The Cavern – Part 11

I slept fitfully, the cold of the bare stone floor partially moderated by my lecturers warmth eating into me. None of us three dared take the sedative as we would most likely come around after the group in general and that would be dangerous. Panicking people do not think properly. The medic had stimmed herself and stood watch, we all hoped the air would hold up but it was already, warm and turgid to smell.

With the group asleep the air would last much longer, she would resedate anyone who looked like they were gaining consciousness before the water had receded, not normal medical practice and I was very aware that we could loss people in the process but it seemed somehow best in the circumstances.

But that phrase just ran around and around my head – was that what the Nesu were thinking? It was what we had thought when we had gassed the cave-in tunnel… I was no different to them and that hurt, sliced my soul. The best thing for the majority was often not the right thing and the right thing not always the best, it appeared to me. The complex questions of ethics and philosophy pummelled me.

A change in sound had me awake, my head hurt and I was panting as I sat up, we were running perilously low on oxygen, ‘here,’ whispered the medic handing me one of the two breathing rigs we had for when the below cavern was broken into, she was already wearing one. They had maybe two hours gas each. We were in trouble. I looked over to the air lock and sighed with relief, I could see a line of water, it was receding. I wondered if that was the change of sound I had heard but somehow I didn’t think so. An erry groan seemed to float around us I looked up in surprise.

‘Sound travels well in water but it’s distorted,’ the medic said. Nodding I stood up and examined the air lock, it was holding tight, I was frankly amazed. But the water was not going down fast and I couldn’t open it unless the pressure was equalised on both sides. I could pump in water from this side but with everyone asleep I would risk drowning them and besides the water was moving at a distinctly fast pace beyond, it didn’t look good. I ran my hands over the thing and then nodded to myself as the solution presented itself to me.

‘I’m going to deflate the ring slightly, some water will come in hopefully not too much.’

The medic paled, ‘not too much or the pressure of the water will blast it at us!!’

I nodded and and set too work with trembling fingers, there was a hiss of air exchange and gentle bubbling I took the gas tank off to test how it was going, the amount of water jetting through was increasing, in panic I reinflated the thing, thanking the designer that it had it’s own gas canisters and valves for the inflating. I stood in the puddle relieved I had kept my boots on.

The medic checked the sleeping people, ‘they are breathing easier but I have no idea for how long!’

Neither did I, ‘We will remain without our masks until we start panting again and then I’ll do the same thing.’ She nodded and took her own apparatus off and pulled a face, ‘air is still pungnent I’m afraid.’ We both laughed until the issue of air usage hit us and we sat in grim silence. I was planing on what to do next – there were tools and things we could use to protect ourselves but what exactly was I expecting, one of the sleepers began to stir and I motioned for the medic to sedate once more.

‘Tell me,’ I said when she had finished and was sitting down once more, ‘what exactly am I expecting out there?’ I gestered to the watery world beyond our little bubble. I sounded nonchalant, brave maybe, I was more scared than I had ever been, all those stories to frighten younglings into doing what they were told, they came pouring back and they nearly all contained the undead. I had thought it superstition but the cave in had shown me that at least the council thought there was some truth in the old legends.

‘It’s the disease,’ she murmured quietly, ‘it somehow changes the body so when you die – you don’t actually die as it were, well the body doesn’t but mostly it is just functioning but… well its been switched into a higher metabolic state – to keep it going in the state it is in so it it looking for energy, sustenance to keep it going. The Reannimates will eat anything organic they come across – they are like the gojing hoppers when their hive swarm.’

I took a deep breath but the air was still thin and it made me cough. ‘so they will eat people?’ I asked already knowing the answer.

She nodded, ‘People are an easy obvious food source to them,’ she shrugged and went back to monitoring the sleepers. I noticed my lecturer was awake and listening with wide eyed intensity. I patted his leg and he slithered into more of a sitting position – we both had our backs to the wall, our bodies touched down one side – we needed that comfort.

‘Is there anything I need to know about killing them?’

‘Yes depending on how far they were through the metamorphosis – the sickness, they will be stronger. The fur melts into a kind of armour – the metabolic stress of the transformation causes fever, also pain seems to matter less to them.’

‘So why let people with the sickness live? I asked.

‘We’ve never seen numbers like this – there are a few records of cities succumbing to the sickness and then to a horde of the undead but nothing like the numbers we’ve been seeing besides people can live with it for decades and be fine, still productive. It is strange – not like an illness at all – as I said it resembles many other creatures who changes to their grown up form but the loss of self is alarming with us.’

I sighed, ‘so I have a zombie horde that are stronger than me to destroy inorder to save a little band of us who are likely also to turn into zombies?’

‘It’s worse than that,’ I raised my ears at that, ‘this is the biggest horde ever seen, our entire population is down here.’

I shuddered and stare in despair at my lecturer, his features mirrored back my own feelings.

Posted: Monday, January 6th, 2014 @ 9:40 am
Categories: Series, The Cavern.
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