Unforeseen Adventures: The Tomb - Part Three
Fear is a curious thing. It obliterates all else—your mind, your heart, your sense of reason. Why couldn’t he move? Why couldn’t he find the strength to turn and confront whatever it was behind him?
One of his sisters shrieked as the unknown menace roared again. At last, Dan found the will to whirl around.
Ten feet away was a gigantic Ghost Hissi, as big as the Snowager. It was partially translucent, as it should be, though it wore an Island Hissi’s headpiece, necklace, and tail rings. The corridor Dan and the Hissi were in was large, but the Hissi’s wingspan was far too wide for the hall, causing its vast wings to brush against the walls. This irritating fact seemed to enrage the Hissi even more. Dan stood rooted to the spot as if paralyzed. He heard his siblings shouting, but he could not tell what they were saying, or even look at them. It seemed as though the Hissi’s evil, malevolent, red eyes immobilized his body. He could not look away.
“Dan, snap out of it!”
Dan felt someone ram into him, knocking him to the ground. The moment he broke eye contact with the Hissi, Dan felt an immense sense of relief. His mind cleared almost instantly.
However, there was no time to think. He jumped up, even though his body was sore from being knocked down for the second time that day. The Hissi was closer now, but Dan did not look at it for long. He was briefly aware of Anna standing beside him.
“Don’t look it in the eye!” Dan yelled to her.
The Hissi reared, poised to strike. Inanna shouted a warning, but Dan had already leaped to the side.
The Hissi’s long fangs snapped wetly in thin air not far to Dan’s right. Dan’s eyes darted from side to side, searching for an escape route. A small door on the other side of the corridor caught his eye, but the long, thick tail of the Hissi blocked the way. If only he could get to that door.... The Hissi’s huge head would never fit. Anna screamed to Dan’s right. He searched, but Dan could not see her. Before he could give it any more thought, the Hissi lunged at him once more. Dan rolled to the right, wanting to get close to Anna.
Dismay filled him as he saw his sister’s predicament. The Hissi’s massive tail had curled around Inanna, trapping her within its gigantic coils. The tail began to constrict and Inanna wriggled, trying to get free. Dan started toward her, but even as he watched, Inanna’s eyes gleamed in triumph and the Hissi let out a shriek of rage and pain. While the Hissi was distracted, Anna darted through the tiny door, Dan right on her heels.
Thunder’s muscles ached. He heard Anna scream and his blood seemed to turn to ice. Why did his shoulders have to be so wide? He gritted his teeth as he tried to squeeze through the door once more. “A little more, Kura! Harder!”
“I’m trying!” Kura was in the corridor Dan and Anna had entered, pushing against the heavy door. So far, she and Thunder had only succeeded in moving it a few centimeters.
The Hissi hissed menacingly. Thunder looked up once more to see the monster constricting its tail around Anna, who was trapped in the Hissi’s coils. Plan after plan raced through Thunder’s mind, but none was even remotely possible. Not while he was still stuck behind this stupid door anyway....
“Kura—” Thunder began.
But an enraged roar from the Hissi drowned out the rest of his sentence. Thunder glanced up in time to see Anna and Dan disappear through a small doorway on the right side of the corridor. The monster hissed again, and proceeded to try to smash its head through the door after its prey. Apparently, the Ghost Hissi was actually solid, because every time the fiend struck at the door, its head smashed against the stone wall with a loud crash. Thunder only hoped savagely that the Ghost beast could also bruise.
“I’m not leaving you behind, Thunder!” Kura growled. She did not look up as she pushed against the door.
Thunder stopped pulling to glare at her. “You will if that giant Hissi finally realizes he has an Island Lupess as easy prey and gives up trying to crash through the door over there.”
Kura looked up, her gaze just as icy as it had been before when Thunder had lost patience. “No, I will not. I’ll just slip back through the door with you and we’ll wait until the Hissi goes away.”
Thunder sighed in exasperation. Sometimes his sister could be as stubborn as Thunder himself could. Must be a Lupe thing. But instead of arguing, he just said, “Push!”
It was several minutes before they managed to get the door open wide enough for Thunder’s broad shoulders to pass through. By some miracle, the Hissi did not seem to have noticed the two Lupes. Stupid brute...
“How are we going to get through that door without being eaten?” Kura hissed in his ear.
Thunder raised his eyebrows. “I thought you were the smart one. Don’t you always have a plan?”
The Island Lupess rolled her eyes. “I guess we’ll just have to wing this, huh?”
Thunder winked at her. “That’s my kind of plan.”
Dan’s mind was racing. He paced back and forth—just as Meg did when she was anxious—as far away from the Hissi’s snapping jaws as possible in the tiny room. Inanna was just staring at the monster’s potentially poisonous fangs with wide eyes. He could almost hear the wheels turning in her head. Think, Dan told himself. There’s got to be a way...
Unfortunately, Dan did not see how Thunder and Kura would be able to join him and Inanna while the Hissi was bashing its head against the doorway as if its life depended on it. Well, of course that thing has to be hungry. It probably hasn’t eaten in—what?—ten thousand years?
A thousand questions battled for attention in Dan’s mind, but he could not concentrate on just one. Does the Hissi prefer Gelerts and Kougras over Lupes, or did Thunder and Kura go to find another way to the treasure? How are we going to find them? What if that beast never stops? What if it breaks down the door? Why don’t they teach you how to get rid of an overgrown Ghost Hissi in school? It’s probably more important than mathematics anyway...
It was a minute before Dan realized that the Hissi had stopped trying to force its way through the door. Dan opened his mouth to say something to Inanna, but a horrible bellow from the Hissi drowned out his words. Dan heard Thunder shout something, and he was about run to his brother’s aid when Kura burst into the room, Thunder not far behind her.
“Hey, guys!” Thunder was smirking as if he had just saved the whole of Neopia. He winked at Inanna, who grinned and ran to give him a high five.
“How’d you get past that overgrown snake?” Inanna asked, playfully jabbing Thunder in the ribs.
Thunder exchanged a glance with Kura before answering. “Luck, mostly. And stupidity, on the Hissi’s part. That brute finally saw us standing there staring at it not ten seconds after I got through that door. It’s not the brightest crayon in the box. Anyway, it lunged for us, but we ducked, so its head smashed through the small opening in the door, and while it was distracted, Kura and I ran for it. Didn’t sound like the Hissi was too happy about us getting away, either.” As if on cue, the Hissi began snapping and smashing its head against the doorway once more. It stuck its tongue into the room as if to taste their scent.
Inanna cast a nervous glance at the Hissi’s gaping maw right outside the door, but she turned to Thunder and grinned. “Nice one!”
Thunder smirked. “Yeah, I know. How’d you get out of that huge tail? I thought he was going to squeeze you to death!”
Inanna’s eyes smoldered. “I managed to move my paws so that I could shoot out my claws and stab the Hissi. I figured if it was solid enough to squeeze me, then it was solid enough to feel pain.”
“Awesome!” Thunder gave her another high five.
“Well,” said Kura, rolling her eyes, “what are we waiting for? I thought we went through all that trouble to find the treasure. Let’s go find it!”
“Yes!” Dan shouted with the others in unison.
Dan was in high spirits as they set off once more to find the treasure. He joked and laughed along with his siblings about their escape from the monstrous Hissi and he barely noticed that they had gone through two empty rooms already. When they walked through another door into yet another empty room, though, he began to feel uneasy.
“Guys,” Dan whispered. “Why are all these rooms empty?”
The others turned around to look at him. Kura’s delicate head cocked to the right, Anna’s tail flicked back and forth a few times, and Thunder’s eyebrows shot up. Apparently, none of them was inclined to give an explanation to the lack of objects in the room. Dan’s uneasy feeling increased at their indifferent and questioning glances.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Dan continued, his tone tinged with urgency.
Anna was the one to break the silence. “You have a bad feeling about a few empty rooms?” Her voice was skeptical.
Dan opened his mouth to explain, but then he closed it, thinking. What was the harm in a few rooms devoid of objects? What difference did it really make if the rooms were empty or not? I must be overreacting. Gosh, I feel stupid now. He felt the blood rushing up to color his cheeks and he hung his head in embarrassment.
“I guess you’re right,” Dan admitted reluctantly. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine, man.” Dan looked up to see Thunder wearing a huge smirk. The Lupe winked at him. “You’re just edgy because we’re getting close to the treasure. Don’t worry. We’ll find it soon and you’ll forget about it.” He seemed so certain.
Dan forced a small smile at his brother, which seemed to be enough. As they continued through the empty room, Dan let his thoughts wander. Was it possible that his mind was conjuring up this peculiar sense of foreboding just because they were getting closer to the treasure with every step they took? That did not exactly seem likely, but what other explanation was there? This strange feeling seemed to only increase the harder he tried to forget about it. No, he was sure it was not in his mind. It was more of a gut feeling. Instinct.
He’d had these kinds of feelings before, once in particular when he and Meg had been visiting Terror Mountain. He’d had the same kind of feeling while they were browsing in the Wintery Petpet shop in Happy Valley. He had told Meg about his strange feeling and she had tried to talk him out of it, too. It had gotten to the point where Dan could hardly stand it, and he had had to fake an illness to get Meg out of the shop in time. Mere seconds after they had gone outside, Neopets and their owners were screaming and pointing toward the slope above Wintery Petpets where a huge avalanche was roaring angrily down the side of the mountain, headed right for the shop they had just vacated. He and Meg had run a safe distance away and watched helplessly as most of the shop was covered in a gigantic mound of snow. The shopkeeper turned out to be all right aside from a broken bone or two, but he had lost half of his petpets that day, not to mention the extensive damage of his shop.
Dan shuddered at the memory, thinking how close he and Meg had come to being victims of the avalanche as well.
An exasperated sigh escaped his lips. What was the matter with him? Anna looked back at him curiously; her eyebrow quirked, but she made no comment to his apparently unnecessary frustration. Dan stared at the ground to avoid making eye contact. Stupid, stupid, stupid, he thought.
