Interlude: Until You See Daylight

Monica only looked back for a moment to see the monster stalking her. It was an unnaturally large creature, with smooth, dark blue skin, jagged teeth, and no eyes – at least none where a normal human’s eyes would normally go. She had never seen anything like it before or during her imprisonment. It didn’t look like it was native to the caves, either. Her only guess was that her kidnappers hid it there as a safeguard against intruders – or in her case, escapists. There was no way she would stand a chance against the thing by herself even with a weapon, so she had no choice but to run.

Fortunately for Monica, it didn’t look like the creature could see where it was going. That should have made it easy for her to lose it in the vast, sprawling network of tunnels she found herself in.

She could still hear the monster’s footsteps getting closer as she rounded corner after corner.

How in the Goddess’ name is that thing still chasing me? Can it hear my footsteps? Did it catch my scent?

Monica could barely hear herself think over the sounds of her own footsteps and her heavy breathing.

I need to keep moving. I need to find a way out of here. If I slow down, that monster will get me. If I go back, then I’ll have to deal with her again… Either way, if I give up, I’m as good as dead.

Her clothes were too short and ragged to adequately conceal her wounds. She used what little loose clothing she had to soak up some of the blood from her left leg to try to keep the monster off her trail.

After what felt like an hour, maybe more – it was difficult to tell without being able to see the sun or moon – the only footsteps Monica heard were her own. It would have been a perfect moment for her to celebrate, except she was still trapped. As far as she was concerned, the only safe space was on the surface, and she had no idea how to get there.

After stopping to catch her breath, she pressed onward, hoping that neither the monster nor Kronya knew more about the caves than she did. However, her own fatigue turned out to be a greater adversary than the dumb, blind, four-legged demonic beast, or the pale-skinned psychopath with the magic knife.

Her legs felt like they were burning. Her stride had gone from a light, energy-saving jog to a lumbering, exhausted crawl within minutes. Eventually, her arms couldn’t prop her up any longer, and she collapsed onto the rocky cavern floor, panting and heaving and struggling to pick herself up again.

Come on! Why did this have to happen now?

Though her strength had been depleted and she could barely see in front of her, Monica rolled over on her side to give herself room to breathe. Most importantly, she wanted to keep an ear to the ground to listen for anyone approaching her location.

To her dismay, she heard footsteps – two sets of steps getting louder by the second.

Oh, no… Nononononononononono…

What she heard next chilled her to the core and defeated any hope of her escaping the cave safely.

“You do not belong here.”

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