Kurt had been following Blaine through the maze of tunnels for what felt like hours and very well might have been – with the kerosene lamp as their only light and no way to tell how far they'd gone, it was impossible to know how long they'd been moving. Blaine seemed to know exactly where he was going, so Kurt had no choice but to hold his tongue and trust that Blaine would get them out of the warren safely. He didn't know how else he was supposed to react.
The tunnel itself burrowed through the earth an alarming distance, twisting and bending and sloping up and down in such a complicated pattern that Kurt couldn't figure out if they were heading upwards or downwards. It branched off in all directions, too, and Kurt imagined that this was exactly what an anthill would be like inside if he were only a quarter inch tall.
Kurt repeatedly had to bite back his questions of how long the warren had been there, what kind of creature had made it, and how it related to the Andersons, since he knew that Blaine would only tell him to be quiet until they were back in the fresh air of the aboveground.
But when he noticed claw marks – huge claw marks – gouged in a rock in the side of the tunnel, he couldn't hold back.
"Blaine, what lives down here?" he pressed.
"You don't want to know."
"Yes, I do! I'm sick of these cryptic 'answers' you keep giving me," Kurt snapped. "I want to know what's making you so scared."
Blaine sighed, stopping in his tracks.
"Kurt, what my dad and I do… It's not generally considered to be something real," Blaine said slowly. "If we were to go to the police and ask for help, they'd call the guys in white coats. But…" He swallowed, pressing his lips together for a moment before continuing. "People die, Kurt. They die because of what's down here, and that's why we're doing it."
"I don't understand."
Blaine paused for a moment, his jaw twitching. "I want to keep you alive, Kurt. I don't want you involved."
"Bit late for that, don't you think?" Kurt said, arching his eyebrows and holding up the gun that Blaine had given him.
"So long as you're still breathing, it's not," Blaine said flatly. "Come on. We've got a ways to go."
Kurt shivered and made sure to stay extra close.
A few hundred yards further and Blaine abruptly stopped and backed up, his breath quickening.
"What? What is it?"
Blaine turned around, shining the lantern back in the direction they'd come. "I – I think I made a wrong turn somewhere. This isn't where we want to be."
"I thought you knew your way around in here," Kurt said, his stomach twisting. The gun in his hand suddenly felt heavier, clumsy and crude. Like it was only offering an illusion of protection.
"I haven't been down here since—" Blaine cut himself off, quickly changing the ending of his sentence to, "—in a while."
Kurt peered into the darkness beyond the flickering light cast by the lantern. "Well, are you sure?" he asked. "All the tunnels look the same to me."
"Yes, I'm sure," Blaine hissed. He was even more frightened than Kurt was. "We can't go this way. We have to go back." He grabbed Kurt's arm and pulled him back the way they'd come.
Kurt felt his heartbeat speed up – if Blaine was panicking, then there had to be a very good reason for it, and Kurt wasn't entirely sure he wanted to know what that reason was. He waited until Blaine's pace had slowed down (they'd doubled back for at least five hundred yards before they were able to turn down a different branch of the tunnel) to ask him what had made him turn back.
Blaine didn't respond for a long time, and Kurt waited. The rocks and clods of dirt crunching and grinding against the soles of their shoes was the only sound, and the blistered skin on Kurt's hands dully throbbed as they walked.
Several minutes later, just as Kurt was beginning to think he wasn't going to answer, Blaine spoke.
"That other tunnel…" he started, looking straight ahead and deliberately not at Kurt. "My brother died there."
Kurt's mouth fell open. "Your— I'm so sorry." He'd seen the photos of Cooper Anderson around the house, but when he'd asked Blaine about his brother, Blaine had only said that they didn't see him any more. He'd assumed they were estranged for some reason, not… He shuddered, keenly aware that he probably would have suffered the same fate (whatever that fate was, since Blaine still hadn't explained) if Blaine had not chased after him.
"He was nineteen," Blaine said.
"How old were you?"
"Twelve." Blaine chewed on the inside of his cheek, hefting the rifle strapped to his shoulder. The lamplight highlighted the contours of his face and made his cheeks look hollow.
Kurt didn't really know what to say, but then a loud squelch diverted their attention to the floor. Kurt grimaced, pulling his foot up from where it had sunk two inches into the mud.
Blaine breathed a sigh of relief. "We're almost there," he said.
"This water – it soaks through the ground from Hog Creek."
Kurt's eyes opened wide. "Hog Creek?" he echoed. "But that's… that's at least three miles from your house!"
"Three miles as the crow flies – four if you go through the warren," Blaine said, treading more carefully over the muddy floor.
Kurt gave up on keeping his shoes clean and squelched through the mud alongside Blaine. "How big is the warren?" he asked.
"We don't know. It's too dangerous to just go exploring on a whim."
Kurt wanted to ask why Blaine knew the way through the tunnels if it was so dangerous, but something caught his eye at the edge of the lamplight up ahead, and he stopped short, grabbing Blaine's arm. "What is that?" he squeaked.
Blaine lifted the lantern higher, and Kurt felt the bottom drop out of his stomach.
A corpse was lying half-submerged in the mud.
"…Crap," said Blaine, approaching the body and crouching next to it.
Kurt nervously edged up behind him, his palm sweaty against the handle of the gun. He peered over Blaine's shoulder, then promptly turned around and vomited onto the tunnel floor.
"You okay?" Blaine asked.
Kurt wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Who is he?" he croaked, purposefully facing away. "Do you know him?"
"His name is Angus Mills," Blaine said, examining the old man's corpse in the lamplight. One of the arms was missing, as well as half of the other arm, both legs, and a large chunk of the torso. "He worked as the cemetery caretaker over at Weeping Willows. He was a friend of the family."
"You don't seem upset," Kurt said, not caring that it came out sounding accusatory.
"We already knew he was dead," Blaine stated, like it was no big deal. "He and his trainee have been missing for weeks, and there was a sinkhole in the cemetery; it wasn't hard to figure out what happened. This is just confirmation."
"Wait, his trainee?" Kurt choked out. "There's another one?"
Blaine stood up, brushing off his knees. "If there's anything left of Neil, we probably won't find it," he said. "Come on." He stepped over Angus Mills' body, then waited for Kurt to do the same.
Kurt shook his head. "I am not going near that," he said, gesturing to the remains.
Blaine gave him a hard look. "If you want to get out of here, then you have to come this way. Or else you will end up missing three of your limbs." Kurt flinched, and Blaine's expression softened. "I'm sorry, Kurt, I just… we need to get out, and it's only five more minutes in this direction. Otherwise, we'd be wandering around down here for days and I'd get really lost."
Kurt tried to swallow the bile in his throat, but only succeeded in making himself feel more nauseous.
"Please," said Blaine.
Steadying his nerves as best he could, Kurt decided that he liked his body better as one whole piece. He had to grit his teeth and clench his fists, but somehow he was able to force himself to step carefully around the place where Angus Mills' legs should have been lying.
"If you need to throw up again, that's okay," said Blaine. "The first time I saw a dead guy I didn't eat for a week. Couldn't keep it down."
Kurt gaped at him. "How many dead people have you seen?"
Blaine kept walking down the tunnel as if he hadn't heard the question.