Short Story by Eric Christopher Jackson
“Do you see anything?” Demetrius asks.
Colin moves the torch back and forth to reveal the damp cave. Trickles of water splatter against the walls as the ground becomes muddy as a result. “No. I do smell something, horrible.”
Demetrius frowns in agreement, “I think we should turn back, now.”
Colin whirls around as the light follows his movement, “Are you kidding?! You can’t chicken out on me, man. We’re almost there; I promise.”
A nervous twitch from Demetrius as he takes a step forward. If he takes too long to follow, there’ll be no light left for him. “Colin?”
“Demetrius? Get a move on!”
Demetrius has no choice but to run forward, splashing water along the way. “Why do I let you drag me into these things?”
“Well, you did tell Carla you’re some sorta tough guy,” Colin smirks.
“It worked, didn’t it?” Demetrius finally smiles.
“If you say so.”
“What was that?!”
Colin listens, “What was what?”
“I heard something.”
“You mean, besides you rambling?”
“Haha. I heard something,” Demetrius repeats.
He listens. He listens all the more. Finally, he gives Demetrius a condescending look and moves forward.
“I did hear something,” Demetrius mumbles.
They seem to walk for, at least, half an hour before Demetrius begins to grumble. “Can you keep it down? That’s annoying,” Colin adds.
“We’ve been down here for hours.”
“I told you we were going on a hike, it’s just underground.”
“I can’t believe we’re going through all of this off of some stupid map.”
“This stupid map is gonna pay off our debt,” Colin smiles. “Here. Take this a sec.”
Demetrius grabs the torch being extra careful not to touch the flames.
Colin studies the ancient drawings.
Demetrius chimes in, “Do you even know how to read that?”
“Doesn’t take a rocket scientist, genius. Follow the line from here to here. We’ve gotten this far. Now, do you want the treasure or not?”
“Then, quit whining.” Colin snatches the torch back and picks up his pace.
The gentlemen stop after another thirty to forty minutes as they spot a light at the end of the cave.
“You’d better see that,” Demetrius snaps.
As the two approach the opening, the light that drew them begins to flicker. Then, it goes out entirely. Neither man wants to ask the obvious, “What happened to the light,” but Demetrius does, anyway.
“But the light…”
“There’s not supposed to be light down here. What would power it?”
“Obviously, someone was here before us…”
“You’re ridiculous. You know that?” He shakes his head, “Look for a chest. It has to be around here somewhere.”
“I don’t like it in here. You should have never stolen that thing.”
“The old man doesn’t need a map. He can barely walk across the room. Easy pickings.”
“What?! I’ve seen the old guy. He can still move pretty…”
“Shut up, Demetrius. Just shut up!”
“Does Carla know how mean you are?”
“I don’t know why Carla would be interested in you, anyway! You’re not her type.”
“You saw the way she smiled at me,” Demetrius retorted.
“I’ll put the map back before he knows it’s gone. Look. For. The chest.”
The torch illuminates the chamber enough for Demetrius to look for the chest on the other side of the room.
“No. Your companion is right,” a voice grumbles.
Colin is infuriated as he whirls around to eye Demetrius, “Just look for the chest!”
Demetrius is frozen in place, mouth moving, but no words escape it.
“What is wrong with you?!”
Colin’s eyes begin to shift through the space, “I heard… I heard it…”
“What are you babbling about, man? What?!”
“Your companion is right,” the voice repeats.
Colin finally realizes that Demetrius’s mouth isn’t moving. He spins around, pointing the light in all directions.
A low, growling laughter echoes through the chamber, “Impressive, old man.”
“Who’s there?!” Colin calls out.
Demetrius mouths words, fixed to the ground, hoping Colin will stay quiet.
“Your companion is…”
“Right about what?!” Colin finishes.
“Someone was here before you, boy.”
Colin frowns. Demetrius is scared silent.
“He took the chest as I slept. Thought he escaped my grasp, but…” a smile in his voice, “he was wrong.”
“Who are you?!” Colin asks again.
“It is no ordinary chest. My soul essence is bound to the treasure. The treasure he stole centuries ago. Yet, his time is almost up. I’ll let him discover this on his own.”
“Centuries?” Colin asks.
“We can get it back for you,” Demetrius blurts out before realizing it.
“No, Companion. A deal was made. Life for riches,” the grumbling voice echoes through the chamber.
“What deal?” Colin asks.
Demetrius rolls his eyes, thinking it obvious. “A trade. He has his riches. I have life.”
“But if your, uh, soul essence is in the treasure, how? How are you still…” Colin continues.
“He fulfills his part. Now, he weakens, which led to the recruitment of his daughter.”
Demetrius’s eyes widen. He was fooled beyond what he imagined. “We’ll just be going. Sorry, to bother you, sir,” as he begins to back pedal towards the chamber’s entrance.
Colin looks back as Demetrius motions for him to follow rather adamantly.
The torch goes out completely.
A grumbling echoes through the chamber as Colin and Demetrius can’t see their hands in front of their face let alone find the entrance.
Colin is on the verge of hyperventilating.
“Let us go, man! It’s not our fault! We can help…” Demetrius begins.
“The needs of the few,” the voice grumbles, “outweigh the needs of the many.”
Colin and Demetrius stop breathing, beginning to wonder if the voice has left.
Demetrius feels a burning sensation as a large hand grips his face. He’s pulled across the room before he can try to scream. Melting. It feels like his face is on fire. He soon understands why.
The voice, this creature, has a body in the form of a man. Beneath his smooth charcoal-colored skin and muscular physique burns molten lava.
Colin is grabbed by his shirt when the creature reveals himself, eyes glowing lava orange-red. Its mouth opens, inside of which is illuminated by the molten lava.
Colin is terrified as he sees Demetrius’s face being seared by the creature’s hand. Suddenly, a misty vapor escapes the creature’s mouth. Burning. Colin’s face is burning.
They’re bodies are incinerated. The creature is satisfied. He won’t retrieve his soul essence, just yet. He’s having too much fun feeding on the lives of others.