Welcome readers, to the fifth day in the Week of the Ogre. Apologies for the lateness of the post, but it was unavoidable. Let now you see the next installment in Riddle Ogre!
A burning fear raced through Ander’s veins, constricting around his lungs in a white hot vice of uncertainty. The footsteps rang clear to him from what seemed only feet away.
Dropping his darkened phone, Ander turned towards the tunnel fork; and sprinted through the right opening, the faint light ahead spurring him on. Light would help him see the creature chasing him in the least.
Around him the tunnel widened, and the footsteps still coming on behind seemed to echo louder in the wider space. spurring himself forward, Ander suddenly flew from the confined tunnel in an enormous cavern.
The faint green light now intensified to a steady glare of pure emerald light, which seemed to exude from the ceiling arcing above.
Barely taking in anything but the high ceiling and walls, Ander turned just outside the tunnel opening, gripping his riddle book very tightly; he stared shakily into the dimness of the tunnel.
The footsteps stopped with a soft impact, Ander could feel the creature’s presence in the shadows just beyond the cavern’s more powerful light. An almost material silence pulsed between Ander and the tunnel.
No movement came from the shadows, but just as he was becoming uneasy, Ander saw a flash of movement, and something burst from the dimness, flashing silver as it sped in an arc straight for Ander’s torso.
With a yell, Ander leapt back, as his phone clattered to the floor at his feet. Looking back into the tunnel, he saw no movement. After another minute, he realized that the creature had gone.
Leaning down, he swept his phone into his hand, and then almost dropped it when he looked at it fully.
The screen was cracked like a broken window, and four jagged furrows had been gashed into the keypad, as if a tiger had ravaged it. Turning, Ander’s face was illuminated by a fragmented white glow, the broken screen distorting the jittering light of the broken phone.
It had found his phone; Ander imagined the creature for the first time, thick and monstrous, covered in boils and fur. It likely had horns too, and maybe wings...it definitely had claws, and large ones by the look of the damage it had done to the keypad.
Just what kind of creature was this, and why was it so obsessed with riddles and taunts? Possibilites clammered for room in his brain; thoughts blundgeoned against his skull, knocking more and more crazy solutions through his head.
Looking for something to distract him from his jumbled thoughts, Ander realized that the rushing sound he had heard far off was now much closer, rumbling so loudly that he wondered how he hadn’t notice it before.
Pocketing his despoiled phone, he looked upwards towards the curving ceiling, from where the strong green light still eminated. The rock itself was obviously the source, Ander thought, some sort of luminescent stone, but wasn’t it usually coral that glowed?
If that were true, then the chamber must have once been filled with water. Just as he was about to investigate the lower parts of the cave, Ander saw words etched into the coral or rock on the ceiling.
They snaked in swirls across the chamber ceiling, exactly like the first riddle that had lured him down into these tunnels. Flashing a deeper green then the glowing stone around it, the words were easy to make out.
Craning his neck slightly, Ander read the twisting lines with a slightly foreboding aire.
What can run but never walks,
Read the first line. Walking backwards several feet, Ander read the next two lines.
has a mouth but never talks. Has a bed but never sleeps,
Stopping at the last line, Ander read it out quickly, feeling strangely rushed, a soft prickling stinging at the back of his neck.
has a head but never weeps.
The answer slammed into him with the force of sledgehammer, the reason for the rushing noise flashed before his eyes. Stiffening his entire body, he looked down.
He was standing on a 10-inch wide strip of stone that arced gently over a huge river that rolled far beneath him, crashing in spurts of foam against the sides of the fifty-foot wide channel that spanned most of the cavern. No wonder the cave ceiling was covered with coral, this subteranian river must have once covered the entire chamber.
Had the creature known him well enough that he would be so concentrated on the riddle on the ceiling that he would almost certainly tumble to his death into the roaring maelstrom far below?
Or did the creature lure many people into the chamber, perhaps even throwing them into the deadly river?
The thought of other people trapped in the tunnels didin’t encourage Ander, especially as he was still standing on less then a foot of pummus above a bottomless pit of water. Maybe he was exagerating a bit…
The next few minutes were spent in his attempts to cross the void. After nearly ten minutes of nerveracking, work, Ander collapsed on the other side of the river channel, almost kissing the ground for joy.
At the far end of the chamber, three tunnels opened from the wall, each into complete darkness. Flicking his phone open, Ander approached the three openings, resigned to the fact of more tunnel exploration.
Through the far left tunnel, Ander could see several feet of ordinary tunnel; the guttering light of his phone cut cleanly through the unnasuming shadows. In the middle tunnel Ander saw nothing different from the first, save for several stalactites hanging from the curved ceiling. The last; far left tunnel seemed more interesting; the light of his phone looked like it was sucked into the blackness of the opening, barely even getting into the blackness farther in.
Standing slightly back, Ander frisked each tunnel in turn with his eyes, wondering which he should enter.
The first looked best, but so far, the best tunnel had turned out the worst, like a skunk hidden in your birthday cake. The next one seemed slightly dubious, but the last one seemed out of the question, its darkness looking amost like a horizontal pit, which he’d fall down forever if he even put a foot into it.
Deciding on the middle tunnel finally, Ander stepped swiftly through it, taking several steps in; he immediately knew he had chosen badly. With a descending crash, the stalactites burst downwards to thud into the floor in front of the tunnel entrance, tapering stone points that completely shut him off from going back.
Feeling that he knew what was coming, Ander turned and strode froward through the blackness, his phone barely revealing the way until a flat wall inched into veiw, closing off the tunnels both ways.
Sighing dejectedly, Ander ran his hands over the featureless stone. A drift a black dust floated to the stone floor. Two words lay uncovered.
The rest of the words seemed to be covered by the coating of dust he had just swept part of off. Energized by hope, Ander went to dusting industriously, his hands amost blurring as they buzzed the dark dust off the wall in flaring clouds.
After a minute of minor sneezing, Ander controlled himself and looked at his handiwork. It was another riddle, he saw, reading:
I went and I got it, I sat and I sought it. When I couldn’t find it, I brought it home.
This riddle was strangely simple, and the lack of the archaic rhymeing unsettled Ander, but he said the answer aloud as it pushed itself from his brain.
“A blister.” He had remembered the riddle not from his book, but from when someone had told it to him. As he said it, he realized it was wrong, not a blister, but a--
He could not think any further, as, just as he uttered the wrong answer, the floor cracked beneath him, and in an implosion of rock dust and stone, Ander fell downwards.
With no time for a cry, he thudded to earth on an unforgivingly hard stone floor. Groaning slightly, Ander began to pick himself up, beaming hateful glances up at the gap in the ceiling where he had fallen through.
Then, in a silent flash of movement, a figure burst from the darkness towards him, sending him reeling backwards side on into the wall, then crashing to the tunnel floor. His phone was slammed hard to the floor clutched in his fingers, and, with a feeble crack, it broke in half.
Now in complete darkness, Ander pushed himself to his haunches, and, gripping his riddle book so hard with one hand that his fingers numbed, he watched as the impression of the thing that had started him stopped, and then moved smoothly towards him; the darkness rippling around its indistinct, ghostlike figure.
Who does Ander meet?!
1: Someone also trapped in the tunnels...
2: The Riddle Ogre...
3: A ghost...