Chapter 17: The Nest
Anne quickly scanned the cave complex ahead of them. Everything was a dim shade of light, enough to see even remote details. To her left, Lisa was a bright green figure, and as she watched, Lisa’s face became illuminated as she turned to look at Anne in the dark.
“See anything,” she asked, her light green lips parting to reveal a grayish-black depth within.
“No,” Anne said, removing the goggles and handing them over to Lisa, who fumbled to put them on blindly. Anne loosely grabbed her cousin’s arm after she had finished putting the goggles on, and together they walked through the tunnel.
After they had met in the cave several minutes prior, they had come to a small series of tunnels, two of which were significantly wide enough for them to continue down. They had taken the one that had been closest to the center, and realized the ground had sloped downward slightly.
Lisa slowed, trying to see if she had heard what Anne had. “I think…Whatever it was, I can’t hear it anymore.”
They both fastened their pace, both spooked by the noise and the sense of being trapped filling up inside them. After several more moments of silence, Lisa whispered, “I think there’s some sort of opening up ahead, because the tunnel walls just seem to stop.”
Anne knew it wasn’t an opening to the surface, because there was no sign of light. Lisa guided her out of the tunnel, and Anne felt a sudden wave of openness, as if the room around her was very spacious. By what Lisa said, it had become just that.
Lisa observed that they were now in a large, almost circular area of the cave. The top of the cave was high above, and Lisa briefly pondered how deep they were. The exit of the tunnel had placed them on a rise above the base of the cave; the two being connected by a rocky slope.
Near the base of the slope, however, large rocks blocked the view of the rest of the cave. She spotted several openings above and around the walls of the cave: more tunnels undoubtedly leading to different and deeper regions of this underground maze.
Far to the right, one of the tunnel openings was suspended above their level, with its own slope dangerously leading downward, part of which was once more blocked from view by one of the large boulders.
The slope leading into and out of this tunnel grounded near the boulder, just slightly behind a spot in the rocks that Lisa could see would allow access to the other side.
Lisa explained all this to Anne, who pictured it the best she could. “Hey Lisa.”
Anne felt Lisa nudge her hand off her arm, and Anne hear the faint crunch of rock as Lisa took a step away. “Lisa,” she said hurriedly.
“I see them.”
“Yeah, they’re almost out of view, but they’re there.”
“I can’t tell. I think they’re with the other two guys, Singer and Gordon at the big gap leading to the other side.”
“Talking. All I can see is that Simon’s gesturing toward the rocks to Gordon, I think. I can also make out just a bit of Moore. Simon’s wearing a pair of night-visions, and I’m willing to be the others are too.”
Something doesn’t seem right, Anne thought.
“They’re heading away from the rock. I can see them all now.”
“Are they going back?”
“No,” Lisa said. “They’re going between the rocks.”
Anne felt Lisa’s right arm wrap around her left, and Lisa helped her forward. “Watch your step. There’s just a slope here, so I’ll balance you down.”
They both carefully went down the slope, Anne slipping briefly before being caught by Lisa, who pulled her arm tight, preventing her from falling. When they had reached the bottom, Lisa tugged her forward.
Lisa soon stopped moving again. “I can’t really see much. Just a little bit on the other side. Can’t even see them.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’re behind those rocks I mentioned that are blocking the other side. We can get over there, I’ll walk you.”
Before Anne could move, Lisa had once again taken her arm and was hurrying her through the darkness. She brushed up against something hard, and realized that if she had been a few inches closer she would’ve felt a good blow. “Slow down,” she said. “Can’t see, remember?”
“Sorry, but we’re there, anyway.”
“Do you see them now?”
Lisa peered around the boulder that marked one side of the natural entrance to the opposite side of the cave. She saw two of the luminescent-green men at the far side of the cave, following the others down what she believed was another tunnel.
“There’s another tunnel,” she said. “They’re going down it now.”
Anne sighed lowly. “We’re here…I guess it wouldn’t hurt to just follow them.”
Lisa quickly shot out her agreement. “Okay!”
Anne felt Lisa’s arm slide under hers, tugging her forward once again. Lisa observed everything in the visible shade the goggles allowed, seeing that ahead of them was another tunnel mouth, where the other group had gone down.
The opening was fairly large, and sloped downward. When they reached it, Lisa said, “We’re at the other tunnel they went down. It slopes, so watch your step. I’ll try and keep you balanced.”
They silently and slowly made their descent. At the bottom, Lisa stopped.
Anne whispered, “What i—“
Lisa slid her hand over Anne’s mouth before pulling her hastily away. There was a rise in the ground behind a boulder off to the left that was at the edge of the area they had entered, and Lisa hurriedly pushed Anne behind it. Anne felt Lisa’s lips lightly brushing against her ear as Lisa spoke in an amazingly quiet voice, “Don’t do anything.”
Anne’s pulse was slowly starting to increase. Something wasn’t right.
