The prompt this time was from my grandson, Michael, who suggested we use the above picture as inspiration. You want to spend the night in an underground cave, but when you wake up, your guide is gone and you’re alone. Or, are you? The genre was to be horror, so I thought I’d include a bit of the human side of horror as well. Please enjoy.
What in the name of all that is Holy was that sound? The only sounds that I’m supposed to be hearing down here are my guide’s and my footsteps and maybe a bit of dripping water from some of the small underground waterfalls. This is what I’ve paid a fortune for? The chance to be awakened to a teeth-rattling scream and a grinding noise that reminds me of the compactor on my neighborhood’s garbage truck? This is really quite unacceptable. I seriously doubt that mental dwarf of a guide I’ve hired knows just who he’s pissing off here. This trip was supposed to reduce my stress level, not provide me with yet another ulcer.
My name is Markham Billings, and I have been the top salesman for the Northwest Region for the past ten years running. What my company creates, and what I sell, is a way to increase revenue. Densonne Advertising Agency is top-of-the-line when it comes to newspapers, television, billboards, flyers, you name it. Once a company signs with us, we’ll get their name out everywhere, including on a space shuttle to Mars, if there’s one set to launch. I have more accounts than all the other bozos on staff, but that’s because I can handle more accounts than all the other bozos on staff. Especially that airhead Phil McGowan. Born loser.
All of the other salesmen are in awe of me, and rightfully so. They’re always asking me for tips and tricks on how to walk into a potential client’s front door and less than an hour later, walk out with a five-year contract locked up tight. I keep telling them over and over that it’s all in the attitude. I don’t go in to sell them anything. I’ve already made up my mind that the account is mine. The only thing I go in for is the technicality of getting their signature. Unfortunately for my fellow salesmen, that’s confidence I was born with and not something I can teach. And still they ask. But not Phil.
Phil McGowan strolled in one day like he owned the place and somehow managed to convince Densonne himself to take him on. He had previously sold wall-to-wall carpeting, I think, for some outfit that had gone out of business and now he was looking for something different. Can you believe it? He was going to go from rugs to riches--no pun whatsoever intended. The crumb is an insect and is constantly creeping up on everyone at the office, and looking over their shoulder to see what they‘re working on. If someone happens to come up behind him while he’s in his cube on his computer though, he immediately exits out to the company logo, so apparently, what’s good for the goose is not necessarily hunky-dory for the rest of us.
I have no idea how he got hired, other than the fact that there’s got to be some type of blackmail involved. You should know that Densonne isn’t exactly open and above board with his tax reporting, and his sons do not generally verify the ages of the dates they take up to their cabin for weekends. We are all aware of the family’s flaws, but we all keep to our own and do what we can to line our own pockets. Which brings me to the most recent development in my ever-prospering career.
There’s a new software outfit opening up right across the line of my territory. It’s going to be huge and they’ve already got more clients than they will ever need. Even though it’s technically on the edge of Phil’s sector, I know he can’t handle a client of that magnitude, and so does our President. The word is I’m going to be given that account and Mr. Phil is going to be left out in the cold to take care of his Mom-and-Pop washing machine manufacturer and some TV repair franchise. While accounts are generally assigned according to a salesman’s particular area, there are exceptions. A multi-million dollar one doesn’t need to be taken care of by a dime-a-dozen mope. It needs to be handled by a one-in-a-million advertising representative: me. And that’s what started all of this week’s commotion.
It’s not official yet, but everyone knows it will happen, so what does cry-baby Phil do? First he runs to Densonne’s office and whines all over him how he needs this chance and just give him the opportunity and he’ll do a great job, and all that other crap. When he was abruptly dismissed, he came crawling to me. Oh, I have so many accounts and I make such a big commission already, and he needs to make his mark and blah, blah, blah. I, of course, told him to go straight to Hell. I do have a lot of accounts and before I took on this new one, I was going to take a vacation, and when I got back, he was never to speak to me again, unless he was picking up takeout for the staff as newbies are often assigned to do. He didn’t’ take it very well and walked off with his tail between his legs, but that’s best. Let him know right from the get-go that I’m Number One and he isn’t.
Funny though how people will twist stuff around and still try to get in your good graces. Phil had heard me talking about how I’ve always wanted to go wandering around underground caves. I’m not sure where that came from, but it’s always been a fantasy of mine to spend the night way down below the surface on some rock floor, with an underground stream flowing by and no sound anywhere at all, except that of my own breathing. Problem is, I’m not sure where to go or how to arrange that. Not too many are offering that kind of one-on-one tour, but believe it or not, Phil handed one to me. He told me about a friend of his who took people into caves off the islands all the time, and gave me his number. He apologized for acting a fool about the new account and wished me an enjoyable vacation. I’m going to take him up on it, but he’s still a jerk and I’ll never let him forget it either.
So, now you know how I got here, but where is here? My so-called guide took me up and down, over and through, around and back and we ended up spending the night in this cavern that’s dimly lit by the one around the corner where the rocks seem to be glowing. All’s well and good, right? Wrong. I came here to get away, true, but not permanently. My $1,000 a day guide left his gear, and took off for parts unknown, I woke up to a scream I‘m not sure was human, and what the Hell is that grinding noise? Something’s moving around in that lit up area. I’m going to go over and…
“Phil? What are you doing here, and what’s the gun for? Oh, I get it. You set this up so you could get me down here and kill me, is that it? You’ll never get away with this. You’ll never get that account either.”
I can’t believe I fell for his ‘I’m-so-sorry’ bullshit act.
“Markham, I’m not going to kill you, but you will die here, just like all the others who have placed themselves in my way. I’m sure my friend Thomas who guided you here told you all about the legend of these caves.”
I wonder if I can drop and toss a rock at him before he pulls the trigger.
“Yes, Phil, Thomas told me all about The Mother. Some thing that lives down here and feeds on those who violate her nest. It’s one for the books, Phil. Real funny. Ha. Ha.”
Why was Phil backing up? Where does he think he’s going?
“Mother is quite real, Markham, and she’s close. She, and her young, are still quite hungry too. I’ve already whetted her appetite with Thomas, since he’s really not of any use to me anymore. I’ll just use one of the exits I fashioned for myself years ago and you have a seat and wait for Mother. She should be here very soon.”
He thinks he can back up around the corner and I won’t follow? He won’t fire that gun--that would probably start some kind of slide. Okay, he went around to the right. I’ll quietly go toward… What? Where did he go? There’s no opening in here at all. How did he…
What’s that rustling noise? I can feel hot breath on me and it smells like death. The shadow on the wall is towering over me and coming down. Something wet and slimy is covering my face. Something sharp has sliced into my neck. Oh God, it hurts…