The Race – Chapter 13

Angie dragged Rob and Lara behind her. The shaft ahead curved to the left, cutting her headlamp off before it could go more than ten feet.

Through a clenched jaw and without turning around she told Rob, “Check behind us.”

“Nothing. Nobody. But I can’t see very far.”

“I know. Next straightaway we’ll pick up speed.”

“To where?”

“Away,” she said. “Away.”

Rob carried Lara on his hip, her legs spread around his waist like a toddler. Her head lolled as Rob hefted her higher and tried to ignore the burning muscles in his arm and back. She was silent, which worried him more than the moaning and crying.

“It’s okay,” he told her. “We’re gonna be okay.”

“I know,” she whispered. “He’s waiting for me.”

“No, I’m right here, babe.”

“He smells me.”

Rob slowed. “Who?”

Lara giggled and buried her face in his neck.

Angie pushed ahead. The tunnel bent sharply to the left, then opened into a short straight run. Halfway along the run another tunnel cut through the stone on the right. Beyond that, the mine took a hard left and hid from her beam. She stopped.

Rob caught up. “Angie’s really messed up.”

“No shit. Stop breathing.”

Rob frowned but held his breath. His lungs burned worse than his arm. They both listened.

Angie shook her head. “I don’t hear anything. I say we keep going right.”

Rob gulped air and nodded. The movement sent his headlamp dancing into the entrance of the tunnel on the right. Something red glistened on the far wall.

Angie hadn’t seen it. She stepped forward and Rob lunged, Lara flailing on his hip, and caught the handle on Angie’s pack just as she turned right. He yanked her backward. Angie grunted and tried to catch herself. Her hands scraped against the rough stone walls, leaving pills of white flesh stuck to the jagged points.

Rob pulled her into his chest and pointed over her shoulder at the blood on the far wall. As they both stared a heavy drop formed and fell into the dust below. Rob backed up, carrying Lara and pulling Angie with him. She didn’t resist.

They were almost around the curve and out of sight of the tunnel when Lara started shrieking.

“Here! I’m here! Please!”

Angie tried to clamp a hand over her mouth. “No no, honey, shush!”

“They’re taking me away!”

Rob squeezed her ribcage to force the air out of her lungs.

“Please!”

Angie tried to punch her in the diaphragm but could only hit ribs. She pounded anyway.

Lara didn’t seem to notice. “Somebody. Just help me, please.”

Rob backed around the corner just as something leaned out of the tunnel on the right. Angie pushed him, tried to get him moving faster.

“Angie!”

They stopped.

“Angie, where are you?”

Rob whispered, “Is that Dave?”

“Oh God,” Angie said. “Oh God.”

It came from somewhere in the tunnels they’d just passed through.

“Angie! Where’s Hannah?”

Angie sobbed.

“I want to see her. I miss her.”

“No, no, no.” Angie covered her ears. “I can’t. I can’t see whatever he is. I can’t hear him like this. I can’t think about him like this.”

“Is Lara with you?” The voice was getting louder, closer. “I can smell her.”

Angie turned to her sister. Her face was slack, eyes flat.

“No,” Rob said. “We aren’t leaving her behind.”

Angie started to break again but fought it off. “I know. I wish I hadn’t even thought it. I’m so sorry, honey. But they…they’re following her.”

“Come on.” Rob said. He pushed past her, around the curve and toward the tunnel on the right.

“The blood,” Angie said.

“Whatever it is, it isn’t Dave.”

Rob turned the corner and everything went black.

And then you said: