Into the Green Pit
by Sean Monaghan
Lloyd looked through the trees near the fence while Elise finished an apple. Wind across the river chased catspaws, then rushed up the slope, making the old tire swing rock a little.
“Dunno why we’re wasting time here,” Elise said. “Let’s get back to town, I want to see if Mike has sent me a card.”
“Danny said his dog went missing up this way.” Lloyd looked past the fence and saw something on the rough ground. “Anyway,” he said as he climbed over, “Mike writes you every day.”
Elise swelled. “He’s so sweet, I miss him.”
Lloyd put his finger in his mouth and made retching sounds. “You’ll be together in August anyway. College, huh!”
“You’re just jealous.” She clambered across the fence.
“Danny’ll be jealous. He’s so...”
“Yeah, you see it in his face every time he—”
“He’s a putz,” Elise said. She hurled the core away. It bounced on the riverbank, rolling almost to the water.
Lloyd laughed. “He’s okay.” It was a dog leash he’d seen on the ground.
“He’s creepy. You’re more my type.” She leered and winked.
“It wouldn’t work between us anyway.” His foot slipped on loose soil. The ground had been dug over. The dog? “You’re way too old for me.”
“Only by six months.” She swiped at him, but he jumped back.
“Older wom—” Lloyd stumbled as the ground crumbled away. He glimpsed a wide hole, gravel spilling down, then he was tumbling in open air, into darkness.
He smacked into black frigid water and was swamped.
“I’m...” He coughed brackish phlegm. “I’m okay.”
“Lloyd, what the hell?”
“I’m okay. I fell into water.” He looked around, but the only light was from above where Elise was silhouetted. He squinted, looking for a way out.
Something brushed his leg.
Lloyd jerked and pushed away. “Goddamn,” he said, shivering with adrenalin. Only a fish, he told himself.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. A fish startled me.”
It was probably an old limestone cavern that reached the river. Elise was about fifteen feet above. She could run to his father’s garage, get a waterproof flashlight and toss it down so Lloyd could swim out.
“I’ll get a rope,” Elise said, “and tie it to the fence so you can climb out.”
Another fish bumped his leg. Harder this time, like a big old trout. “Okay,” he said. Where would she find a rope? He realised that two sides of the hole were straight. He’d fallen through old boards where someone had covered the cavern. He could feel cramps pinching his calves as he trod the chilled water.
Then Elise was standing there again. “I tried to untie the swing, but the knots are jammed up. I’ll have to... hey!”
Suddenly Elise was struggling with someone at the edge of the hole.
“Elise?” Lloyd called.
Elise and her assailant tumbled through, splashing into the water. Lloyd grabbed a flailing arm and pulled someone up. Elise.
“Danny jumped me,” she gasped.
The splashing continued. The attacker was swimming away.
“Danny?” Lloyd said.
The splashing stopped and quiet sounds echoed through the cavern. Then another splash.
Lloyd’s eyes were adjusting and he thought he could see the side. A ledge? “This way,” he said. He pulled her through the blackness. There were too many questions, but they needed to get out of the freezing water.
Elise jerked, her hand slipping from his. “Something scratched me,” she said.
“Just a fish.” They were only a few strokes from the edge. Lloyd felt another impact. Not a fish. Harder, solid like a chitinous crab claw.
Lloyd’s hand banged into rock and he grabbed Elise again and pulled her over. Reaching up he felt the ledge’s lip. “I’ll hoist you,” he said. His legs were dead weights, but he grabbed her waist and lifted her as high as he could. She scrambled into darkness.
“Now help me up,” he said. He heard whispering above.
There was movement under the water and something grabbed his ankle. He kicked but the grip was fierce. “Come on Elise,” he said, his fingers slipping on the edge. Another kick and the thing let go, but he could feel its wake in the water.
Elise grabbed him and he scrabbled on the side.
“You,” Danny said, “you can’t have her.”
“What?” It was Danny pulling him up, not Elise.
“Your girlfriend. Mine now.” Danny hurled Lloyd back into the water.
Lloyd pulled for the edge as the claw grabbed his side. Spines punctured his skin. He felt rock and pulled himself over as someone splashed into the water beside him. The claw released and a hand grabbed his, pulling him up. His torso thrummed with pain.
“He pulled me out,” Elise said through tears, her breathing ragged. “Said I could be his girlfriend, since you were gone.”
Lloyd could hear frantic splashing back in the cave.
“Oh, Jesus!” Danny cried. Quiet fell for a moment, then the splashing started again just below the ledge.
“Danny said his dog slipped in and he heard that thing tear the dog apart and that gave him the idea. Then I pushed him back in and grabbed you.”
Lloyd could just see Danny and he reached for him. Their hands met.
“I didn’t mean her to fall,” Danny said.
Elise grabbed Danny’s other hand. “How do we get out?” she said.
“There’s a tunnel.”
The thing growled. Danny lurched back. Lloyd lost his grip. Elise screamed as she was dragged in.
“Elise!” Lloyd yelled.
For a moment there was frantic thrashing, then quiet. A small splash and he felt her hand. “I should have been with you,” she whispered. Her hand slipped away.
More explosive splashing for a moment, followed by a calm.
Lloyd called until he was hoarse.
No one came back up and he had to fumble his way along the narrow passage, wondering, through his tears, what he was going to tell Mike.
Copyright © 2010 by Sean Monaghan