[Welcome to Part 1 of a new story that will be told in installments on this blog, with tongue somewhat in cheek and product links awkwardly jammed into the narrative. If you enjoy the story, tip your storyteller by following the Amazon link and purchasing something–I’ll get a small cut. Your purchase doesn’t have to be the featured product; just use the search box to find something else if you wish. Today’s installment brought to you by the all-new Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet]
Tim followed his laughing girlfriend out into the dark sands of Pristine Beach.
He carried a flashlight, but he still stumbled over the sudden dips and little hills as he walked. Monica moved with far more grace and sureness, but then again, she was a dancer and he was simply a … what? B student? He had no extracurriculars to define himself.
I’m just Tim, the regular guy with a funny joke or two, who lucked out with one of the hottest girls in school.
He could live with that definition. “Wait up,” he called, trying to go faster.
Monica stopped in the middle of the night-shrouded beach and clicked off her flashlight. “Ooo … ooo …” she called out. “Tiiiimmm …”
Not funny, he thought to himself, sweeping his flashlight beam until he found her, sitting cross-legged on the sand and blowing him a kiss. “I don’t find ghosts so amusing anymore,” he said, thumping down next to her, “ever since they killed poor Pete.”
“You really think a ghost killed Pete Miller?” Monica said. She pulled a big blanket out of her backpack and laid it on the sand. “When are you going to grow up?”
The remark stung him, probably more than she’d intended. “I’m not the only one who thinks so, Mon. There’s been a lot of weird stuff happening in this town lately–I don’t think ghosts are even the worst of it.”
Monica scoffed. “It’s a good thing you’re good-looking, because T.B.H. I’m not all that impressed with that brain o’ yours.”
“Jerk,” Tim said, shivering. It was cooler out here at night than he’d expected. “If you’re not nice to me, I can always withhold this gigantic dong o’ mine.”
“Um. I doubt it.” Monica removed a large object from her pack. It was an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet. “Once I start playing some mood-setting tunes on this thing, you won’t be able to resist me, sucker.”
“Wow, isn’t that the first Fire tablet with an ‘always listening’ capability?”
“It is. Alexa, play my ‘Sexy Time Playlist.'”
The device responded with an R&B song that had a low, insistent beat. Monica snuggled up against Tim and stroked his chest.
“Hey, and that looks like a full HD 1080p display,” Tim marveled.
Monica nodded. “You bet your ass it is. Now kiss me already.”
In the midst of their passionate embrace, at first he assumed that the shaking sensation he felt was his own body responding to Monica. But then it grew into a fierce rumbling, and he broke away from his girlfriend. Her eyes were wide with fear.
“Tim?” she cried. “What the hell is–”
Just before the ground fell away from them both, he swept his light around and saw strange patterns forming in the sand–a series of long, connected depressions growing rapidly deeper amid a fine sand spray. Then he was tumbling down into darkness, screaming.
Tim splash-landed in muddy water. Coughing, he pulled his face from the pool and fumbled for his flashlight. A glint of moonlight showed him it bobbing in the knee-deep water nearby. He grabbed the light, shaking it until it turned on, and hollered “Monica!”
“Tim? Where are you?”
She sounded nearby–but on the other side of the high wall. It’s just sand, he thought to himself. He attacked the wall with both fists.
It was densely packed and wet, and a lot harder than he expected. He only succeeded in bloodying his fists. He called out to her again, and her reply was immediate and frantic. He took a quick breath, trying to calm himself, and then pounded on the wall again.
“Can’t get through,” he reported breathlessly. “I’ll go around. I’ll walk to my right. If you’re facing the wall now, walk to your left and meet me!”
“Okay,” Monica called back. Tim waded through the water–and soon came to a dead end. Fuck.
“Hold up!” he said. “I’m blocked. Let’s try walking in the other–”
She shrieked before he could finish. His blood ran cold. “Mon?” he cried.
“It’s coming,” she screamed. “I have to run!”
“What’s coming?!” He broke into an awkward run rather than waiting for her to answer, sloshing down the passage. He had to find a way to her. If there was ever a time for Average Tim to become something more, this was it.
The passage turned a corner. He looked to the right, hoping for an opening, but there was none. Maybe farther down. Tim kept hurrying through the water as fast as he could.
There! An entrance on the right. Tim surged through–and found two branching passages in front of him. Depending on the angles they followed, either one could lead him to Monica.
Then she screamed again, and this time the sound was full of agony and despair–followed by a wet tearing and crunching. After that, Monica made no more sound. But the other noises continued.
Oh fuck. Oh no. What’s in here with us? He opened his mouth to call her name again . . . and then, like a coward, found himself staying silent.
It’s going to come for me next.
Tim hesitated at the two passages, and then chose neither, turning back around and wading to the right, hoping desperately to find some way back to the surface of the beach. The light of his flashlight beam flickered. Suddenly he pictured someone–or something–watching carefully for his light to play off the tops of the maze walls.
He kept it trained low, on the water, with one trembling arm, and kept wandering. Down one passage to another passage, left and right and left again, and not a staircase, ladder, or even a rough incline in sight.
Just when he was wondering whether he’d already seen the two passage choices ahead of him, a large, dark bulk appeared from the right. Tim jerked his flashlight in a different direction, but not before the beam had briefly illuminated a gore-stained horn, a patch of wet brown fur, and two staring, smooth red eyes . . .
He hurled himself at the nearest wall, forming his fingers into stiff claws, willing them to catch in the hardpack. His nails bent from the effort, but he found that he could lever himself slightly upward if he strained with all his might.
A snort sounded behind him. Followed by the smacking of vile, rubbery lips.
Tim reached his mangled hands up. One of them found a hard little cubby in the sand wall, and he lifted himself higher, tears streaming down his face from the exertion.
I have to tell them . . . what happened to her–
You left her. She could still be alive, and you left her . . .
He paused, limbs shaking, and then the abominable figure below him grabbed his ankles with leathery and unforgiving hands, pulled Tim down, and tucked into its second meal of the evening.
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