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Just Our Luck
“Ugh. These tunnels smell worse than my mother’s mystery stew!” Jackson complained.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw him struggling to hold his nose while still carrying his load and torch. It was a near impossible feat and he was coming nowhere close to achieving it. Serves him right, I thought. I bet he’s regretting his comment about me the other day.
“Cut it out, Jackson!” Celia hissed, covering for me. She looked impressive in the low light of the torches, the light bouncing off her short hair and collecting in her fierce eyes. She held her torch like she would a dagger, almost threatening Jackson. I was lucky to have a companion like her. She made up for Jackson ten times over. “Nate didn’t intentionally bring us down the smelliest tunnel of all time!” She faltered for a second and her eyes met mine. “Did you?”
I frowned, but did not know if they caught it in the semi-darkness and grunted just to be sure they knew I was not happy either. “No, but your lack of confidence in me makes me almost wish I had.” It was true, I had only studied this labyrinth of tunnels for a moment on the map and my memory was not that much better than theirs. “You should just be thankful I know the way out at least.” I held my torch up a bit higher, peering through the endless blackness before us. When would the next turn come?
Jackson snorted, a disgusting sound that we unfortunately all knew only too well. “Well then I should have been the one to lead us! Why is it always Nate? If I may remind you, it was because of him we were nearly killed last night!”
He was right, but I was not about to let him win yet. I still had some dignity. “It was also thanks to me that we were lucky enough to even find this escape. If you had had your way I’m quite sure I would rather be a pig. At least we would have been slaughtered properly then.”
Jackson was about to spit his next comeback at me but Celia was quicker.
“Quiet.” Her voice was barely more than a whisper, her body freezing and eyes narrowing. If it was under different circumstances, I would have said she was just annoyed at Jackson and me, but there was a sort of seriousness in the air that made both of us shut up like cornered rabbits.
My body instantly tensed and I felt Jackson go rigid beside me. There was no need for Celia to say more. In less than a minute later I heard what she had heard. A faint thud in the distance, the sound something of a limping man or heaving prisoner would make. At that moment I am sure we all would have traded an even more repulsive smell in the tunnel for what disturbing thing was coming for us next. Oh, why did these things always have to happen to us?
I had wanted to scream, “Run!” but being stuck in a maze of tunnels, with unappealing prizes both before and behind us, what difference would it have made? In fact, a scream would have just ended it quicker. There was nothing I could do but watch helplessly as a cold mass of wind washed over us. I saw the last of the firelight on my companions faces, remembering briefly better times, but now their features were both riddled with something they rarely showed: Fear.
We were left in utter darkness. Now we had only to wait for the end.