Grizzly Peakes, Part Two
We moved on from that chain, stepping underneath a canopy of others that hung in odd patterns from the stonework perhaps a foot from the ceiling. Yuki Led the way, going on and on about how exciting the place was. Me? I was getting a creepy vibe from the tunnel as we walked, my light sweeping over the cobweb-strewn ground. In the dust and grime of the forgotten structure, our footprints were the only ones that I could see. The further in we walked, slowly descending a set of stairs that crunched beneath our footfalls, the more I felt as if we were going into some alien world.
The stairs spiraled around a stone column covered in old writing covered in stretched over spider webs and sealed by layers of dust. Wiping away with a furious scrubbing, I’d winced as I noted a dozen spiders crawling out from a pocket of webbing I’d disturbed. Their fat brown bodies and long, spindly legs made me worry for our safety, as I had no desire to get bitten by a nasty spider in the dark recesses of some abandoned… whatever this place was. Looking at the writing, I raised an eyebrow.
“Well?” Yuki had asked from behind me, hopping from foot-to-foot, “what does it say?”
“We know that we are all children of God, and the entire world is under control of the evil one…” I’d read, trailing off as I studied an image of an eagle clutching a serpent over a mountain. “Odd, that has to be a Bible verse, doesn’t it?”
“Sounds like one,” Yuki had agreed. “Makes you wonder about this place even more I bet, don’t it?”
“Yeah,” I’d said, shaking my head. “Let’s keep moving. There are spiders everywhere, so keep your eyes open for stray webs. Don’t want you getting bit.”
“I’d just let you suck out the venom,” she’d said, turning her head to wink at me.
I’d slapped her ass at that point, and we’d continued in our exploration. The stairs let out into an open room that I would have mistook for a cavern had it not been for the worked walls behind us, and the tiled flooring beneath our feet. Looking at the musty white stone flecked with sparkling bits of gold, I cursed beneath my breath. Yuki noticed and asked me what was wrong.
“The floor is covered in marble tile. Marble Yuki. That means it was dug up from somewhere far away and brought here to be laid down. The off chance that a ragtag group of out-of-place settlers paired with natives did this is now out of the running. This was planned, extensively.” I’d explained, pointing my light up when I heard the clinking of metal-on-metal dancing from high above. “And to top it off, the ceiling is out of our lights range, and has chains hanging from it.”
Yuki had spun her light to look as well and whistled. “Would you look at that one? The one with the big hook?”
“Yeah, it has an old basket hanging from it. Looks like it broke a while ago though.” I’d replied, stepping forward to look for what could have fallen from the ceiling. “Help me look around, will you?”
We stalked up, sweeping the area with our lights, until looming shadows belched forth from the darkness, their dark iron forms revealing an anvil, a forge, a broken barrel beside a worktable heavy with ancient blacksmithing tools and wood rot. To the side of the table were several hundred ingots, all dusty and a mussed with detritus, but still gleaming with the golden sheen that held through against the light of our phone. Yuki had stopped in her tracks and seemed to be trying to reclaim her ability to speak.
“Baby?” I’d asked, bemused. “You okay?”
“G-G-Gold! So much of it!” She’d stuttered. “Imagine what it’s worth?”
“Imagine how hard it would be to get down from here,” I had to remind her. “We’re just two people, with canvas backpacks already loaded with survival gear that we need. Take some photos of it and keep it in mind to tell our grandkids one day.”
“Surely one bar won’t be too much… would it?” Yuki had asked after a few seconds, but I’d moved on to the forge to look at the dead metal lying within the furnace. A mixture of different slag and refuse that needed to be cleaned out, if someone were to work this thing again. Turning to look at the worktable, I remember my throat constricting at the sight of what sat behind a large hammer which now that I can look back at it was obviously tossed there in haste.
A plate of tarnished silver with petrified jerked meat lying next to what must have been a piece of bread, if the crumbs were any sign. The dust had settled over the plate and left it and a small cup still to sit for who knows how long, undisturbed. I reached out to pick up the cup and looked inside. Crystallized sugars coated the inside with a trace of murky fluid at the bottom, the scent of weak wine filling my nose as I leaned in close to inhale.
