The start of a story I've contemplated revisiting. Thoughts?
Power shimmered across the darkness above Tully’s head. He couldn’t remember how long ago the shimmer had started, or how long it had been since the buzzing that accompanied the light hadn’t assaulted his ears. It was high-pitched, the cry of a bat in an endless cave. But this cave wasn’t endless. Far from it.
The cave Tully and his others found themselves in upon waking all those years ago consisted of a two hundred foot hole bounded an all sides by solid rock and faced on the inside with fine silver wire. In the center of the cavern, the tail of a cross hung like a malignant stalactite. Tully had been staring at that vengeful spike for just a little under two hundred years. The shimmering power was a spanking new torture beside the glaring point of that cross.
The inside of the cavern echoed with little moans, small pleas in the relative darkness. At the far end of the cavern, Tully could just make out the forms of the desiccated ones stacked like cord-wood. The others, stronger, but not by much, lay scattered around the periphery of the cave, thin bodies turned toward the wall, away from the horrible spike in the center of the room. Many of them would rather press their bodies to the burning silver net across the walls than sit and stare up at the point through the ceiling. The desiccated ones, the youngest among them, had given their blood to the older ones, and the older, to Tully. It was a last-ditch effort to maintain some strength long enough to find a way out of this hole.
But Tully could feel himself starting to drain too. It would be another hundred years before he would crawl into the corner and turn his face away from them all, until the last of his blood dried to dust and his body shut completely down. He would still live, in some sense of the word, just as those at the far end of the cavern still lived. They could all linger forever, of course, but if something didn’t change soon, it wouldn’t matter. Even if something large enough to provide adequate blood were to crawl right up to them and stick a limb in their mouths, they would lack the strength to bite down and suck. If something didn’t change soon, a museum may as well wrap them in bandages and put them on display as curiosities. It would have been easier on them all if the pioneers had thrown them out across the dunes and let them combust at sunrise.
Something crawled across his lap, and Tully looked down at the spidery, white hand. He moved to touch it and his own fingers looked hale against that papery flesh. If he was still human, he would have prayed for death or salvation for them all. In this state all he could do was wait. And then continue to wait.
Once in a while, he heard the thump and scuffle of feet across the roof of the prison, the faithful or adventurous up visiting the crosses on the rock. The rumble of something large passed occasionally as well. The rock creaked and sighed and Tully stared up at the ceiling and hoped for a cave in. Something that large had to have enough blood for them all.
Tully’s faded brown eyes shifted slowly from the lifeless hand on his lap to the ceiling above. There was that rumble again- something large crawling across the plateau above, growling all the way. Something moved against his back, scraping lightly up the deadened flesh. Pulling his hand away from his companions’, Tully brought it back and brushed the irritant away, only to get his hand tangled in the wiry silver mesh. It strained against silver nails and vibrated even after he disengaged from it.
The ceiling shed a mist of dust. The rumbling above grew until it filled the cave with angry, mechanical noise. The shimmering lights above somehow broke and dropped white-hot sparks on the line of bodies in the cave. Tully found himself suddenly full of athletic energy. He grabbed the hand in his lap and pulled the body connected to it over his shoulder, then stood, his knees creaking dryly. The far end of the cavern, the end with the desiccated ones, seemed to be the furthest from the sparks and commotion. Scooping another body over his shoulder, he sprinted over and dropped his cargo near the pile of bodies. Two at a time, as the ceiling slowly collapsed, Tully drew his friends up and carried them across the treacherous, spark- and dust-filled space.
Something spun through the ceiling as Tully tried to head across the space for the final time. It drew him up short. Hunger, exhaustion and adrenaline drew his fangs forward for the first time in a hundred years. He felt his heart pounding, the lifeless blood tearing through the muscle and veins with the grit of sand. The metallic monstrosity dropping through the ceiling, bringing the old wooden cross with it, dropped in slow motion, cutting him off from the two left on the other side. Tully threw his hands over his head and threw himself backwards over the pile of bodies at his feet. The thing shone, light like the he hadn’t seen in nearly a millennium. He waited for the light to tear him apart and send his ashes swirling into the pile of rocks, metal and wood at the center of the cavern. The silver netting fell across him and those under him, a burning net. But that was the only burn, a mild sting beside what he had expected.
Instead of smelling ashes, he smelled blood. It was fresh, dark, human blood too. Not much of it, just a touch. He peered out from behind his hands at the shining light. Beyond it, something gleamed in the dust and wood, and something else, something inside that gleaming thing, moved. Tully could make out two forms, and one of them suddenly screamed, high-pitched, male but so breathy and panicked it sounded female.
The scream continued as Tully tore at the silver netting. He wrapped both hands in the scorching net and easily wrenched a hole large enough for his shoulders. What had seemed insurmountable all these years suddenly tore effortlessly with the smell of fresh blood so near. The saliva flooding his mouth tasted bitter, acidic and gritty. His stomach clenched with the promise of water on the desert at last. He pulled each arm free of the net and began working his legs free. His spurs caught in the wire, but he pulled the whole mess with him rather than wait any longer. His aching gullet pulled him forward until his spurs disconnected.
