Jessica gasped as she entered the cave, pulling her jacket tighter against her. Beside her, frantic, Jamie began shining her flash light in every direction, clearly looking for something.
"He was just here," she said, sounding defeated and chilled to the bone. "He slipped while we were on our run and then curled up in this cave, so I thought I could just run to the car and come back with you so that you could help me carry him, but Bonzie is nowhere to be seen!"
Jessica felt bad for her friend, who was naive and unable to understand that bad things happened to good people. She shrugged a little, pressing her hand against Jamie's shoulder in a reassuring way. "I'm sure he's around here somewhere, Jams. Let's just keep looking okay?"
The tailor nodded sadly. "Okay, thanks Jess."
With that, they continued further into the cave, using their phones to see. They glanced around, taking in the sights of the damp and dark cave, marveling at the naturally growing crystals that clung to the walls. Jess tried to feel at ease, but the deeper they went, the more she felt as though she couldn't.
"Bonzie!" Jamie yelled, cupping her mouth around her hand, "C'mere boy! Come on!" Her echo shrieked around the cave, making the uneasiness in Jessica's stomach harden into a tight knot. It didn't feel right that they should be going this deep. There's no way Jamie's dog had dragged himself so far into the cave, especially with how many rocks and crystals littered the ground.
Jess slowed as they drew even deeper, about to grab Jamie and tell her there was no point when a sharp bark sounded throughout the cave. Jamie jumped a little, then whirled around in the sounds direction. "Bonzie!" She yelled, taking off before Jess could object.
"Jamie!" Jessica yelled after her, turning to follow only to be met with a wall of darkness. "Jamie! You can't trust everything you see or hear, what are you doing? We could get hurt!" But she found no response and no other source of light from the cave. It was like Jamie had turned around and instantly vanished.
"Shit," Jessica said, kicking at the ground. She needed to get out of here. The fear and uneasiness was beginning to grow even further. There was no time to keep dilly-dallying, she decided. She needed to find Jamie and get out of the cave immediately. It was important.
She knew that something was going on that was unnatural. So, hoping that Jamie had gone one way, she took off, doing her best to lead her way with her phone light as she ran.
It was futile, however, as she realized she was only going deeper into the cave and, the deeper she went, the less her light seemed to reach out ahead of her. It was like the darkness was swallowing the light up whole. "Jamie! Jamie!" She screamed, hoping she could hear anything besides her own echo in response.
It sounded like Jamie! She turned towards the noise and broke out into a sprint, ready to meet up with her friend and get the hell out of the dark damp cave.
As she ran, however, she felt something grab onto her head and -
"You're taking the fall for this one, JeeJee."
"Yeah, yeah," said a garbled voice, removing it's hands from Jessica's head. "At least we have more than a fucking dog for dinner tonight, Triya. The mother should be pleased by that."
Triya snorted, eyes thining into slits. It watched as the other monster, JeeJee, picked up the human and simply slung her over it's shoulder like a doll. "It's required that you take the fall for it. I took the fall last time we lead humans into here and, while she was happy for the meal, my hands were not happy with how much more digging I had to do than the rest of the group."
JeeJee shrugged it's scaled shoulders and threw the other human corpse, Jamie, over Triya's shoulders. "We can just tell The Mother that they were exploring for some of those, ah, crystal things. She wont know the difference. and we wont get in trouble."
Triya rolled it's eyes but nodded along, following slowly as JeeJee jumped up and over a large rock, scrambling to keep Jessica's body stiff on it's back.
The walk back to camp wasn't entirely awful, in fact, it was easy. The humans weren't very heavy, probably because they were simply human females. Males tended to be a lot more heavy, Triya noticed. It tried to distract itself more with the thoughts as they approached the camp.
Just outside, Keyaf, a probation officer, stood with his back towards the entrance. His tail scraped against the rock beneath him. "Triya, JeeJee," he said as they approached, watching them with slit eyes as they walked past. He smelled of oranges.
They both nodded towards him, then headed inside, quickly dumping the bodies in the center square where a few of their group members squabbled about going out for a patrol or to summon more human pets towards them.
JeeJee walked over, greeting it's friends casually while Triya strayed behind, looking off towards the den's. It was tired. For a moment, it stopped walking and simply stared until some other monster approached from behind. "Hey, how do you feel, Triya? Good first months hunt?"
Triya turned, curious and saw Uerya standing just behind it. Shyly, it nodded, then added, "You know, it's always a fun time to go hunting on the first of the month. It's a lot easier to bring back big batches. JeeJee even found some humans that wandered to deep into the cave. Cool, right?"
Uerya nodded slowly, it's yellow eyes nothing more than slits as it searched Triya's face. "Yes, well. I wanted to ask you because, ah, Triya, I know you love being a hunter, but have you ever thought of becoming a flyer? We need a few more, and you are the smallest of the current hunting group..."
Ah, so that's what Uerya had approached for, not to make kind conversation, but to try and convice it to join the flyers again. Triya shook it's head no. "I love hunting," it said, feeling sheepish. "It makes me happy. Now, I have to go see was JeeJee, Kviav and QeeuQ are doing with my prey. I'll deal with you later, ok."
It moved away from the instructor quickly, practically running towards the other hunters. JeeJee glanced up as it approached, smiling widly at Kviav and QeeuQ.
"This one," JeeJee chastised as Triya approached, "Didn't want us to bring the humans home. But what was I supposed to do? Leave them to rot? No, thanks, we'll be eating good tonight!"
Triya kicked a discared soda can that one of them had taken as a treasure. "Yeah, well, I don't think the Mother will like it very much. I had to dig a whole bunch of tunnels the last time -"
"Oh yes, we know," whined Kviav, looking into the bottom of a salt shaker that she had collected. "You got in trouble with our most deligtful magistrate. No need to keep bring it up now that it's over, though, right?"
Triya ground her sharp teeth together. "Kviav, I don't want to ask for too much, but could you try being a little bit nicer to me? Every since you fully matured you've become a real bitch to everyone except JeeJee."
Kviav laughed. "Yeah, well, JeeJee is the mate the Mother picked for me, so I have to be nice to it, huh? That's just what makes sense."
QeeuQ opened it's mouth to respond to Kviav when a bell went off near the front parlor hall. Triya and JeeJee stood up, looking towards the big opening in the middle of their cave.
"My fellow feelers," announced a beautifully clad Feruiu, "I have terrible news. The Mother has passed away."
Cries of shock sounded from around the cave. Triya felt the air being ripped from it's lungs. JeeJee was staring in shock. QeeuQ had immediately broken down into hysterics. Kviav could only stare at the ground, her mouth agape.
All around it, the other feelers seemed to react differently, in shock and awe at what the second in command had just announced.
"Of course," Feruiu said, "That must mean we pick a new mother immediately. All females approach now!"
The female feelers stepped forward, letting Feruiu wave a remote over their heads to get an entire stat on their livelyhoods. Triya watched Kviav glow as she got scanned.
"repeat after me," Feruiu began.