“Someone left here quickly,” I said, looking back to Yuki as she stood up, flipping her phone back into light mode. “And I mean fast. They left their meal here and didn’t come back. The forge has a lot of leftover trash metals in it. It’s like he was at the end of his shift and he heard something…”
“Is it that strange?” Yuki asked, shining her light over the coagulated metal, cooled to a messy block in the forge.
I shook my head. “Straining the slag out is the only way to insure you get quality metals, so it’s imperative that a blacksmith do it as often as possible.”
“Where did you learn that?” Yuki had asked me.
“I watched a show on the History channel, actually.”
“That makes sense,” she’d mused.
I’d walked over to one wall to pick up a half-finished sword, the cross-guard incomplete leaving a bare handle wrapped in rotten leather. The iron was covered in dust, but seemed to be in decent enough condition, and I remember giving it a few experimental swings in the room. I jumped as I heard a rattling of chains from above and spun my light up to look towards the ceiling but saw nothing but darkness and swaying metal links. Yuki was busy studying some intricate handles set aside on a workbench and hadn’t seemed to notice. So I wrote it off as my own paranoia getting the better of me.
“Come on, let’s explore further,” I’d said, tossing the sword to the ground with a clatter that echoed across the halls. Yuki had looked up and frowned, but chosen to follow me to an open doorway, the hinges broken inward with bits of rotten wood attached to them that swayed softly in an unseen breeze.
Walking through the narrow passage, we entered a massive hall that held many workstations, forges of various sizes with pipes leading from a greed vat that had a coal-burning stove beneath it that had seen better days. The clinking of chains continued in this room, but that was the least of my concerns as I spied a broken-down skeleton, face down in the marble's dust, a sword clutched in its hand with a metal shield strapped to the forearm of the other. It had broken bones in many places, with the ancient bones hollow from the vantage point that the light showed from Yuki’s phone.
She’d gasped and covered her mouth as she took in the figure. I’d looked over the bones, noting deep lacerations across the surface of the age-old calcium, as if something with claws had chewed on the bones for sustenance after slaying the person. I noted that the sword bore that same black gunk that we found on the chain in the complex's front, though this substance was far more prevalent than what’d been on the chain.
Stepping forward, I padded closer to the skeleton to look at it closer, only to find four more like it, each bearing similar injuries with similar swords bearing the same crusted black sludge. Hollowed bones, bleached white calcium deposits, and polished surfaces marked the dead, as if whatever had slain them had cleaned them meticulously. Following the trail of bodies, I found more and more piled up, some turned over onto their backs with blank sockets turned skyward with cracked skulls, scraped bones with pierced pieces, hollow ribs and legs bones resting to the side of the hips of the bodies.
All the bodies bore a weapon, morning stars or long swords caked in burnt black crust. Links of chain were scattered around the bodies, crispy coils of the blackened goo, leaving me to wonder what had caused so many bodies. The bodies all bore similar wound; broken bones, with hollowed out bones and scrapes along the drained-out calcium. That all the victims look as if they’d died of in combat while also fleeing had made me wonder what they were running from, and where exactly they were running towards.
Yuki took a few photos of the dozen bodies, the flash of her camera dazzling me for a moment. I turned and told her not to do that just as I heard the clinking of chains wrestling through the air.
“Yuki?” I said, turning to look at her with a question hanging off my tongue that died in a dried whisper.
She was standing stock still, staring at the bones, with eight chains sliding out of the darkness like sinister tentacles of some vile squid around her, barbed bits pointed inward with jagged hooks. I tried to find my voice, but couldn’t, as I stared at the chains slowly easing themselves around her oblivious form, her eyes darting up to look at me.
“What?” She’d said, the last words she said to me as the chains all whipped in around her, sinking into her flesh and coiling around her. One arm jutted out with her camera phone and one leg dangling free. I stared in morbid fascination as they pulled her up into the darkness, the light of her phone showing a spiderweb of chains interconnected amidst the hanging lengths. The light flashed over a pockmarked vermillion hide, pierced with great iron rings that chains writhed from supported by powerful arms and a legless frame, before the light went dark.
I screamed, turning to run away from the monster as best I could. Sadly, in my recollection I chose the path of the damned and stumbled across the bodies of the citizens of the complex, all broken apart and drained of marrow. Some had made a stand in a side chamber, but the door had given way to what looked like hundreds of heavy blows, rendering the reinforced wood to rotten pulp.
