Cassie threw a quick glance back over her shoulder at the huge dog that lunged after her, gelatinous foam blobs flying from its drooling mouth.
The field grass and saplings on either side of the dirt path waved frantically as coal gray clouds, massed into dark ominous mounds above their heads.
A sudden bright flash of light was closely followed by a deeply disconcerting growl of thunder. Pumping even faster Cassie sped along the twisting dirt track, her bike tires skidding in the dusty soil.
Another bolt of lightning lit the eerie darkness that had enveloped the hillside. Thunder exploded simultaneously. Suddenly Cassie cut a hard left and, leaping off the bike, ducked under a wooden beam, into a stone-lined tunnel. The wind was just starting to whip pellets of rain at her as she rolled her bike through the opening with Joe, her three year old Bernese Mountain Dog squeezing in beside her.
Letting the bike fall to one side, they both dropped down on the packed earth, panting hard. Cassie grabbed her bike pack and pulled out a water bottle. Sucking down a large gulp, she wiped the back of her hand across her mouth. Torrential rain was pounding the ground outside the opening. She held her phone up towards the tunnel's entrance. Not surprisingly, no service.
Cassie had been vacationing in West Virginia ever since she was nine. Her parents owned a farmhouse just outside of town, where the family would spend the summer months.
Everyone from around there knew of the mine, and were quick to warn newcomers to stay away.
The tunnels were old. Many had already collapsed, and it was all too easy to get lost in the maze of mine shafts, worming their way through the foothills. Some locals even swore the mine was haunted. A number of them insisted they'd seen lights late at night, and heard weird music echoing from deep inside the abandoned network of chambers and corridors.
Of course when Cassie heard all that, first chance she got, she and her cousin had to go off and explore them. Only, at nine-years old, the two were barely out of sight of the opening when her cousin started panicking. At the time Cassie had ridiculed her cousin's fears, but looking back she still could remember the massive rush of relief she felt as she re-emerged into the bright sunlight.
Now, nine year's later, Cassie was in no mood to explore. She turned her phone's flashlight down the empty tunnel behind her. Its beam was swiftly swallowed by inky dark nothingness.
As Joe lay down behind her, she sidled up and leaned back against him, using his ribcage for a pillow. He lifted his big head and sniffed her hair before dropping back against the smooth dirt floor.
The water running down the hillside hit the opening and dropped into the teaming puddle below with a rapid, rhythmic "Drip, drip, drip, drip". The sound was slowly starting to lull her into a hypnotic state when it was suddenly punctuated by an unexpected THUNK. Startled she sat up, looking for the source of the sound.
A football-sized rock had washed off the hillside and lay just outside the tunnel entrance.
Cassie shown the flashlight at the top of doorway. The packed earth above the opening was loosening and starting to run down the inside of the beam in shiny dark rivulets.
Then came a loud creak that made her jump to her feet and back away from the opening. She was holding her cell in one hand, the other rested on the back of Joe's neck when, suddenly there was a crack, and one end of the beam snapped, crashing to the ground. With a threatening roar, a huge chunk of the hillside came sliding down over the opening, as the header that had held it back for so long, collapsed.
Terror gripped Cassie's mind, while, without waiting for its direction, her body turned and ran for all it was worth. Guided by her cell's wildly wavering light, she tore after Joe's disappearing tail, into the gaping hole of darkness.
Thanks so much for reading part I of my story. I will be posting parts II-V for the next four days.
For details and a quick overview of the series, you can read my intropost for it here.
All pictures provided by the amazing, magical https://pixabay.com
Read Part II