Blood, Sweat, & Fear Ch. 06bywildsweetone©
The rumbling had begun again. The ground shook so hard that without handholds we fell to the floor. The lights dimmed then went out. The cave became menacingly dark. I let Smyth go and covered my ears with my hands. The rumbling noise inside the cave echoed loudly. It seemed that the rumbling was becoming more frequent. Two lots of it in less than an hour had me worried. At last the rumbling and shaking stopped. I stood shakily then and helped Smyth to her feet, stumbling a little in the darkness.
The bright flare of light from the match he lit showed every crevice on his face. The deep creases at the corner of his eyes served to highlight the startling blueness of his pupils as he speared me to the spot with them. His short oily black hair stood straight up on the top of his head. It looked as if he’d awoken that way and not bothered to comb it into any style. He’d run his fingers in an agitated manner through it so many times that this was his normal look.
What was most surprising was the indentation that ran from his left eye down over his cheek to the corner of his mouth. The scar was an old one and I hadn’t noticed it before. It must have been the match light catching the scar at a certain angle. I could only guess at the reason for it being there. I didn’t like the guesses I was coming up with either.
“Miles! I’m so glad to see you here. Please help me with Lorris. We need to get out of this cave quickly.” I looked expectantly at him.
His manner was not that of a concerned friend. He stood back, staring at us both. The scrutiny felt very odd and my body had begun to tingle with uncertainty.
“Miles?” It was then that I noticed the other dark figures surrounding us. Several men stood close, one had a hold on Smyth’s other arm.
“You’re not going anywhere Bess. You will do as you are told and you will be quiet while you are here, or you’ll find yourself in a worse condition than this silly bitch.” He waved his palm towards Lorris.
Smyth, I had noticed, had gone deathly white and very quiet. Her hand gripping mine squeezed so tight my fingers became numb. Her body as it lent against mine was shaking. Absently I put one arm around her shoulders and held her close.
“Miles, what’s going on? Why are you behaving like this?” I couldn’t figure out what he was playing at. I knew there was more to him than he let on, but I was still a little in the dark as to what exactly he was up to.
“You will both follow me and you will follow me quietly. Any noise and you will be tied and gagged.” He turned and walked through the tunnel.
Well, that was plain speaking at least. I decided it was prudent to just follow along with his lead for the meantime. Eventually we’d discover what was in store for us. I was pushed forward roughly. I glanced behind noticing all he wore was a loincloth, but that did nothing to hide the dark masculine body with its rippling muscles. His muscles glistened and it was then that I realised the lights were beginning to glow again.
I was pushed hard in the centre of my back. I fell forward and lost my grip on Smyth. She moaned in pain as she fell to the floor.
“Get up!” Miles demanded angrily.
“She fell. She needs help to walk.” I bent down and helped her up. Using my arm for support, we continued through the tunnel.
The tunnel had a higher roof than the storeroom. The walls were slippery and slimy and pools of water gathered on the uneven surface of the rocky floor. We walked between the rail tracks moving to the side of them whenever our guards poked and prodded us out of the way. I didn’t have long to wait to see a couple of men struggle to push a fully laden crate on wheels towards the storeroom. Whatever was inside the crate, was concealed with a large green canvas cover. The storeroom we left behind had been full of new wooden crates. I wondered now what had been stored inside them.
There were odd-shaped rooms that opened off to the sides of the main tunnel. They were not well lit. Some of them looked similar to the original storeroom. Others were set up like dormitories and I shuddered when I thought of spending a night deep inside the mountain.
After what felt like half an hour of shuffled walking, Miles stopped beside the entrance to an empty room.
“Leave them in here. Guard them until I get back.” With that, he strode off with purpose further along the tunnel.
The guards shoved us unceremoniously into the room. The single light lit up what had to be the most depressing looking room I’d ever been in. It wasn’t a totally empty room. There were a couple of camp stretcher beds set up in one corner. A small wooden table with two rickety looking chairs stood in the centre of the room directly under the bare light bulb. A deck of well-used cards sat on the tabletop.
