And just like that, I was left very, very alone.
Sebastian's last cry was echoing wildly through my head and as I lay prone and motionless at the every edge of the abyss I had just pulled myself from, the sound of my own breathing replaced the last vestiges of his voice. Fast, strangled gasps wracked my body, and I could feel panic clawing its way up my throat, making it even harder to breathe. I was alone, so alone, and the more I dwelt on that the more I realized how utterly fucked I was. One human in the midst of an alien war—and with those aliens being spectacularly hostile … I only had to recall the recently dead that had been among my group to come to terms with how very defenseless I was against both the hunters and their prey.
I had started to cry somewhere along my terrified train of thought and the warm tears were falling swiftly from eyes and streaming in swift streams down my cheeks. The cold and excessive dryness of the air had chapped my skin to such a degree that the tears stung bitterly, which prompted me to cry even more. I couldn't do this, I couldn't—how the hell could I ever survive this? I had known that Sebastian and I had a slim to none chance of making it even in the company of each other, but now that I was on my own without another human to have for support …
I have never felt as desolate, as hopelessly lost and doomed, as I did then.
My tears were on the verge of becoming full-fledged hysterical sobs, but I couldn't afford a breakdown, not here. Not now. I took deep shuddering breath and forced myself to think of something—anything—other than the creatures I knew stalked the stygian halls all around me. How much time passed then I don't know, but when I was able to make at least some semblance of coherent thought I clenched my fists tightly and steeled myself. I had to go on. Waiting here was certain death, and I still clung with bleak hope to the plan I had laid out to Sebastian: find the humanoid, and give it back its weapon.
And pray that after I did so, it wouldn't butcher me the way it had everyone else.
So I went, deeper into the black, yawning depths of the corridor that loomed before me, one trembling step at a time. I could hardly see a foot in front of my face, and the darkness that lurked on either side of me could have hidden any of the things I was so terrified of encountering. Time ceased to have meaning, and when finally I stepped into a different room that was for some reason considerably brighter, the rush of sudden relief I felt was staggering. And then I caught sight of the ancient, withered corpses cradled within the niches scattered throughout the room and I realized how very stupid it was to be relieved that I now occupied a room with more light. My throat grew tight again and my eyes prickled with yet more tears. Fighting off a fresh and more vigorous wave of panic I glanced at my watch compass, in desperate need of some form of guidance, anykind of guidance. A sound that was a cross between a bitter laugh and an anguished sob escaped me then, for the face of my compass was shattered, broken somewhere within the last hellish hour of my life. The urge to sink to my knees and beg whatever spiteful deity that was watching for mercy was almost overwhelming. To that end my knees had half buckled when I felt a shudder claw its way up my spine. Intuition, something I never thought to trust implicitly, prompted me to turn slowly and fearfully around.
I whimpered then, for standing before me was one of the hunters. As I completed my turn he raised the arm holding his sophisticated spear with deliberate, menacing slowness. The spear extended suddenly, noisily, and I couldn't help the frightened sound that left me. The hunter snarled at me, the sound unmistakably threatening, and as he began to advance I threw both my arms out in a gesture of supplication.
"Wait!" I cried, desperate. The creature halted, still gripping the spear as if he'd impale me with it. I sank to my knees, reaching behind to remove from my pack the weapon we had found in the pyramid's interior. As I did so I whispered fervently, over and over and hoping it to be true, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Hand fumbling, I secured the weapon, and leaning forward on my knees I thrust it across the stone floor in his direction. It stopped at his feet, but he didn't bend to pick it up. Instead he hoisted the spear—
Movement from above caught my eye. I gasped as one of the other creatures, a black and vile thing, spilled onto the hunter from its perch on the stone ceiling. Both went smashing into a wall. The impact knocked the spear from the hunter's grip and sent it skittering towards me. There were a million voices within my own mind shrieking at me to run get away, far away from here—to flee headlong from these two battling monstrosities and take my chances elsewhere. All I could do, however, was stand dumbly where I was and watch the struggle unfold.
The alien was horrifically fascinating to watch—the incredible speed and power it possessed was astounding. The hunter was trapped beneath the alien, and the deadly tail of the loathsome beast came down again and again in quick succession, attempting to impale him. Abruptly the hunter turned the tables, casting the alien from him and sending it hurtling through the air. I screamed as it collided with the wall beside me, crumbling the ancient stone. For a moment the creature lay there, stunned. The hunter was making use of this brief recess to attach the weapon I had returned to him. As the alien thrashed about, coming to its feet, I edged away, not wanting to attract its attention.
With a horrific screech the creature propelled itself into the hunter again and the deadly dance began once more. As they grappled, as the infuriated roars of the hunter mingled in chaotic cadence with the shrieks of the alien, I realized that if I remained I was most certainly dead. Moving on numb legs I lurched forward to where the forgotten spear lay and bent quickly to retrieve it. I cast another terrified glance at the two otherworldly combatants.
And then I turned on my heel and fled.
I ran wildly, heedlessly, twisting and turning through corridors and rooms, coming to dead ends and whirling around to find another way. I was afraid that if I stopped I would be suddenly surrounded, immediately devoured, and so I pushed on. It was only when my lungs burnt so badly I saw spots, only when my agonized muscles protested that I began to slow, and I came to a stumbling halt in the middle of a small shadowed antechamber. For a moment all I could do was take swift, deep breaths, doubled over with the spear in one hand. When I could straighten without shooting pains racing up and down my sides I glanced around. Seconds passed before I realized that this place seemed familiar, a ludicrous thought really when you took into account the fact that this temple shifted periodically and never remained structurally the same.
My feeling of familiarity was bolstered when I spotted in the darkest corner a large body. I knew what it was by the massive build and musculature that even in the lack of light was evident—it was one of the other hunters. The skull which it had worn high upon its shoulders told me it was the hunter that had kicked me so savagely when I had attempted to grab my mining pick in order to aid Sebastian. Seconds later I had watched it die a gruesome death impaled on the tail of one of the aliens. This must be the room that I had been in earlier, but reshaped and reformed. I was about to move onwards, into another area, when I realized that while this hunter had tried to kill me earlier, it may still have weapons. In this three sided war I would need them more than any of the other participants.
I knelt, setting the spear down and poking the corpse gingerly with one shaking finger. It remained motionless, though I half expected it to react. Rolling in onto its back was an ordeal, as heavy as it was, and I finally did so with a grunt. I stared for a moment at the dully reflective surface of the hunter's mask, remarkable in that it managed to be so impassive while simultaneously being incredibly menacing. I wondered what lay behind that mask and had actually raised my hands to attempt to remove it before I realized what I was doing. I checked the movement instantly, deciding perhaps it would be better not to know what natural visage the hunters bore. Instead I ran my gaze over the corpse and located almost instantly a knife in a calf sheath. I withdrew it carefully. It was a wicked looking blade, curved and jagged, and while it was a small weapon it gave me a considerable measure of comfort just to hold it.
Noises from beyond the chamber snapped my attention back to the dilemma at hand. I rose quickly, the knife in one hand and the spear in the other. There was only a small tunnel aside from the archway I had entered, and said tunnel filled me with a thick and clinging sense of foreboding. The sounds, however, had come from beyond the archway … I stood still, glancing between them both and torn with indecision when suddenly I realized my problems had increased tenfold.
Shaping himself out of the air, revealing himself, was the hunter I had stolen the spear from. And I didn't have to interpret his feral snarl to know he wasn't pleased with me.