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Into the Tomb

1937
Somewhere high in the Andes

Indiana Jones glanced to his left, and in a fraction of a second, saw his death rushing to greet him. The deadly, weighted ball of spikes swooped out of the dark recesses, and into the narrow confines of the dimly lit stone corridor with such a velocity that it created a harsh, whistling tone. To Jones it was an unearthly sound, like that of a Banshee screaming out a welcome into the netherworld. He silently cursed himself for not having seen the odd, rectangular tile now depressed by his leather boot.

But the poison tipped spikes, waiting and thirsting for human flesh for more than a thousand years, would have to wait a bit more. Jones wasn't quite ready to die yet.

The archaeologist lunged to his right, a hair's breadth in front of the deadly booby trap, and evaded the vicious teeth with a margin of error defined by the punctures and tears in his leather jacket. He dropped his torch, tumbled into the small alcove in the side of the passageway and landed on his back, out of breath.

For a brief moment he lay back and closed his eyes, overcome by the relief, and adrenaline rush that only such a close brush with mortality can bring. But the moment was indeed brief because the ancient Inca builders of the tomb of Prince Payahuatac had been cleverer than the twentieth century archaeologist who now sought to desecrate it.

An instant later Indiana Jones flailed his arms helplessly as he tipped upside down, lost his balance, and slipped head first downward into a tunnel of death designed by the ancients for the unwitting who may have avoided the first trap.

Darkness flooded his eyes and outcroppings of rock struck and pummeled his body as Jones hurtled down into a black abyss. He fought desperately to right himself, clawing outward with bloodied fingers, but found no handholds. The stone was smooth, almost polished, and to make matters worse, the further he fell, the wetter, and more slick the stone became, accelerating his passage into the unknown. Again and again he struck his head on bulging, obtuse portions of volcanic rock that protruded out from the tunnel walls. The few twists in the passage did little to slow his descent and the impact was bone jarring as the upside down archaeologist repeatedly bounced off the walls.

By the time he reached the end he was dizzy, beaten, and barely conscious. There was a brief moment of free fall as the passage opened into a larger area, and then his limp body slammed into the muddy nadir of the tunnel with a firm but soft thud.

For a long time he lay there, semi-conscious, oblivious to the damp darkness around him. Eventually he was awakened by the trickling sound of running water, and the unnerving feeling of something tugging at his pants leg. He was dizzy, groggy, and suddenly cold. He hurt all over.

One by one he slowly checked each limb and body part for proper operation; wincing in pain several times, but satisfying himself that despite the rugged descent he was, amazingly, not too seriously hurt.

A moment later a small set of paws darted across his face, leaving a tiny trail of slimy footprints. One little paw slipped into his mouth, its miniature claws scraping across his front teeth. A sudden sense of revulsion gripped Jones and shook him from his grogginess. He sat bolt upright, instinctively spitting out and groping into the darkness at the unseen.

Reaching into his field pack he withdrew one of three magnesium flares that he had. He felt around himself in search of a dry hard surface upon which to strike it, but found only mud, and a series of slime coated poles that seemed to surround him on all sides.

Now the tiny footsteps began to multiply, and several sets scurried back and forth across his legs. He reached down and swept his hand across. The back of his hand met wet fur. Revolted, he stood up and began to kick out with his feet. Small squeals and squeaks accompanied each strike of his boots as they found their little furry targets.

Urgently now he groped around in the inky darkness for something, anything, dry enough to strike his flare on. But there was nothing; only the curious sets of poles that seemed to form almost a maze all around him. The darkness was complete, and swallowed him whole. The first pangs of panic began to creep over him.

Jones took a step forward and his boot crunched down into something brittle. Probably some kind of pottery, he thought, angry that he might have just destroyed a valuable piece. Even in the extreme circumstances in which he now found himself his archaeological instincts were not lost. Then his boot encountered something metallic. He gently nudged at it. The distinct, raspy sound of metal scraping against metal echoed subtly in the dark. But there was something more to the sound than just that. There was an aged tone to the scraping, metallic ring; the distinct sound of things very old, and rusted.

After finding nothing anywhere that was not covered in slime, Jones finally reached down to his hip and withdrew his .455 Webley handgun from its leather holster. He struck the flare on the side of the revolver's magazine and in an instant its brilliant white light replaced the inky blackness and illuminated his surroundings.

Dozens of rats, startled by the sudden, brilliant light of the flare, scurried away and disappeared as if by magic, revealing a sight so horrific that it caused even the experienced eyes of Indiana Jones to widen.