Your gut says not to split up your team but you decide it’s best to find a way through the tunnels. You order the team above to carry on. You’ll try to rendezvous with them later.
You and your teammate strap the rifles high on your backs and wade to the mouth of the pipe. You take the flashlight from your pocket and shine it inside. You can’t see the end.
You reach in and plunge one hand into the thick waste. Chunks of matter squish through your fingers and jam under your nails. You press down until you can feel the metal at the bottom. You climb inside. The sewage comes up to your chest and the barrel of your rifle bumps against the top of the passage. The weapon looked clean when you held it above your head — you can only hope it stays above the sewage. You pause and give a reassuring pat to the hunting knife strapped at your side. As long as you have that, you can make the best of any situation.
You both crawl forward as fast as you can. The sewage is thick and flows heavily against you, slowing your progress. You can’t help but wonder about the sludge you’re submerged in. Animal manure is typically harder. It doesn’t flow like a liquid. If this stuff doesn’t come from an animal, then what?
Ten minutes later, the pipe widens slightly and curves to the right. The manure recedes a few inches. As you crawl around the corner, you hear a gentle scraping. It doesn’t sound mechanical — some scrapes are longer than others and they’re at random intervals. You shine the flashlight ahead but see nothing of interest.
The sound gets closer. Within minutes it’s right next to you. You press your hand down and hit something scaly. Startled, you pull away and grab for your knife. The thick manure impedes your movement. Before you can get to your weapon, something shoves you against the pipe wall. The sound echoes in every direction.
Behind you, your teammate shouts. You twist around and shine the flashlight at him. He has his hunting knife in his hand, poised above the surface of the sewage. You’re finally able to grab your knife, too. You both stop and listen.
The scraping sound is gone but you know you’re not alone.
Your teammate drops his free hand into the sludge and searches around him. You feel a slight vibration in the pipe and the scraping starts again.
Your teammate lets out a blood-curdling scream and snaps back, as if trying to yank his arm away. He starts thrashing and stabbing his knife wildly into the sewage. You rush forward with your flashlight and knife raised, trying to figure out what’s happening.
Your teammate finally gets free but he’s still screaming. He holds up his arm. Wet manure and blood drip from the stub where his hand used to be.
In the space between you, two small, curved horns break the surface of the sewage. You strike at the spot between the horns but they submerge too quickly. Whatever the creature is, it moves faster in the sludge than you do. You follow the scraping sounds and stab again. A sharp pain shoots through your side and you think you’ve been bitten. You plunge your knife hard into the muck around you, desperate to keep your limbs attached.
Your teammate’s screams intensify. You shine the light just in time to see the horns reappear at your teammate’s side.
You reach for your teammate’s jacket but his body lurches away from you. You grasp air and fall forward, leading with the knife. You scrape metal and skin and muscle. The scratching sounds become frenzied. You jump up and reach again for your teammate, grabbing a tentative hold on his sleeve.
The horns submerge. Your teammate is ripped from your fingers and dragged backward. This time, he doesn’t stop — he picks up speed. Sewage sprays in his wake. His screams grow faint.
You can’t help him now. You just have to get the hell out of here. You scramble ahead on your hands and knees, panicked by what you just saw. The pipe twists and turns. After a couple of minutes, you reach a T. To the right, the pipe inclines and you see a flashing white light that exposes a ladder. To the left, the pipe declines and you hear human voices, but you can’t see more than 15 feet.
From behind, you hear the scraping sound again.
What do you do?
A: Go right (incline, light and ladder)
B: Go left (decline, human voices)
We want your vote! Vote in the comments below or on Twitter at #TheMark. Voting ends Tuesday night. The highest vote will be the next step in the story, posted on Fridays.
Image courtesy of Herruwe.
Voting for Part 3 is now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated!