Ichabod 'Icky' Feep presents: The Moon and the Men Beneath

Published on 16 May 2024 at 23:12

The Moon was the first thing I saw when I opened my blurry eyes. It was enormous, the biggest I had ever seen it. It was a strong, yet unhealthy looking yellow color. Striking and, at the same time, vacant. The way that a cats eyes look right before you finish running the rest of it over beneath your truck tire.

 

I sat up, a painful effort. My neck burned and popped with resistance, a sure sign of whiplash. My back muscles ached and screamed at me as I struggled to a seated position, all kinds of rocks and brambles and other sharp detritus clung, clawed and stabbed at me. I didn’t know how long I had lain there. According to how my body was feeling, it was too long.

 

Getting from my seated position to a standing one was just as painful, but soon enough I was on my feet and taking a few wobbly steps. As I paced lopsidedly, the aches and pains and needle-pricks of tingles began to leave my recently roused limbs.

 

From behind me, I heard a snap and a crack. I was sure it was someone walking over twigs, but damned if it didn’t also sound like that cat I had run over. I whirled around as quickly as my feeble body allowed and came to face to face with a stranger.

 

Well, actually it was more like face to fat gut, as the mountainous man who just stepped out from behind a tree seemed to have a midsection as round and heavy as a redwood stump. He peered down at me with haggard but wily eyes. He was at least two full feet taller than me. At least three times as thick too. He blinked slow amber eyes. When he spoke, his voice was a low rumble, like a giant who was freshly awakened from a deep sleep.

 

“So, Tiny, any idea where we are?”

 

I scowled up at him, answering without thinking. “No, Fats, I don’t know where we are, but I don’t think there’s a buffet.” As soon as my words passed my lips, I cringed, expecting to receive a sock in the mouth. Instead, the lumbering man chuckled and stepped forward, clapping a hand the size of a baseball glove on my shoulder. Then he pointed in a random direction and said, “You take lead.”

 

Not knowing what else to do, I did as I was told. There wasn’t much conversation as we walked. I was glad, as I wasn’t sure I had much to say. I didn’t know where I was. I woke up on a grass strewn acclivity and had no idea how long I was out for. Last I remembered, and this was hazy at best, I had been at the bar drinking. I don’t know what day that was. I don’t know what day it is now. I don’t usually know that type of thing anyway.

 

As the jaundiced light of the Moon filtered in through the twisted limbs and leaves above, we walk on. Into or out of our situation, I had no idea. We walked on in silence. We walked on as the Moon waxed and waned. We walked until we stopped.

 

Our walk ended when we came to a sheer rock face. A little ways to the right, the black mouth of a cave gaped at me. It was a crooked grin that beckoned to me and chilled me to the bone. I shivered as I turned, looking up at my large companion. I tilted my head as I craned my neck to smile up at him, crooked as the entrance to our next destination. “You take lead this time,” I told him.

 

“No.”

 

“No? What do you mean, no?”

 

“No. N. O. Which part you no understand?”

 

The lumbering moron crossed his massive arms and smirked at me. It pissed me right off.

 

“Don’t smirk at me just cuz you finally knew how to spell something. Look at the size of that opening? Maybe I can get in but I’m not so sure about you, Fats. That’s why you need to go first. If you go second and get stuck, I’ll be corked! I’ll never get out.”

 

The big man put a mammoth hand on my shoulder again. It was the size of a frying pan. This time, he squeezed until I yelped out in pain. He eased up when I relented and said okay. He smiled again without mirth. “After you, Tiny.”

 

I squeezed my way in. With much effort and grunting, my big companion shouldered his way through the narrow entrance as well. I led and he followed until we got to a passage where the walls widened enough that he was able to stop grunting and scraping his shoulders against rough rock with every staggering step.

 

The floor of this passage was soft, damp clay and pebbles softening our footsteps. The walls enclosing us in were slimy with moss, which was so bright green that it was practically luminescent. The way forward became slick, sloping downward and becoming uneven with the appearance of moist stalagmites underfoot.

 

The walls began to close in again. There was movement on the walls as well. Things were crawling and skittering and watching. Waiting.

 

“Let’s go back, there’s gotta be another way. Something we missed outside.” I got a hard push instead. “No,” said the fat jerk behind me. “We go on,” he said loudly, his low voice reverberating off the limestone walls.

 

I wanted to fight him but I had neither the space nor the strength to do it. So I pushed on.

 

The way forward continued to get worse. Limp, shadowy things hung on the wet ceiling, choosing the most unexpected times to drop upon our bare necks. The clammy floor seemed alive with swift, writhing movement. The ceiling lowered and caused me to hunch down uncomfortably. The big man behind me was practically forced to crawl in the moving muck on his massive hands and knees. We journeyed on in this way until I was almost at my breaking point. So many things were dropping and pressing and clawing and licking at me, the walls were ready to compress me down to nothing. All at once I knew exactly how that stupid fucking cat really felt. Then, suddenly, relief.

