creature, clutching the orb in it. Black tar sizzled and bubbled around her, dripping down her outstretched arm. Then, there was a blinding flash, and everything went white...

~~

“Alex!” She heard her name faintly, but her body didn’t want to acknowledge it. “Alexis! wake up!” Something shook her gently, but her only response was a groan as she rolled away, blankets bunching up beneath her.

“C’mon, Alex, the guide’s not gonna wait all day!” This time, the shaking was a bit more rough, and Alexis cracked her eyelids slightly. Light trickled in through the tints, beige-colored walls. The cot she lay in was a mess, blankets and pillows strewn randomly across it. she noted to herself, however, that the other bed across from her was no better. Alexis angled her gaze upward to the person responsible fro her awakening.

Emerald-green eyes looked back at her, thin, dark eyebrows set atop them, and the long, almost feminine, eyelashes were strange, yet appealing on his pale, rounded, masculine face. Alexis gave a thin smile up at him, and he returned it warmly.

“Morning! Hurry and get ready before you sleep the trip away.” The man hopped up, moving back to the unzipped entrance where he had obviously come from. Alexis sat up slowly, stretching.

“Thanks for waking me, James.” She called after him, throwing the blankets off of her legs. he turned back just inside the door flap, smiling again. “No problem,” he replied, his face suddenly becoming concerned, “but you sure you’re okay doing this? I know you don’t like the dark.”

There was a long pause, and Alexis grinned at him, images of her dream flashing in her head. “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.” Her confidence seemed to surprise James, as he raised his eyebrows slightly.

“Well alright then.” He said with a slight chuckle. “Grab your gear and I’ll meet you outside the cave.” And with that, he left, zipping the tent back up.

Later, Alexis stood outside on the rocky outcrop where they had made camp. the cave mouth loomed up in front of her, dark and boundless in its appearance. She lifted her head slightly, breathing slowly and eyes shut as she concentrated. She could do this.

She took a step.


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Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:25 am
Sonotmybirthday wrote a review...



I definately liked this...I liked how vivid the dream was and how it kind of connected to real life :) parts were a bit wordy...but overall your writing was pretty good!! Also as the reader I would like to know a bit more about Alexis...what does she look like? I liked your description of James and also how in the end she faced her fears...or maybe not (are you going to continue? Please say yes :) also perhapts more description of surroundings would help...like we know the beast is dark shadows..or tendrils but what is it? Dragon-like or evil dark beast that sits in caves all day? What does it look like besides dark and tendrily? anyway...keep up the good work :)




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Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:04 pm
Lemonite says...



Thank you so much! I can totally see what you mean.
I'll definitely take a look through the story and revise it a bit.

Thank you!




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Fri Dec 02, 2011 3:31 pm
ziggiefred wrote a review...



Hello there :)
Since you're relatively new, welcome to YWS! I hope you like it here. Looks as if you haven't had any reviews done yet, so you better get cracking ;)

I'll start off with a few nitpicks.

She slid the rest of the way down to the next cavern, #FF0000 ">her leather trousers the gravel from shredding her legs. (Maybe you should revise that)

Alexia struggled to control her breathing, #0000BF ">her eyes shut as she concentrated.
;

I think that's it. With what I've read, I'd say the most part of the story is overshadowed by the way you tell it. I'm talking about how you outline Alexia's every step. "Alexia did this and Alexia did that" the whole story to a point where it got monotonous. I would suggest you try and characterize her more. What kind of character is she, what she likes, who she is in general. Then you can go on and kill the suspense not too far into the story and mention what she's doing in a cave, if there's anyone in the past that influenced her being there, you know the kinds of things that get a story along. I thought that this story could have been much better in that respect.

Other than that, your writing is really good. I like how you describe certain things and the way you phrased some of your metaphors really brought out your abilities as a writer. Also, this is a great concept and I can see your intentions.

I hope I could help.
Keep writing and good luck!





Sometimes poetry is inspired by the conversation entered into by reading other poems.
— John Barton