In fact, Anne was right. Lisa hadn’t told her what she’d seen, and she didn’t plan to until she was able to see more.
When they had reached the bottom of the tunnel, Lisa hadn’t been able to observe the area, instead focusing on the group of men they had followed. They had made their way away from the tunnel, toward the center of the cave in a V-pattern, with Fox in the lead, and the ground they were on was somewhat lower than that which Lisa and Anne were on, allowing her to view what was happening from a slightly elevated angle.
She had shoved Anne behind the boulder to the left in the hopes of not being seen, and, by the looks of it, it had worked.
Lisa moved away from Anne, whose back was against the boulder, and looked around it for a better view.
The men had entered an area surrounded and made up of numerous mounds. Near the center was an even larger mound, and the men appeared to be making their way toward it.
But neither the men nor the mounds were holding Lisa’s attention.
Nor was it Anne, who was grabbing the ground on her right, trying to find Lisa’s foot.
Countless green-shaded figures had appeared in her vision when they had come out of the tunnel, and now with a better view, she could see there were more than she had originally thought.
Many of them were large: hissing and snarling shapes that moved in closer to the group, seemingly preparing some sort of strike, but keeping their distance. Others were small, undoubtedly juveniles, that stayed with their parents, or flitted around the mounds only to get snarled at by a larger adult.
The men had made their way into a nest, and Lisa’s heart sank, realizing that she had been wrong all along.
These were Velociraptors, and they didn’t seem too happy about the group that had entered their nest.
Anne had been right.
All along…I should’ve listened…I’m sorry Anne, I’m so sorry…
Lisa thought she must’ve made some kind of startled noise, because Anne whispered, “What’s wrong?”
It took a second for Lisa to answer. “You were right.”
She heard Anne barely puff out the beginnings of speech, and looked over, seeing Anne illuminated green with her mouth open, apparently in shock.
The men were now close to the central mound. She could see Fox holding something in his hand, keeping it pointed away from himself.
She saw a small green figure, one of the young raptors, appear from behind one of the mounds to the left of the men. David and the man she knew only as Gordon, both spun, shocked as the raptor that had been hiding suddenly squeaked aloud, seeing it had been spotted by the invaders.
Gordon’s rifle went off as he unloaded a quick two seconds of ammunition into the spot where the raptor had been. It darted off, disappearing into the crowd of adult raptors that stood only feet away, still keeping their distance.
Lisa heard Anne say something, noticeably startled, but heard Fox curse on the heels of the gunfire. He had quick turned around to see what was going on, and Lisa saw the raptors on all sides quickly shake their heads, as if getting out of some sort of daze, before moving in on the intruders.
Moore, Gordon, and the other man, Howard Singer, turned their weapons toward the approaching pack. Singer and Moore were on the right side of the V-shape the men had made, with Gordon and David pointing in the opposite direction.
One of the raptors rushed forward, and Moore turned, preparing to fire his assault rifle.
Lisa cringed, waiting for the sound of gunfire, screams, and shouts, but none of it came. Instead, a loud, startling beep shot through the air, lasting for several brief moments before becoming quiet once more. The raptors had dropped down, annoyed by the noise and realizing they were too close, but the beeping was cut short by Lisa’s scream of surprise.
She had been caught off-guard by the sudden beep, and had been unable to hold her outburst of shock. All five men turned back, trying to find the source of the scream. One of the men shouted something, and Fox turned.
A raptor had shot out from around the center mound, approaching Fox. Moore’s assault rifle erupted as he shot toward the snarling animal, which came within inches of Fox before ducking away, momentarily startled.
Fox toppled backward, trying to get away from the raptor, and bumped into Gordon before tripping and hitting the ground. The object in his hand hit the ground and quickly disappeared among the frenzy of the human legs as they tightened together.
The raptors had instantly begun their attack again, their snarls and shrieks blocked out by the sound of gunfire echoing through the cave.
Gordon’s shots had been knocked off balance by Fox, and he hurriedly regained himself, slightly in front of David, who held up his handgun, not firing, his head slightly angled. She could see the glint of his own goggles as he moved his head, scanning the edges of the cave.
The men were easily outnumbered, and it had taken only seconds before the raptors had come upon them. Moore dropped a raptor that lashed out at him, stepping back and almost stepping on Fox.
Howard Singer, who was now closest to the central mound, was letting off short bursts of fire. To Lisa, it seemed that they were trying to bring down every raptor, moving from one to the other before they could actually hit them, scaring them off instead despite the effort.
Fox got up onto his knees, searching the ground between the four other men. Gordon stepped backward, his heel pressing against Fox’s knee, and stopped firing.
One of the raptors took advantage with frightening speed.
The raptor had veered in-between two of the mounds, Gordon’s bullets hitting a mound in front of it as it had turned. When Gordon had stopped firing, it turned in toward its victim, and leaped up onto a nearby mound, where it propelled off, raising its sickle-like claws high into the air.