 

The passage turned abruptly, transforming in the space of a few inches from a crushing crawlspace to an expansive oasis in comparison. I blindly felt my way forward, no longer feeling walls around me but unable to see even a centimeter before my nose in this oppressive and dank darkness. I slipped, tumbled over and fell for a couple rotations. When I got back to my feet, I spotted off to my left a small spot of yellow light.

 

I carefully made my way over to it, picking my way past all sorts of invisible obstacles until I saw it was a hole in the floor. I got on my hands and knees and peeked through it, a spy at a keyhole. It wasn’t the Moon, no, that would have filtered in from above. There was something aglow, distant, deep beneath us. Before I could determine any more, my hulking partner violated my sense of personal space, the fat nosy bastard, and came up to peek over my shoulder. The cracked cave floor beneath our feet gave way and suddenly we were in a free fall.

 

We fell as a ball of tangled men and strangled cries. The traitorous cave floor fell with us, pelting us with small rocks and large hunks of stone. Twirling, tumbling through darkness, our shared swirling mass of flesh and stone fell for what felt like an eternity. Eventually we hit bottom.

 

The dust and debris settled around us. Eventually the pain subsided and our wits came back enough that we were able to sit up and inspect our new situation.

 

The light I had seen from above was brighter now, closer and warm, albeit shrouded by clouds of still settling dust. It was a fire.

 

The small fire sat smoldering in a near corner, the smoke of it rising up and filtering out an enormous crack above. Near the fire there was a small bundle of sticks. I saw a crude fork and spoon that were made from some kind of a bone, which sat inside of a misshapen bowl, most likely made of clay clawed from the walls. In the far corner there appeared to be an attempt at a bed. A rumpled pile of hemlock boughs were woven into the thinnest blanket I had ever seen, which in turn lay upon raked earth and moss.

 

Behind us came a sound that was halfway between a gasp and a growl. It was what I imagined it would sound like if I had run over a bobcat instead of my neighbors cat. We turned as one and let out gasps of our own.

 

A lurid yellow light danced from three burning candles which hung from a cross made of tied sticks. The flickering flames were held in the quivering hand of a what appeared to be a small man, even smaller than myself. Shriveled was more the word for it. He was dried out and shriveled like a dead leaf. The shaking yellow fingers on his free hand clutched at the loosely hanging remains of a checkered shirt. He wore nothing else, save for a beard and boots. His eyes, foggy and milky white, glinted in the candle light.

 

My pudgy compatriot was never one for words and I found myself too frightened, too tired, too a lot of things, and it all kept me from speaking either. My tongue was tied, dried out and stuck. The little man didn’t speak either. His white eyes found my wide ones and he kept his glare on me. His scrutiny was so intense it felt like it burned.

 

When he finally spoke, it was with a voice that had grown to imitate its surroundings. It was cold, solemn, damp.

 

“He is not your friend,” the caveman said. It wasn’t clear which of us he was referring to. The man then tilted his head back and barked out a peal of inhuman laughter. It sounded like the rattling of bones in a tin box.

 

His alabaster eyes met mine and burned one more time. The shriveled man then ran. He howled like a madman, scooping up something we couldn’t see in his fist and then dashing off towards the far corner. He stopped just inches from the wall.

 

“This is where I learned to be afraid of the dark,” he said, throwing the flaming candles towards us. My hands flew instinctively in front of my face, but there was no need. My big friend caught the candles before they hit the ground and extinguished. A small smattering of burning wax lit upon us but we hardly noticed. We were mystified. The crooked man was gone.

 

We went over to inspect the corner he was just occupying. The thinnest of cracks hid behind a sharp protuberance in the wall. Surely no man could squeeze through there. Although, I suppose, if he had been starved…

 

We made a quick inspection of the rest of the space. It didn’t take long, as we could only walk about eight or nine paces in any direction before running out of room. When I examined the man’s meager possessions closer, I was filled with a knowing dread. The bowl wasn’t made of clay as I had first thought. No, it was like the fork and spoon. It was bone. More than bone, it was a human skull. One that looked like it hadn't met a kind end. It was bashed into the shape of trash, of a crumpled origami screwup. No longer fit to hold a man’s brain and soul, no, but maybe good to hold a bit of mineral water. Maybe some worm stew.

 

Light from the candles cast a large shadow over me as I hunched over the bowl. The shadow of my companion. The shadow was larger, rounder, fuller than even he. I tried to keep suspicion from my mind and a shiver from my spine as I thought about the little man’s words.

 

He is not your friend.

 

I looked at the bowl. I wondered if it was ever considered a friend.

 

END

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Comments

Leah
2 months ago

another good one. i like the cover its old school pulp

Bill
2 months ago

Great story Icky

Cheech
a month ago

read on kindle. love it. old school weirdo pulp

Stoney
a month ago

i had a bowl for a friend once lol

Rebecca
25 days ago

This is why I avoid caves lol

Rashad
18 days ago

Creepy