I raced to the back of the chamber where bookcases sat full of ancient books. Thinking of what they may hold, I pulled one off the shelf and turned to make a run for it back to the entrance of the complex. I ducked down to grab a sword, prying it from the death grip of a former soldier. Armed with a heavy iron blade, I listened for the rattling of chains, only to hear the flensing of skin and the whimpering of my girlfriend, the spatter of blood on stone and the gentle plopping of organ meat striking the ground.
As I was close to entering the smaller chamber, a chain lashed out and wrapped around my ankle, the barbs sinking in deep enough to cut into tendon, ripping the meat from my bones as I pulled my leg free to rid myself of the offending length. I could hear other chains whizzing through the air towards me, and I swung the sword in a high arc to batter them away.
I was successful, severing several chains at the foot-long length, showering me with scalding oil that burned into my skin. Screaming, I swung the sword in a continued blow down into the chain wrapped around my ankle, severing the chain. The link wriggled about in an obscene fashion, oil flying out from the severed links.
Turning, blood dribbling down my ankle, I ran down the tunnel as I heard the creature crawl along the ceiling, hissing in a horrid parody of words that made little sense. I can’t really recall what it said, just that it made me dizzy and that I was stumbling down the tunnel from the low buzzing drone it gave off as it scaled the ceiling. I reached up and grabbed one chain to steady myself, before moving forward as my stomach heaved in my body, threatening to spill past my lips.
I made it into the long tunnel and turned my light back for the briefest second to see if the beast was following me with my phone light. I couldn’t see the creature, yet I could see the chains spreading out like strands of webbing to pull the body forward as it hissed and bubbled. Great links clattered like spider legs, reaching forward and latching into the crevices of the stone to pull the shadowed figure forward. The few glimpses of the body I saw showed the lower body, a ragged length of torn flesh of bloodless meat that looked as if they had pulled apart the body in a vicious accident.
The skin was burned and red, scarred beyond recognition, and muscled. I never saw more than its lower stomach, and it seemed to prefer that. I just continued parrying lengths of chain when they would whiz past me to wrap around me. With every slice of the metal lengths, the creature let loose an unholy screech, one that made my ears bleed and reverberated down the halls of the complex. Each time it showered me with boiling oil, the scalding fluid scaring me through my clothes despite the thick covering designed for climbing in the mountains.
I redoubled my efforts and began sprinting as best I could, limping on my injured leg the entire time. I could feel the whiffs of the chain passing over my neck, the whizzing of the metal passing overhead as it grew ever closer. I didn’t want to face this thing and join the poor men and women who’d done whatever they’d done to rouse its anger in the first place, so I pushed through the pain and ran through the double doors to the edge of the mountains, almost stumbling over the edge of the entrance and off the edge of the mountain and off into the darkness that seemed to have to swallow the sky while Yuki and I had been exploring the cursed ruins.
Turning back, I stared into the roiling coils of chains as they hid behind the open gates, twin feral yellow eyes peering out at me from behind a silhouette of a bald head. It didn’t speak, instead tossing out a piece of something that cracked on the stone for me to look over. Now I don’t know why I trusted that it couldn’t leave the sepulcher it was in, but I did. As I looked at the item between us, the chains looped out and grabbed the handles to the great doors and pulled on them, slowly yanking them closed until the creaking iron hinges clicked in a sign of the seal once more closing off the complex.
And that saved my life. Because I could recover the object, a bloodstained and cracked cell phone that’d been Yuki’s, to turn it over to the police to convince them I didn’t kill her in the mountains. They ruled it as a bear attack… stupid, I know, but what else would they say? Some tale of monstrous entities in hidden in the mountains. That’d just send monster hunters in droves to try to find the complex, more people to feed the evil that lurked in the temple that hid in Grizzly Peak.
But I know the truth. I know what lies in the cliff of the Grizzly Peak, hidden behind a select covering of shale. And I haven’t spoken about this in so long that I doubt I ever will again. Every time I close my eyes, I see those yellow eyes, and every time I go to sleep, I hear the tearing of Yuki’s flesh.
It’s too much to bear, and I fear I don’t have long for this world. But you needn’t concern yourself with that. Just enjoy your drink and think before you try climbing those mountains. Author's Note: Been a while, huh?