The creature roared and lunged at David. He dove to the side at the last moment and felt one of the monster’s teeth drag across his rib cage. Reflexively his hands went to the wound, causing him to slam his rock into his chest.
While he doubled over from his mistake, the creature’s momentum carried it out of the chamber and into the stream. It splashed violently in the water as it reoriented itself, giving David time to regain his composure.
Another roar was let out by the monster as it charged at him again. This time David intended to face it head on.
He ran straight for the creature’s maw as it opened. Its snout knocked the wind out of him and propelled him into the air. Just as he had hoped for.
His trajectory sent him flying towards the creature’s eye. With all the strength that he could muster, David slammed his rock into the beast’s eye, before he himself slammed into the top of the creature’s skull.
The thing let out a blood-curdling howl and attempted to shake him off. David was thrown against the cave wall and for the second time in the course of their fight had the wind knocked out of him.
While the creature continued howling in the cave, David seized on his opportunity to escape and ran back out to the stream. This time he followed it downstream, reasoning that if he followed it he would reach the shore eventually.
Paying little heed to the slippery and uneven path before him. David ran, eager to escape the sound of the creature’s howls that still thundered behind him. He still hadn’t figured what sort of beast it might be, but nothing he had even seen looked quite like what he had just fought.
Only when the howling faded did he risk slowing down to catch his breath. David was unsure of how long he had been running for, but already the cave seemed as if it had no end.
As the combat high faded David also became aware of the beating his body had taken. His head wound was still seeping blood, and the gash on chest had already soaked his shirt. All this was further compounded by the many sore spots he had just acquired that were sure to bruise later.
“And my wrists are still tied,” he said sadly, before pushing those thoughts from his mind. Right now his priority was getting out of the cave.
New sounds began to filter into the cave as he went on. He heard mostly the calls of tropical birds, and tantalizingly, the faint murmur of human voices.
Suddenly, he heard voices above him.
“Reckon he’s been eaten yet?”
“Aye. That bastard is all bones by now.”
David pulled himself closer to the wall. Was it the pirates? Somewhere above him he could hear their voices. He waited, expecting that at any moment one of them might look down into the cave and spot him.
“Sure was quite a ruckus. Think the old girl is having her fun?”
“Ha! Yeah. Almost as much fun as we had with his crew!”
David felt the anger well up inside him. He tamped it down. He was in no position to exact vengeance. Still, he took the voices as a sign that he was nearing the exit.
The cave finally ended. At its mouth the shallow stream that he had been following fell off a short cliff before snaking between the trees of the island’s jungle.
Again he could hear the voices from before. David ducked back into the cave just as a pair of men appeared before the entrance.
Both were unassuming and, David observed, drunk. Despite carrying weapons it was clear that neither of them were expecting trouble. They probably counted on the monster to take care of prisoners without issue.
With his hands still tied, David’s options were limited. His only real chance of success would be to tackle one of them, and hope they broke his fall off the cliff. He sized both of them up. The one on his left was a giant of a man, but carried only a knife, while the one on his right was equipped with both knife and pistol. Right it was.
Once he decided on a course of action he charged. Thinking about it anymore wouldn’t do him much good.
Both men yelled in surprised as he made contact with his target. Followed by the screams of his victim as he and David tumbled over the ledge. David closed his eyes and prayed. He’d find out soon whether he had timed his attack right or not.
The impact came quickly and was accompanied by a sickening crack as the man’s next snapped. Above him on the ledge, the man’s companion had already drawn his knife and was making his over to a narrow footpath that would bring him to David.
David lunged for the dead man’s pistol.He clumsily pulled it from its holster and managed to cock it.
With careful aim he fired as the second man rounded the corner onto the footpath. A bloody hole appeared in the man’s chest and he tumbled down the hill.
From the cave, David heard a muted roar. He beast had followed him.
Working quickly, he drew the knife from the first man’s belt and used it to cut the ropes binding his wrists together. He felt immediate relief from the chafed skin and stressed joints, but he had little time to enjoy it. The creature was sure to be closing in on him.
He tucked the knife into his own belt and took off running down the hill. Running down the incline he had little control over his trajectory, he cared little so long as it was away from that monster.
Soon he noticed the scent of salt water on the air. Finally he was getting close to shore.
He came too, or rather ran into, a low wooden fence that surrounded a small village on the beach. In appearance it was little different from any of the other countless illicit settlements built by pirates and smugglers.
If he squinted he could make out the silhouettes of four ships anchored offshore. David’s heart lept into his throat when he caught sight of his ship, the Sovereign, anchored safely beside the others. If he could reach it he would be saved. Although he had never put them to use, he knew that the ship had old enchantments that would allow a single man to sail her for a short time. His only obstacles were the village before him, and the monster behind him.
Inspiration struck when he looked down at his own blood-stained shirt. He had blinded the creature hadn’t he? The only way it could be tracking him was by scent, and he had left plenty of his own blood back in the cave.
Another roar came from behind him and he saw several heads in the village turn to look in his direction. He had to act fast. One last burst of action and he would be free.
David vaulted over the fence and ran up to the first building he saw. In his predicament he couldn’t afford to be picked. A glance over his shoulder told him that the beast was near, and currently crashing through the foliage outside the fence.
Hurriedly, David drew his knife and made a deep cut across his palm.He smeared the resulting blood along the wall and took off running towards the beach just in time to hear the monster crash into the house he had just marked.
He ran, paying little heed to the people around him or who he shoved out of his way. The crowds for their part were too distracted by the monster to pay attention to an escaped prisoner. Screams filled the air. Men ran to get their rifles, or just ran. Whatever semblance of order that had existed before descended into chaos, as the blind and angry beast tore into everything within its reach.
All along the shore people were scrambling for their boats. David could hardly believe his luck when he actually spotted an abandoned rowboat. He dove into it, allowing his momentum to carry the boat for the first few feet. Then he grabbed the oars and began paddling, ignoring the protests of his battered body.
Now he was treated to an uninterrupted view of the hell he had unleashed upon the village. Already several buildings had caught fire, and the flames were spreading. The futile crack of gunshots reached out to him across the water. David knew that massed volleys would be needed to take the monder down, and he doubted that the pirates had sufficient discipline to pull it off.
Where he should have felt guilt of the terror he had drawn to them, he only felt satisfaction. He had brought about his vengeance, even if it been inadvertent. David allowed himself this one emotion after a day of suppressing all others that came to him.
As he came up alongside the Sovereign he felt a strange sense of peace even as he watched the continued destruction. He’d being returning to an empty ship, as far as he knew the rest of the crew had been killed. He alone had lived.
He started laughing.