Tornado Trailer Park (Pt. 9)
six foot four and full of muscle.”
Lonnie had started babbling again. Clem had tried getting used to it, he felt bad for the guy. If his story was to be believed, Lonnie had once been a long haul trucker who had ignored the various tornado warnings that had been issued along his route. He had been in The Eye for over five years now, most of them as a slave down here in Deep Shaft 12, and his brain had started to slip a bit. For one thing, he claimed to have had “Down Under” by Men at Work stuck in his head ever since he had landed here. The song had a tendency to come out in his speech.
“Who was six foot four?” Clem asked as he hauled his pick-axe back and slammed it into the rough stone in front of him. The two of them had been pulled off the main shaft a week ago and had been digging a narrow tunnel through nearly solid rock. Clem would do the digging, while Lonnie would haul the stone and dirt back to the main shaft and dump it into one of the carts.
“This foreman that used to work down here with us,” Lonnie said, grunting as he filled his shovel and hefted its load into the barrow. “He used to say this shaft was cursed. That he didn't understand why we were even digging it, since we had never struck any kind of vein or found any ore. Its just a hole in the ground that kills people, was what he said.”
“What happened to him?”
“Got crushed in a cave-in.”
Clem stopped chopping into the wall and stretched his back. Soon he'd have to start working the other side of his body so that his left arm and shoulder would get some exercise. Then he'd switch off with Lonnie and give his legs some work. From down the tunnel he heard a familiar clanking.
“Water?” came Roy's mechanical, garbled voice. It had started sounding more gravely soon after being sent down here.
“Sounds great!” Lonnie said with enthusiasm. He reached out the tin cup he kept strapped to his belt and Roy filled it.
“I'll take some of that,” Clem said, not moving toward the robot. Roy made his way to the back of the tunnel, carrying his arms a little further out to his sides so that Lonnie couldn't skirt in around. Clem liked Lonnie and thought that he was pretty harmless, but that didn't mean he trusted him. The temptation to rat on someone in order the get a little lighter duty was too strong for a lot of people down here. “Any news?”
“Roderick has been pulled off the books,” Roy whispered ominously.
“Oh, no. Is he...?”
“No, he's good. But they have him translating some tablets Deep Shaft 10 dug up. He couldn't tell me what they said, but right after they found them is when you two got pulled off the main shaft and told to dig this hole.”
“They're related? That's weird. What about Kayla?”
“That's another weird thing. Ever since those tablets have been found they've been having her work on that tank-thing more and more. She says it fully mobile now and they've expanded the tunnels so that it can run from Level 4 straight up to the surface. And get this, she had to weld a massive fish bowl to it.”
“A fish bowl? What the hell is going on around...?”
“Look Clem, your snake is back,” Lonnie shouted, pointing at the red and black garter snake that was coiling itself around Clem's boot. It had started hanging around with him a few days after he'd gotten here. Clem had named it Louise.
“There she is, I was starting to get worried,” Clem said, barely looking down at it. “Say Lonnie, you mind taking over the digging? I wouldn't mind being on barrow duty for a bit.”
“Sure thing, bud.”
Clem grabbed the handles to the wheelbarrow and began to push it up the tunnel, Roy walked beside him.
“So it looks like Roderick was right,” Clem whispered. “Bargeth and his cronies are looking for something down here. But what the hell is it?”
“It isn't unusual to come across other shafts that people have dug out ages ago. We certainly aren't the first to go mining down here. But as far as I know, as far Roderick was able to tell by going through the records I should say, is that no one has ever been this far down before.”
“Well here,” Clem handed Roy a crumpled up piece of paper once they reached the main shaft. “This is the layout we've been digging for the last few days, add it to the master map when you can. Try to find out more about what Kayla is working....”
“Clem! Clem!,” Lonnie ran out of the narrow tunnel. “I broke through to something! It looks like some kind of chamber! We gotta tell the foreman.”
“Lonnie, wait!” Clem shouted, but it was too late. Lonnie had already hit one of the buzzers that ran along the same wires as the lights. Within minutes, a foreman would be down here. Clem would have liked to have taken a look on his own first.
“What the hell is going on down here?” Foreman Rand shouted a short while later as he made his way down the tunnel, he made a point to shine his light into everybody's face just to be an asshole. “This better be good.”
“We found a chamber, boss,” Lonnie said, eager to please. “We were told to call you if....”
“Shut up,” Rand snapped as he shoved his way past the three of them and peered at the hole in the tunnel wall. A foul smell, like a stagnant swamp, drifted from it. Rand covered his nose and turned back to the three slaves, his back a few inches from the wall. “Any of you been in there? You tell the truth now.”
“No boss, none of us,” Lonnie said. “We called you the second we broke through, didn't we fellas?”
Clem and Roy nodded.
“Good. Robot, you go back up and tell Bargeth to get down here. Tell him we've found it. Use those words. And the two of you, go back to Deep Shaft 12 and get back to work. Don't breathe a word of this to anyone or you'll regret it.”
The three of them had just turned away from the foreman when a sound, like wet hose being dragged across a mud puddle, came from the behind them. Clem turned back towards the foreman just as a massive, black tendril whipped out of the hole, knocking Rand to the ground. The foreman, one of the worst and most cruel out of a gang renowned for their cruelty, barely had time to scream before his leg was enveloped by the foul smelling thing and he was dragged into the hole. They could hear his ribs and shoulders break as his body was forced through the wall.
“You better run!” Lonnie shouted. “You better take cover!”