Petharic was blind. The darkness at the bottom of The Gangplank pit was complete. He coughed. The dust that enveloped them, suspended in the same antigravity bubble as he and the boy, was thick and choking. He felt no pain; that was a good sign. The cavorite, that had broken their fall with a remarkable gentleness, held them still.
“Are you alright?” Petharic called out.
“I think so.” came Johnny Dawkins’s uncertain response. “Just a little scared is all.”
Petharic reached out until he found the urchin. He gripped him by the arm and gave a gentle squeeze of reassurance. “Don’t worry son, I’ll get you out of here."
“I believe you.” said the boy who suddenly started to cough.
Petharic flailed but to no avail. Without friction and unable to find anything against which he might push there was no way to escape the bubble of weightlessness in which they floated. He reached into his pocket and retrieved his flint lighter. With a click, the little flame came to life and illuminated the dust-filled cell in which they floated.
They were held about three feet above the broken crates. The pit was roughly circular in shape. It had a flat floor, as if man made, with a diameter of about fifteen feet. The crates were in the dead centre. Looking to the margins of the flickering light, he noted the opening to a passage. On either side, as if framing a door, stood two tall columns which gave the impression of a classic design.
“I have an idea.” Petharic said to the boy. “Grab my feet.”
The urchin reached over and held on to Petharic’s boots.
“Good,” encouraged Petharic. “Now place them against your chest.” he instructed pulling his knees back, bringing the boy closer. “I am going to see if I can kick you from this bubble that has us trapped. Ready?”
“Okay.” replied the boy.
“Don’t forget to let go. One, two, three!” Petharic shot his legs out straight sending Johnny in one direction and himself in the other. In the effort he extinguished the flame from the flint. In the dark once again, he smiled as he heard a thump.
“Are you out?” he asked.
“Yes.” replied the boy.
“THERE’S SOMETHING IN HERE WITH US!” the boy suddenly shouted.
Petharic immediately flicked the lighter, bringing the tiny flame back to life. About 10 feet away, Johnny Dawkins sat facing him. Behind the boy were a half dozen monstrosities vaguely resembling men and women. They were naked; their skin as white as alabaster.
Their hair was long, falling well below their waists in dark and greasy tangles. They shielded their large black eyes from the light of Petharic’s flame with outstretched hands, each finger ending in a curved grey claw.
One of the creatures crouched behind the boy, placing a hand on either shoulder as it leaned in close. It sniffed the side of his head and neck then tipped its head back, speaking to the others in unintelligible tones. It flicked out its tongue, snake-like, as if tasting the air around the boy’s head. In a fluid motion, Petharic pulled the colt from his hip and with a single shot put a bullet in the creature’s head leaving it lifeless on the floor behind the child.
The recoil from the shot was enough to send Petharic back until he breached the far side of the bubble. He fell to the floor, dropping both the gun and the lighter.
“JOHNNY!” he called out but there was no response.
On his hands and knees searching the floor he soon found the lighter. Quickly flicking the flint, the little flame revealed him to be alone at the bottom of the pit; a rusty red line of blood led from where the dead creature had fallen to the tunnel where it disappeared into the darkness.
Petharic shook his lighter to gauge the level of fluid. He had maybe ten minutes of flame if he was lucky. He would need to use it sparingly.
With the colt in hand Petharic ran blindly into passage.