Something about the floor seemed out of place. Dan’s brow creased. It took him a moment to notice that the floor tiles leading in a straight line to the door ahead of them were a slightly lighter shade than the other surrounding tiles. How peculiar.
That same feeling....
“Wait!” Dan shouted suddenly. Kura’s paw was dangerously close to stepping on a darker tile. He stood rooted to the spot in the middle of the same room. The others spun around in exasperation, all of them clearly annoyed. Dan saw Kura’s expression of irritation give way to concern and Dan wondered what she saw in his face. He tried to communicate a warning to her through his eyes—his voice seemed to have failed him. She just stared at him quizzically, her eyes uncomprehending.
After another attempt to warn them, Dan finally found his voice. Now all he had to do was get them to understand. Easy. Or it should be. However, before he could make sense of what he was trying to say, Thunder interrupted.
“What, Dan? What in Neopia has gotten into you?” He was obviously impatient for treasure. For some reason, Dan was reminded of when Thunder had saved his life just hours before, though it seemed so long ago. The memory came to mind unbidden, but it refused to be pushed aside. He inhaled slowly.
“I think...,” Dan struggled for words to describe his troubled thoughts. “I think we should stop for a minute.”
Thunder rolled his eyes. “We have stopped, Dan. That’s why we’re not moving.”
Kura shot him an angry glare. “Shut up, Thunder. Let him talk.”
“Please,” Dan tried again. “I’ve still got a bad feeling. I can’t explain it. I just... I know that something bad is going to happen. I can feel it. See those floor tiles? The ones leading to the door?” He waited as one by one the others nodded. “Well, they’re a different color than the other ones, see? I just think that we should be careful not to step on the darker ones.”
Thunder and Kura looked at him doubtfully. Dan turned to Anna. Her face seemed to display multiple emotions. Her brown eyes flickered between uncertainty and some other emotion Dan could not quite place.
“Look,” Kura said. “Maybe it’s not as bad as you think, Dan. Besides, if we don’t keep going, how are we ever going to get out of here? You can’t be thinking of taking chances with that Hissi again?”
Dan bit his bottom lip. Of course not. Going back was out of the question. But what if whatever was waiting ahead of them was worse? There was only one way to find out. Nevertheless, he could not help but wonder if it was worth the risk.
His siblings were still staring at him, waiting. Dan sighed in defeat. “Fine. We’ll go on. You’re right. We can’t go back anyway. Just please don’t touch the darker tiles, all right?” He refused to meet their gazes. He didn’t know which would be worse—Thunder and Kura’s pleased and triumphant faces, or Anna’s disappointed and questioning glance. Dan did not look up to find out.
Instead, his gaze fell upon a strange stone cube jutting up out of the floor in the corner to the right of the door he and the others were heading for. The curious square was about six inches high; it looked out of place in the otherwise vacant room.
“What’s that?” Dan asked, pointing at the cube.
The others’ eyes followed the path Dan’s paw created. Thunder shook his head in exasperation, Anna following his lead. Kura stared at the peculiar cube of stone thoughtfully. Suddenly, her face lit up as fast as if someone had flicked on some kind of light switch in her mind.
“I think it’s some kind of button!” She seemed so excited.
Thunder quirked a brow. “A button? Like a switch? So what?”
“So,” said Kura in a tone that implied the answer was painfully obvious, “it probably does something. It could open a secret door in the room that leads to the treasure, or it could give us some kind of clue, or it could show us the way out of here, or—”
“Or it could just be a normal stone that does nothing whatsoever.” Thunder rolled his eyes. “I mean, sometimes you do tend to overreact a bit, Kura.”
“Well, why don’t we go see what it does?” Inanna suggested.
Dan had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Hadn’t he just convinced them not to step on the darker tiles? Why had he pointed out that stupid button?
Kura glanced at Thunder, a smug grin spreading across her face. “Fine by me. Want to bet about it being some kind of switch, Thunder?”
“Against you?” Thunder scoffed. “Never.”
Dan had said nothing so far. He was thinking too hard. It was as if the stone had some kind of magnetic field... almost as if it repelled him if he tried to step toward it. Stupid, he thought, shaking his head. You’re probably just imagining things, Dan. Get a grip! Still....
“Guys, I really think—”
A split second after he reached this conclusion, both Thunder and Kura bolted for the stone simultaneously so fast that Dan didn’t have time to react to the warning red flag his mind was sending him. Nor did he have time to prepare for what happened next.
Halfway to the stone, Kura and Thunder skidded to a halt as the doors leading out of the room closed and sealed shut and the sound of rushing water echoed loudly around them. Dan looked up, his eyes wide. Multiple bricks near the top of the wall were gone, replaced by several mini waterfalls crashing into the small space. The rushing water was white as it gushed in a steady stream into the room from numerous places. Terror filled Dan as he realized what was happening. The doors had sealed closed, trapping them inside. The room was going to flood and there was nothing they could do about it...
To be continued...