Blogging From A to Z is a blog challenge where participants post a new item every day (except Sundays), where every item relates to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. You can find out more over at http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com
Word Count: PG
His foot slipped from the last rung, depositing him in the ankle- deep water with an echoing splash that made him freeze, fingers so tight on the side of the ladder he was surprised his knuckles didn’t glow in the gloom.
Usko let out the shuddering breath he didn’t know he was holding and carefully prised his fingers from the damp metal. Silence was good. Silence would keep him alive a few hours longer. Taking his time, each wet step slowly tentative, he made his careful way along the sewer. Two turns more, one long corridor and he’d be home safe—
The water exploded. Usko floundered backwards, slipped, slammed his head on the ground; swallowed his shriek along with a mouthful of filthy liquid as a hand with too little flesh seized his ankle. He kicked, flailed, until the hand slid free; lungs burning he thrashed above the waterline again, clawing for the weapon he’d left back at the base. Oh god, why now, he was so close!
Gasping, dripping and stock still, Usko realised it was gone. Like it had never been there, like it hadn’t tried to grab him, it had retreated while he panicked. Panicked food probably didn’t taste good; he groaned out a laugh and wished his head didn’t ache so much. Still, now it was down here it was time for them to leave. Too dangerous to remain. Taking a deep breath, he resumed his trudge along the sewer.
The rotted hand flashed out, raking across his face, before he knew what was happening. Ragged nails tore at his flesh. A sagging face with too-bright, too-clear yellow eyes was inches from his. Usko drew in his breath, chest filling for one last useless scream.
The creature turned and lumbered away. The uneven splashing of its footsteps diminished until all that was left were echoes and Usko’s rapid pants.
Shit, shit, shit.
That was that, then.
* * *
The hushed chatter fell silent as he stumbled through the doorway and slumped against the wall. They hadn’t even heard him coming; he hadn’t thought he’d been that subtle.
Ulr was the first on his feet. From his cautious approach, he was already afraid of him. “Usko, your face… Your eye…”
He reached up tentatively, wincing as his fingers grazed the jagged wound. He didn’t need a mirror to know why he was staring: one eye would still be brown but the other, this eye, would already be shifting into a sickly, vivid yellow. “It’s no longer safe here,” he said and choked down a laugh that would only have scared them worse than his face. “You need to go.”
“But what about you…?” Ulr’s voice trailed off as he searched Usko’s face; his expression hardened into resolve. “Come on. We don’t have long. Where there’s one…”
His second, worried, glance didn’t pass Usko by, nor did the speed with which he hurried the others, pale and drawn, through the hidden entrance. Ulr was right; Usko knew it, intimately now. Where there was one there was always more, eventually.