I half carried Smyth over to one of the beds. She slumped down; wrapped her arms around her belly, then lay still.
The guards stayed outside the room. There was no door, simply an opening straight into the tunnel. I pulled out a chair and sat gratefully on it. My body felt bruised and battered from the fall out of the waterfall tunnel down onto the hard rock floor of the storeroom. A lump on my left leg showed the early signs of a nasty bruise, but by prodding it gently, I didn’t think anything was broken.
As I rested, I had a few minutes to gather my thoughts; I wondered what Miles was up to. Obviously, he had known about the tunnel system, he certainly seemed to fit right in amongst the few people we’d seen. More obviously he was their boss; they didn’t show any hesitation in following his orders. In fact, they seemed to be very in awe of him.
I thought I had known what the rumbling noise was all about. It seemed hot enough on the island to have been the rumblings of a volcano about to explode into life. I would have expected that the heat within the tunnel system to have been much greater if indeed it was an active volcano.
The one fact that I’d noted since being inside the tunnel was that the temperature seemed to be steady. Admittedly, there was a decent breeze moving through the main tunnel, the heat inside the room was stifling, but it was not hotter than outside in the jungle.
I yelped in startled pain as I felt a clammy hand on my shoulder; its strong fingertips dug into my body. I looked up into the greedy devouring eyes of one of the guards.
“Get up,” he growled.
“I can’t stand.” I played for time.
“You will get up right now without argument.”
“My leg hurts.”
The slap was fierce and unexpected. I screamed, then pressed my palm to my hot cheek.
“Get up,” he growled again.
“No!” I spat.
I found myself standing after I tasted the blood from his second slap.
“That’s better. You will learn to do as you are told, without question, or you will suffer the consequences.” The smug look on his face begged to be wiped off. He caught my raised hand before it connected with his face, then turned, twisting it painfully up behind my back. I gasped as the pain knifed through my shoulder.
“Let me go. Please let me go. I’ll do as you ask.” Just for good measure, he twisted my arm a little higher before he let go. I swore then, but was careful to do it under my breath.
“Walk.” He pushed me forward; something sharp pressed against my back.
We walked out of the room, one guard stayed by the entranceway guarding Smyth, one walked ahead of me and the other stayed behind me, poking the sharp object against me often enough to get me moving more quickly.
I didn’t know where we were going. We turned several corners, going off the main tunnel way. The guard in front stopped, then he moved to the side and I found myself in another room. A similar solitary bare light bulb in the centre of the room glowed on the stark horror of my surroundings. On the floor was a king-size mattress. I turned then and tried to push my way back through the two guards. It wasn’t any good. They held one arm each and dragged me back into the room letting go so I sprawled in a very unladylike manner over the mattress. My head didn’t hit the mattress though; it hit the rock floor of the room hard enough to hurt like hell. Black oblivion closed in on me.
“She’s okay,” I kept my eyes still as I almost gagged at the hot foetid breath of one of the guards as he lifted my eyelid.
“You shouldn’t have pushed her so hard. The boss will be really pissed if we mess her up.”
“I told you, she’s okay. Look she’s coming around.”
I quickly turned and vomited up nothing. When I’d finished dry retching, I lay back on the mattress pressing my palm to my forehead. I was burning up, my head throbbed painfully, but the guards took no notice.
“Strip her,” the muscled one demanded.
After much fumbling and with me definitely not helping him, the stinking skinny one tore the clothes from my body. Within moments his hot sweaty body was rubbing against mine, his greasy loincloth the only barrier between us. I lifted my legs at the knees and pushed against him with as much strength as I could muster, but it didn’t do any good.
He simply dropped his entire body on top of me. For a skinny guy he was heavy. I couldn’t move him. When his slimy mouth closed down over mine, I gagged against him.
His entire being repulsed me; I fought until my body could no longer fight.