Tully stepped around the shining light, seeing a metal carriage with huge spinning black wheels. This was not a beast. Just some modern version of a horse-drawn wagon, huge, ugly and awkward. He followed the line of debris around the side of the thing, to the back. The screaming had been reduced to a panicked whisper. Tully could only assume that the livelier one was trying to wake his unconscious partner. They both dangled sideways from the vehicle, defying gravity. The one on the bottom was the source of the blood. Tully could see it dripping lightly from the head, drops ruby in the glaring light.
He stepped around to the dangling bodies, sliding one hand quickly around the head of the whisperer. A short scream bounced off the walls of the cave before being silenced by his hand. He stepped around so he faced the dangling man. He was perhaps seventeen, but his eyes, huge over the white expanse of Tully’s hand, were bright blue and full of shock. They made him look five.
Tully tilted his head to the side, trying to orient the boy better, making himself better understood.
"I am not going to hurt you. Do you understand?" The boy just stared, and the mouth worked against his palm. "Blink if you understand me, because I’m not letting go of your mouth." The eyes blinked twice. "Good. You’ve given me a great opportunity and because of that I can’t let you go just yet. I need you to understand that if you cooperate, you and your friend will not be any more injured than you are right now. If you fight," Tully gave the head a little shake, "neither of you will walk out of here, and you will be fodder. Blink twice if you understand." The eyes blinked again. "I’m going to let go of your mouth now. Do not scream, do not talk, do not whimper."
Tully dropped his hand back down to his side. The boy dangled, his lips pressed together so tightly Tully could see the teeth behind them.
"I’ve been trapped down here an awfully long time, boy. What is your name, anyway?" Again the eyes blinked at him, the mouth, a touch of blood at the corner, moved in unison. "Aw hell, you can talk boy. At least enough to give me your name. I asked you a direct question, didn’t I?"
The boy tried to talk while keeping his mouth closed. When he realized that trick wasn’t working, he opened his mouth and gouged a full breath from the dusty air before licking his lips and trying again. "Avery. Sir."
"Very good, Avery. As I said, I’ve been down here a long time, and I want to go up there." Tully craned his head back to regard the gaping hole in the ceiling. He could see the stars, and some strange glow. He kept staring at the sky as he continued. "And I’m not strong enough to do that, and neither are my friends here." He brought his gaze back down to Avery and gestured around the room at the prone forms of his friends. Some of the stronger ones were moving around a little peering up at the sky, others glared at the shiny object they’d suddenly woken to find in their midst. Still others sniffed at the air, tasting blood on the air for the first time in more than a century. Tully could feel their hunger.
"S’cuse me Sir." Avery tilted his head to get a better view of Tully. "I’m about to lose it here. I’m gonna pass out if I don’t get upright, ya know what I mean? I’ll do what ever you need me to do, just get me out of this fucking seatbelt."
"I don’t necessarily know what you mean." Tully grinned and his teeth flashed in the dark. "I do know that you’re going to have to hang in there for a few more minutes until I get done telling you what I have in mind. Otherwise, as I said, you’ll end up as fodder. For my friends. I’m certain you don’t want that." Tully watched Avery’s head shake awkwardly, his face paling despite the blood rush he must be experiencing.
"I need a taste of the two of you, and then I need you to find us some food. It doesn’t need to be anything fantastic. A rabbit for each of us, a couple of buck deer. Whatever it is, it has to be alive. We cannot," Tully showed his teeth in another sharp grin, "drink dead blood." Tully glanced around. A couple of the others squatted around the periphery of the light, watching Tully and Avery through the glare.
"No, no, no-" Avery brought his hands up to where the seatbelt met the car and struggled weakly with the red-button latch. This only lasted a minute before his face blanched even further and his big blue eyes rolled back into his head. Tully glanced at the gaunt faces around him before bending his face to the warm cavity between Avery’s collar bone and the open expanse of his throat. His teeth parted the flesh smoothly. The hot sweetness of the boy’s blood tasted syrupy and alcoholic, as if he’d binged on candy and gin. Tully had a hard time pulling himself away from that fountain. He ran his tongue over the small wounds, and watched the tissue right itself. The puncture holes filled with new flesh, looking simply bruised within seconds. Tully reached up and pressed the red button on the seatbelt. The thing would not release, so he used a little of the renewed strength flying through his veins to tear the belt from its moorings and pulled Avery into his arms.
Lowering the warm body to the ground, Tully turned his attention to the second body in the car and was relieved to see the other man still breathing, though shallowly. Tully wasted no time shredding the second belt and gently lifting both Avery and his companion, one under each arm, and jumping through the bright hole on the ceiling of the cave.
Tully lowered his burden to the scrubby ground and stared out at what had once been an empty valley. Lights shone from one end to another, and not the gentle light of candles and flickering fires. Each one shone like a miniature sun, and altogether Tully thought the effect of all that light in the valley was not unlike staring up into the dense, milky band of stars that trailed overhead in the summer. In the middle of this vision stood a huge, white cross, looking to be made of silver and glass. Oddly, this beast had no effect on him- he didn’t wish to turn away, his heart didn’t hurt at the sight. It was just another object. He walked toward it. It threw the same humming buzz that the shimmering in the cave had, though the noise sputtered and spit. Tully knew he’d have to discuss this with Avery when the boy woke up. It looked, even from this vantage so high above the Boise River Valley, that he would have many, many questions.