Continued from An Interlude.
Jacob felt like he was walking through cool water. Sounds were muted, distant. Even with his eyes closed, he could sense the light growing dim about him as he proceeded.
He passed through the other end of the portal. Pulling away from it was like pulling free from taffy. The fluid-like substance of the portal snapped backwards with a slapping sound.
Jacob looked around. He was in some sort of damp cave. The only light came from the portal behind him. The portal that was now closing. “Oh, shit.”
He slapped frantically at his pockets. He smiled. He pulled a disposable lighter out of his pocket and flicked it to life. Its small flame did little to dispel the darkness about him. “Can’t see shit.”
“I know! Sure is dark in here.” Jacob hollered, dropping the lighter and cussing.
A flashlight clicked on somewhere in front of him. It flicked up into the face of the old farmhand he had just left behind. “Hiya, toots!”
“Jesus! You scared the shit out of me. What the hell are you doing here?”
“Well fuck you, too!” The old man nearly looked hurt.
“No, I…” Jacob sighed. “You were over there.” He jabbed a thumb behind him. “Now you’re here, but you said you came from here, but…” He rubbed his forehead. “Now my head hurts.”
The old farmhand chuckled. “I came from there, but I didn’t come from here. This here’s different from the other here I came from to go there. See? Simple.”
“Right…” Jacob stared into the darkness. “Why did you follow me? Thought you couldn’t wait to see me gone.”
The old man shrugged. “I was having too much fun slapping your dick around.”
Jacob grimaced, slowly shaking his head. “Maybe it’s best we just go our separate ways now?”
“Aw, come on, now! It’ll be fun. Here!” The farmhand stuck out a gnarled hand. “Name’s Fred. Just Fred.”
Jacob reluctantly took the hand and shook it. “Just Fred. Okayyy… I’m Jacob Decker.”
“Decker? More like Pecker!” Fred broke into a fit of laughter. Jacob ripped his hand away. Fred made a fist and shook it up and down, laughing even harder.
“Hey just… You know what? Fuck you.” Jacob stumbled off into the darkness.
“Aw, come on now, sweetheart! Maybe I’ll let you on the next date.” Fred followed after Jacob, lighting the way.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Coming along! DUH.”
“Great.” Jacob strained to see what lay ahead in the dim light of the flashlight. Water dripped from some unseen source in the distance. The walls were damp, black with mildew.
A click came from behind him, plunging him back into darkness. “What the hell did you turn the light off for?”
“Thought it would be more fun this way.”
Jacob said nothing. He continued forward, shuffling his feet across the gritty stone beneath him. Fred clucked behind him. “You should really be watching where you’re going, you know.”
“I am, now.” Jacob squinted at a faint glowing area in the distance. “I’ll just get my own light source.” He found a patch of fungus glowing a faint blue-green color along the base of one wall. A pair of luminescent mushrooms curled jauntily out of the mass.
“Ah HA!” He crouched down and plucked one of the mushrooms. The light drained out of it almost immediately. “What the… Aw come on!” He tossed it to the ground in frustration.
Fred dropped to one knee beside him. “Well I’d stop glowing if you plucked me, too!” He scooped some of the fungus from the ground and sniffed at it. He shoved a wad up his nose. His eyes began to glow green. “HOO! Ha haaa!”
Jacob looked on in shock and disgust. “What the fuck are you, man?”
The old man plugged one nostril and shot the mold out of the other. The light faded from his eyes. “I’m whatever I need to be, I guess.”
“Whatever.” Jacob grabbed up a handful of mold and held it out in front of him. The substance provided just enough illumination to see a few feet in front of him.
He took a few steps forward before a deep rumbling growl echoed from up ahead. “That… Yeah, that doesn’t sound good.”
“Sounded fine to me!” Fred smiled in the blue-green light.
Jacob shook his head and continued forward. They rounded a gentle corner. Something lay piled on the ground ahead of them. The walls rumbled slightly with another growl from up ahead.
He nervously approached the pile on the floor. The slowly-dimming light fell on the glistening white bones of a skeleton. A broadsword was stuck through the skeleton’s rib cage and into the ground. Its jewel-encrusted guard shimmered eerily in the light.
A dim roar issued down the cave walls, making the bones tremble. Jacob shook the lifeless mold from his hand. He found the handle of the sword and pulled the weapon from its resting place.
“You sure that’s a good idea? What if he ain’t done with it, yet?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s done with it.” Jacob hefted the sword. It felt good in his hand. “Will you please turn on that flashlight?”
“Ho-lee shit! You said the magic word again!” Fred cackled, lighting up his face from below with the flashlight.
Jacob continued on, emboldened by the thirty inches of sharpened steel looming in front of him. They rounded a rather sharp corner. The dim light of a way out greeted them in the distance.
The light was suddenly obscured by something very large, and very dark. Whatever it was let out an earsplitting roar. Jacob heard a now familiar click from behind him, plunging them both into darkness.
“What are you doing! Turn the damn light back on!”
“Maybe it can’t hurt us if we can’t see it?”
The unseen beast took two thunderous steps towards the men. “I really don’t want to test out that theory! Turn it on!”
“Fine! You big crybaby.” Fred mumbled the last under his breath.
The flashlight spilled light over Jacob’s shoulder and onto… “A kitten?” A small black kitten sat quietly where the beast had been only a moment before. It mewed weakly, tilting its head.
“Careful now! It might nibble yer tit!” Fred guffawed.
Jacob glared at Fred, lowering the sword. He cautiously approached the kitten and dropped to one knee in front of it. He held out his free hand. the kitten sniffed it daintily and rubbed its cheek against it.
He smiled and rubbed at the kitten’s head. “Big personality in a little package, I guess.”
“Yep.” Fred sniffed. “That’s me!”
Jacob ignored the old farmhand. He scooped the kitten into his hand and stood up. “What should we call you? How about Shadow?” The kitten purred.
“Shadow! Oh, real original, shithead!” Bright light ringed the kitten’s neck. A dark red collar appeared there. A small metal tag dangled from it, bearing the name “Shadow”. “Oh, well fine. So boring.” Fred stuck his finger in his mouth and rolled his eyes.
“You’re just jealous.” Jacob smiled at the kitten. It crawled painfully up his shirt and onto his shoulder. It settled down, looking at him expectantly. “Alright, then. Let’s see what’s on the other side of this cave.”