When his mouth left mine, I screamed. His laugh echoed against the cave walls. His slap stung, he ripped off his loincloth then used it to tie my hands.
“Scream all you like, bitch. No one can hear you in here,” he sneered then licked my bruised cheek.
“Please don’t do this to me.” The hoarse voice was hardly recognisable as my own. “Please don’t. I don’t deserve it. Please stop.”
He ignored me, lifted my legs and pressed his disgusting body against me. Unable to move in any other way, I spat in his face.
“You bitch! You’ll pay for that.”
The light glinted off the knife held at his neck. “She won’t pay for anything unless I order it.”
Relief washed over me as Miles stood holding the knife against the guard.
“Get off her now,” his quiet voice demanded instant obedience.
The guard didn’t move. The knife drew a tiny drop of blood and I watched in fascination as it trickled down his neck.
“I won’t be asking you again.”
The guard ignored Miles. He made the move to thrust into my body. Then he made a weird gurgling noise as he collapsed on top of me. His full dead weight knocking the breath from me, I couldn’t gasp nor scream. I pushed him off in terror staring at the knife wound and watched the blood gush from his neck.
“Untie her,” Miles didn’t blink as he gave the remaining guard an order.
He knelt down by my head; I closed my eyes preferring not to look at him. He managed to tighten the cloth around my hands painfully before untying them. I sat up rubbing my wrists, unable to speak. The skinny guard lay with his head in a pool of his own blood. His eyes were staring unseeing at the cave roof. I shuddered.
“Get dressed, Bess.” Miles was getting good at throwing orders around. I stood up unsteadily, then dressed as the two of them watched.
“Which one ripped your clothes off?” Closely examining my torn clothes, Miles then spun around and waved the blood stained knife at the other guard. The guard took a couple of quick paces backward.
“It was him,” I pointed to the corpse.
“Take them off and wait.” I looked at his back strong and straight as he walked out of the room. He returned within a minute carrying a shirt and pair of trousers that I gratefully accepted.
“Now, follow me and don’t speak.”
We walked, not back to Smyth as I had expected, but in a direction further away from where she lay. We walked through several more storerooms, each full to bursting with stacks of new crates. Miles turned and grabbed my arm, gripping it tightly as another much louder rumbling shook the tunnel system. That time I stayed on my feet, though the guard took a tumble. I grinned at him. I don’t think he liked that much.
We were walking quickly before the lights came back on. It was obvious Miles knew his way around the tunnels in the dark. I let him lead me, though his fingers were biting into the flesh on my arm.
Unceremoniously he dumped me in an unlit very noisy cave. The noise didn’t come from within, but from a little further down the tunnel. I sat on the floor to wait Miles’ next order. He walked off, leaving the guard with me with instructions to not touch me unless I tried something stupid.
I decided then to just sit and wait. My mind played back through the days events, I guess shock kicked in then. I shook violently as I recalled the greasy sweaty body of the now dead guard when he had crawled over me. It looked as if I wouldn’t be seeing my family again. I felt almost beaten. Just as I was picturing my kids sitting down to dinner, Miles returned.
His dark silhouette meant his expression was hidden. He strode into the room grabbed one of my hands then hauled me to my feet. He pulled me against his body, his mouth making short work of my protests. My mind reeled. He kissed me hard and quick. He tore his mouth from mine then almost dragged me from the room in his haste. His hand held mine tightly; I had to run to keep up with his long strides.
He stopped suddenly, which caused me to crash into his back. I regained my balance and looked around below in amazement.
This cave was huge and lit so well that it seemed daylight streamed in. There were hundreds of men, all dressed in loincloths as the dead guard had been. Their bodies glistened with sweat. We stood at the entrance to the room watching the movements below. There was a narrow flight of steps dug out from the rock leading downwards. A pulley system was set up and in use, lifting heavy crates up into another tunnel. The noise was horrendous.
There, in the centre of the chaos, was that which I knew to be the ultimate cause of the rumblings which constantly shook the island.