My brain replayed the horror of the girl being eaten alive over and over. Each subsequent private screening in my skull was a perfect fidelity of the sensory spectrum: the audible crunch of bones; the teeth-on-edge ringing of my hands; the stench of digested fecal matter seeping out of burst intestines; the shimmery-black pools of blood and the skittering noises as their legs scuttled around on the bedrock for better holdings.
I watched it for the umpteenth time when I felt my body slip into a trance. The shock of everything was too great. I felt myself starting to drift off in a biochemical stupor when I heard the air-shifting buzzing again. I looked up, terrified. A black section of the ceiling detached itself, leaving a creature-sized hole of bio-luminescent moss light behind it, and flew downwards. Behind the negative space, I could see the algae wavering in and out of focus as the wings intersected and refracted the thing stream of photons.
The bastard came quickly, before I could run five feet. A perceptible whump shook the floor as it landed in front of me, cutting me off. Through the subterranean gloom I peered to see where it was. My horrified face loomed out of the darkness, reflected in a thousand multi-faceted eyes. I sprinted towards it, false bravado, my right fist flying forward in a measure of desperate defiance.
It bit down on my wrist nonchalantly. I stopped in pain and surprise. I tried to tug away quickly but felt the mouth pincers worm deeper, grating and sending vibrations along the bone like a plucked cello string. It twisted its head like a dog's and I heard a slobbery pop. My wrist came free and felt light – I looked down my arm. My hand was gone.
I howled and shoved the mangled throbbing stub into my armpit and clamped down tightly. No pain yet, just a dull fire. Maybe if I got free, I could get medical attention, maybe.. if… My heart, charged on adrenaline, frantically thumped in my chest; my life oozed out of my body in warm cascading sheets that slid down my torso.
I took stock of the reality: my body wouldn't go on much longer. Weakened, I sat down as my legs collapsed and watched as it ate my hand slowly and methodically.
Another one flew down, sidling over to the first as it nibbled away gibblets of flesh from the palm, trying to steal the first's food. The eating one picked up my hand and flew a short distance away to land, jealously eating its meal in solitude. The second one clacked its mandibles in frustration and hunger, turned its cow-head sized head and lumbered over to me.
I didn't lift my arm up as it lunged. I felt the broad shoulder-blade splinter inside of me, fragmenting the flesh around with shards that cut tissue and a vein. I felt a warmth spreading inside my upper torso as it pumped out a ballooning reserve of blood under my skin. It hadn't piece my skin and let out a frustrating trilling noise. It pulled its head back and plunged its jaws down into my body on either side of my right side's clavicle. And crunched.
The pain coincided with a starring-cluster of purple-white lights and I faded away from reality.
I awoke to a tugging at my stomach. I looked around. Several were around me. Two were fighting over a piece of something that probably came from me. It looked like a leg. I blearily looked down and watched as a string of white veined guts was drawn out of my body slowly, disappearing into a voracious mouth that slurped and chewed like a toddler eating spaghetti.
My abdomen was splayed open. I felt cold and numb. My right leg was gone below the thigh and my right arm was gone.
One nudged my body with its head towards the open pool. I felt myself roll over. The view was a kaleidoscope of as I moved: them, the ceiling, the floor, the pool, then the floor. I splashed in.
I felt a cloying black tar seeping over my body, sucking me down. It slowly oozed up past my ears, tangled my hair and pooled into my ears. I felt it climb up over my face. My mouth was covered. I was past panic. It started to trickle down my nose, sliding down my nasal passages into the back of my throat and pooled into my sinuses.
I went under.
I thought of the absurdity of the past events and that I had to die like this
. I fought to hold my breath, clinging to the last few remnants of my life and dignity that I had. I thought desperately back to happier times, to when I was alive. I thought of Sampson.
I couldn't hold my breath any longer.
The liquid was lukewarm. I suddenly realized I could breathe with it in my lungs. There was some oxygenated property of the goo that allowed osmosis of oxygen into my bloodstream still.
I felt a tingling on my mangled limbs and extremities. I touched my leg's stump with my remaining hand and found little strands of bone, with the consistency of cooked pasta, starting to knit itself downwards and outwards.
The pool was healing my eaten body.
I felt ambivalent as to if that was a blessing or a curse.
For the next few days I kept track of the sunlight streaming in from the hole above. It gradually became less gloomy as my eyes adjusted to the lower levels of photons. I could see the cavern stretched for at least a half-mile. Anytime I tried to go exploring, they would quickly fly down from the ceiling and block any progress.
There were others down there with me. The girl, of course, and maybe 3-4 others. We sat and quietly talked but mostly stared off into space, horrified and lost in our own cocoon of emotion.
They ate me again at the end of the next week.
Over the next few months the cycle continued. I saw several new captured humans come in. I didn't even bother to go over to them even though I saw the panic reflected in their eyes
The first month I noticed my fingers not regrowing properly. The bone extended outwards and skin didn't regenerate. I felt a node on my shoulder harden. One day I woke up from a nap and found I could see another view; I looked down and saw myself staring at my shoulder: I'd grown another eye.
Obviously the pool's regenerative properties had a limited capability. Like a Xerox machine, the copies of copies degraded at an exponential rate.
My ribs softened and extended out of my torso. I found I could pick things up with them, use them like tentacles. My back grew a bony chitin material. They couldn't eat my flesh through that. They started to leave me alone.
I found I had the freedom to wander around the cave more. They ignored me.
I wandered over one day and found the lip of the cave: below me was an entire underground city hewn into the rock.
There were thousands of mutant humans crawling in and out of massive stalactites and stalagmite skyscrapers and buildings. The flying creatures I had left behind in the pool room were flying mutants around between the gigantic rock columns.
One noticed me looking over the edge and flew over. It landed before me, bowed slightly and sidled over to one side, dipping its back and offering itself as my mount. I stepped on, unsure what else to do.
We flew off into the underground spacious cavern, the damp, cool air whipping past me. Its translucent wings beat hard in a low thrumming noise that I felt loosen phlegm in my chest and set my teeth vibrating.
It set me down at a landing platform of a stalagmite that reached at least three stories up, and another three downwards into the subterranean gloom. Mutants were walking in and out of a doorway hewn into the stone. I walked inside and found a spiral staircase in the center, with the bio-luminescent moss collected into little alcoves dug into the sides. After months of being underground, the concentrated lights were like floodlights. I followed the stream of mutants going upstairs.
The stairs spat out in a huge landing. A mutant with a rock-spear was standing at the top. He eyed me and then tapped my chest-armor with his spear. He grunted a few times, strangled gurgling noises deep in his larynx. I backed up. He made a piercing howl and started to jab at my chest.
I fled downstairs and heard the warning grunts and howls start to take echo through the hollow stone column. I followed the staircase all the way down until I stumbled up against a barrier. I franticly shoved my shoulder into it, again and again. I felt the rock crumble and give away under the strength that terror lent me.
I found a white mist starting to seep up from the ground as far as I could see. I ran out into it. Looking back over my shoulder, I could see my passage in the mist like a boat's wake in calm waters. It was quickly swallowed up.
I ran blindly until I was out of breath. I could still hear the animalistic grunts and noises of the mutants echoing all around me, raining down from above. I was too tired to realize the mutants were unwilling to follow me into the mist.