Gordon began to scream as he saw the animal poised in the air nearby, and Lisa could see its features frighteningly in the green light. Its claws crashed into Gordon’s chest, forcing him to drop his assault rifle as he was knocked backward.
Fox rolled over, pulling his legs out from under the fallen man before he landed. She could see the back of Fox’s head as he stared at the raptor only a few feet away that was tearing into his comrade’s body. Gordon’s screams continued to rip through the cave as the gunfire stopped, letting the raptors know it was time to once more move in.
Moore grabbed Fox, pulling him upward as they both stared. Gordon frantically tried to grab the raptor’s head, which had begun to bury itself into his exposed insides. It tugged on something, and Lisa felt the sudden urge to vomit, but was unable to move.
Howard Singer, standing on the opposite side of the raptor and its living meal had stopped to watch the event in horror. Moore and Fox turned, running from the fray as a raptor landed on the ground between them and David.
For a brief moment, they had both stopped several yards away amidst the mounds, but Lisa was still engrossed in what was occurring beyond them to take much notice. But soon they were running back toward her, and yet she was still unable to move or say anything to get their attention.
Singer had snapped out of his trance to avoid another raptor, before brushing past Gordon’s screaming head to fire at the raptor behind David.
It hissed as its body jerked, its leg bending oddly. It fell forward, trying to balance itself as it crashed into one of the mounds. She saw the mound crumble, sending a small flurry of large rocks rolling.
Soon, David and Singer were at the edge of the mounds, closely tailed by raptors.
Anne had listened to Lisa’s words as they had floated out of her mouth: “You were right.”
Her heart had immediately dropped down to the pit of her stomach, and she tried to say something, anything. If only Lisa had listened to her. I was right. If she had only paid attention to me instead of bumbling off trying to disprove me!
Her thoughts died down almost immediately after she realized what danger Lisa had just gotten them into. She tried to formulate ideas and outcomes, worrying about what could and would soon happen.
But before she was able to speak again, she heard the momentary sound of gunfire. “What happened? This is all wrong.”
Lisa had never bothered returning a reply, but within the frame of several seconds after the gunfire, a loud beep filled the darkness around her, and her cousin had screamed. Anne cringed, waiting for something to happen.
When it did, it wasn’t anything like she had been hoping for.
Gunfire had gone off, continuing on until bloodcurdling screams began to silence it all. Someone had been downed, she knew it, and they were most likely going to have to suffer a death that was unimaginably painful and unbearable. Alive, too, by the sounds of it.
Her back was against a boulder, and she knew that the others were on the opposite side somewhere. Were they close enough for the raptors to spot her and Lisa?
Oh God, she thought. “Lisa, let’s go.”
The gunfire had now completely stopped, filled by the repetitive hissing and snarling, entwined with the screaming of one of the men. Off to the left she heard the crunch of rocks as someone ran past nearby, most likely back into the tunnel.
“Lisa, I can’t see in the dark! Help me! We need to go!”
She reached out, trying to find her cousin, and was snagged under the arm by someone, who forcefully pulled her onto her feet. “Come on,” the person said. It was male.
Lisa watched as David and Singer came up the slope toward the tunnel, several feet away from the boulder. Lisa waved her arms, worried that noise would somehow make the situation worse.
Singer had turned around, firing at the several adult raptors who had decided to follow in pursuit, and David came around the other side of the boulder, looking down on Anne. He quickly hoisted her up, saying, “Come on,” before pulling her toward the tunnel leading back to the other area of the cave.
Anne’s face was contorted in confusion, and soon she was gone into the tunnel with David. She bolted forward, brushing close to Singer who turned and began to run with her up the tunnel. Ahead, she could see David’s back as he helped Anne forward.
Singer cursed, and she looked back to see the raptors closing in with unbelievable speed. They had quickly made it to the end of the tunnel into the conjoining cave, when Singer turned, fumbling with his rifle, toward the raptors.
He tried to continue backward, and slipped. His arms dropped the gun, which swung on its strap to pull him down as he spun around in the direction they had been going. He outstretched his arms, landing on one knee with his palms dug into the rocks and shouted.
He scrambled up, reaching for any sort of support, and Lisa grabbed his wrist, trying to help. One of the raptors shrieked, and her grip loosened as she looked over his shoulder.
Anne felt the man’s hands help her up the tunnel, and soon they had made it back onto level ground. “I can’t see in the dark!”
“I know,” he said. “I’ll try and get you out, just hurry with me.”
She began to jog at a good pace, guided by the unseen man. As they briefly slowed, and their path curved around a boulder to the right, Anne asked, “Where’s Lisa? Is she with us?”
“She’s right beh—“
Suddenly, from somewhere in the abyssal darkness that had completely engulfed her, Anne heard the sound of her cousin’s scream.