Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Nine

  1. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part One
  2. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Two
  3. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Three
  4. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Four
  5. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Five
  6. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Six
  7. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Seven
  8. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eight
  9. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Nine
  10. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Ten
  11. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eleven – Finale



Part Nine: The Vanity of Mankind


The strands of colorful biomass lightly clung to Jeffrey’s face as he lifted his head from the rocky floor. His vision gradually focused enough for him to realize he was in the cave where Alan had caught him. A dim lantern cast orange rays on the cold stone, and the pit beside him seemed to swallow the light into a bottomless void. He could hear Alan shuffling about behind him, but Jeffrey was too late to feign unconsciousness before Alan realized he’d awoken. 

“Ah, how do you feel, son?” Alan rolled Jeffrey over onto his back with the heel of his boot. 

“W-What the hell is this?” Jeffrey asked, still suffering the fog of two strikes to the head. 

“You know, I’m not sure if I’m getting careless, or if it’s just your sheer fucking tenacity, but I haven’t had to do this before.” Alan leaned against the cave wall in exasperation, looking down at Jeffrey. “Most people leave well enough alone.” 

“What is this place? Why-” Jeffrey was cut off by Alan’s interjection.

“See, kid, any questions you have are honestly pointless. You know why you’re here.” 

“Let me leave, and we can forget about all of this.” Jeffrey became agitated now as he regained his mental clarity. 

“What did you expect would happen, eh? Did you think you were going to sleuth out the case? Figure out what I was up to?” Alan paced the room now, muttering as much to himself as he was to Jeffrey. “Did you really think I didn’t notice what you were doing?” 

“What do you want?” Jeffrey pleaded with a grimace.

“Nothing you can give me, I’m afraid. You see, as much as you think you’ve learned, you’re still just as blind as you were to begin with.” Alan stopped and made eye contact with Jeffrey from across the pit. “Did you expect some book to open up the secrets of the universe?” Alan sarcastically mocked. 

“I found the knife, too,” Jeffrey defiantly rebutted. 

“Oh, I know you did.” 

“And it’s already being translated. They’ll be here soon.” 

“There’s probably nobody on their way. People don’t see because they choose not to.” Alan began pacing again. “And I don’t blame them. This isn’t what life should be,” Alan declared, gesturing to himself and Jeffrey. “Better to die ignorant than live with a scenic view of ten thousand terrors beyond your wildest imagination.” 

“Once they’ve translated the knife, they’ll know what’s going on,” Jeffrey vainly protested. 

“They might. But they won’t translate that knife any time soon.” Alan pulled the ancient blade from his jacket, caked with dried blood. “It’s a shame you had to drag others into this mess. Did you really think I would let those idiots fumble around with something like this?”

“What did you do?” Jeffrey cried in horror. 

“I retrieved what you stole. Action, consequence. That’s just about the only thing in this world that stays true no matter how much you know about this god-forsaken place.” 

“I-I can’t-” Jeffrey stammered in disbelief. 

“It’s funny, really. What’s written on this knife makes the book a bit… misleading,” Alan explained as he turned the knife over in his hands. “See, the fellah who wrote that text so long ago thought we could appease somebody- that we could survive if only we had the right help from ‘above’ or something. Complete nonsense!” 

“Then what is this?” Jeffrey asked again, despair creeping into his voice.

“The knife tells a more accurate tale,” Alan continued. “Mankind is so self-absorbed we can’t imagine a world without us at the very center of it. What a strange story we’ve concocted. This planet, Jeffrey- it’s not our home.” Alan stood beside the dark void and looked down. “It’s theirs.” 

“What are they, then?” Jeffrey pressed. 

“No idea!” Alan answered with a whimsical tone. “How’s a person even supposed to comprehend something like this? Kid, we weren’t made to know what these things are. These words, here,” he said as he pointed to the knife, “they tell the first part of the story. Whatever these things are, they’ve been here since the beginning- at least since the early days of this planet. This place was built for them, not us. We spend ten thousand years here and think this place belongs to us? Ha!” Alan scoffed. “We don’t belong here. We were placed here, son. Those ‘great ones’ you read about in the book- they put us here, and they aren’t merciful or kind. They’re cunning, cruel masters, and we’re just fucking rats to them.” 

“Then why did you kill that woman in the cave? The one I found a few months ago?” 

“Pal, I didn’t kill her. The people that killed her have a copy of the book and think they’ve figured the whole thing out,” Alan explained with a sneer. “They don’t understand there’s no stopping this. We can’t appease anybody- we were put here for one reason.” 

“And what’s that,” Jeffrey asked, slightly shifting away from the pit.

“This planet isn’t some paradise of biological flourishing, Jeffrey. It’s a feeding ground. They put us here to die,” Alan sighed as he shuffled back around the pit and knelt next to Jeffrey. “It’s not our home, it’s our grave.” 

“H-how do we stop it?” Jeffrey asked, still straining to rationalize a solution of some kind. “Why are we still here if…” 

“Don’t know, kid!” Alan interjected again. “You can’t figure this one out. There’s no mysterious formula. They’ll wake up when they wake up, and that’ll be it. They’re already stirring- have been for the past couple decades. Who knows how long we have? If I’m being honest, my theory is that they’re being held off until humanity is… juicy enough,” he said with a sly grin. “From what I can tell, we’re in some gladiator match to see which species fills up the planet fastest. Almost eight billion and counting, that’s pretty impressive. I think these things weren’t supposed to wake up the first time. Humans were too few back then. Whatever these ‘great ones’ are must have had to come and put the brakes on the feeding frenzy until dinner was ready, if you know what I mean,” he concluded with a chuckle. 

“Then why are you doing this? If it doesn’t matter what we do, why are you trying to hide it?” 

“Can you imagine what people would do? Mass panic. It would be chaos. It’s all I can do keep idiots like you from blundering into this. The government hasn’t figured it out yet,” motioning down the passage to the rest of the facility. They know it’s something bad, so they keep it a secret for now. Fortunately, they don’t understand yet that all their efforts are ultimately in vain. They can’t stop what’s coming.” 

“I swear I won’t tell anybody- I understand now,” Jeffrey pleaded, feeling he needed to negotiate his way out of this situation. “I promise I won’t-”

“Look, kid, I have no idea whether you’ll keep your mouth shut. This is me sealing the deal,” Alan motioned to the pit. “Now, go ahead and climb in.” 

“W-what? You can’t be serious,” Jeffrey exclaimed.

“Oh, just get down there already,” Alan waved a gun he had pulled from his jacket. 

“Okay! Okay!” Jeffrey held his hands up in surrender, edging closer to the pit. “Please, you don’t have to do this!” Sweat broke out across his forehead, and his arms shook as he looked into the darkness. 

“Go on now, no need to drag this out. You won’t even know what’s happening once it starts, I promise,” Alan described in an almost reassuring voice. 

Jeffrey looked over the edge, his hands pressing into the soft biomass underneath him. The darkness seemed to reach out of the pit and embrace him, unknown terrors awaiting him at the bottom. The daze of his confusion over the past weeks cleared away, and his will to survive mounted. Images from his dreams danced in the darkness below him, taking on a thousand shapes in his imagination. Hearing Alan fiddle with the gun behind him snapped Jeffrey into action- with a sweeping turn he latched onto Alan’s leg as he dropped into the pit. 

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