The Catoctin Banner presents a continuation of fiction serials for your enjoyment. “Cast from the Gods” is a new, original serial set at Site R when it was under construction. Let us know what you think.
Part 5: escape
Every soldier in the secret chamber beneath Raven Rock Mountain heard the roar from inside the metal coffin they had just sealed. It was a low, rumbling sound that rose to an anguished scream. Some soldiers covered their ears because, even deafened by the containment in the coffin, the roar was both loud and grating.
Almost unconsciously, they all stepped away from the coffin.
“What the hell was that?” Maj. Henry Owens asked to no one in particular.
Dr. Howard Buchanan shook his head. He was supposed to be the man who knew all the cultures of this region. He could speak at length about the settlers, Indians, and even proto-Indians who had lived in this area. He knew the flora and fauna. He had even studied the fossil evidence of the life that had once existed here.
“I don’t know,” the doctor said.
Something banged against the inside of the casket. A fist? A foot?
The truth was Howard had never heard of anything like this before. The men building this chamber had found the casket three days ago. At that time, it had contained only a skeleton, which had been unusual enough, seeing as how the casket had been found hundreds of feet underground, and the skeleton appeared deformed. Then the skeleton had started growing flesh and organs.
“I need to do research,” Dr. Buchanan said.
“You researched this area before we started building,” Major Owens said. “How much more can you find out? Don’t you think the world would have heard about something like that?” He stabbed a finger in the direction of the casket. “We need to know what we’re dealing with now!”
“I can’t tell you anything right now.”
Another bang from inside the casket. Whatever it was, it didn’t seem strong enough to lift the lid off. Not surprising, seeing as how it took nearly a dozen men to put it back on the casket.
“Sergeant Konrath!” Owens called. The young sergeant ran over and saluted. “I want additional security in case that… thing gets out.”
Konrath looked at the casket. “All we have is fencing.”
“Surround it with fencing and close off the top. Then surround that with razor wire. It probably won’t stop it if that thing gets out, but it will at least give us time to shoot it to hell.”
The sergeant sent three soldiers in the Jeep to the surface for supplies.
He returned and said, “My men will be back in a few minutes. Do you really think it will be needed, sir?”
As if to answer the question, the lid of the casket scraped a bit, and the soldiers brought their rifles to their shoulders.
The men returned with the chain-link fencing and razor wire. They set it up around the casket, brought the top ends together so that it resembled a see-through teepee when it was finished. They also hammered spikes into the ground to anchor the fencing. However, if the creature managed to lift the lid of the casket, the fencing wouldn’t hold it for long.
Owens left to call his commander and update him on the situation. Dr. Buchanan left with him to return to Washington to try to figure out what this creature was.
When Major Owens returned, he brought two more soldiers with Browning Automatic Rifles. The soldiers set up along one side of the casket and settled down to watch and wait.
The creature continued to growl and scream from time to time. Occasionally, it smashed at the sides, causing the soldiers to jump each time.
Additional men and equipment were placed at the entrance to the tunnel into the mountain. Major Owens wasn’t sure what would happen, but he knew whatever was in that chamber had to be contained. He had ordered a steel cage to be brought in. He would feel a lot safer once that casket was behind bars.
Around quarter after seven, the creature screamed, and the lid rattled. The soldiers tensed. The lid slid to the side until it tipped over the edge.
“It’s opened the casket!” Owens shouted.
The creature rose up from the casket. Owens knew at a glance that Dr. Buchanan wouldn’t find anything about it because no creature like this could have existed on earth without someone writing about it. It looked more like one of the monsters from the movies than a living beast.
It was at least seven feet tall with gray skin and black spots at random locations. Its head would have been too large for its body if it had been a recognizable creature. Spiky growths covered its head. It looked like a pufferfish, except it had a long snout with gills along the sides. When it opened its mouth to roar, Owens thought the teeth resembled the flat, hooked appearance of shark’s teeth.
The roar was deafening without the casket muffling the sound. It echoed off the walls of the chamber, making it sound as if the soldiers were facing an army of creatures, and one was more than enough.
It grabbed the fence with stubby fingers tipped with long claws. The fencing rattled and moved, but stakes in the ground held… for the moment.
Owens backed away from the fencing.
“Shoot it!” Owens ordered.
Bullets ripped through the air, and the noise grew even worse, if that was possible. It was so loud that everything seemed to vibrate inside the chamber. The creature flinched as the bullets hit it, and pieces of its new flesh ripped away. But it remained standing and screaming.
Owens held up his hand, and the shooting stopped.
The creature grabbed the fence with its clawed hands. It didn’t shake it; it stood staring at the soldiers. Then it closed its eyes, breathed in deeply, and began glowing blue.
“What the…” Owens said.
He waved for the soldiers to step back. He had no idea what was happening, but he doubted he wanted to be close to it. All the soldiers moved back except for Private Bucknell, who stood staring at the creature. Then he took a step towards it.
“Private Bucknell, back away. Now!” Owens shouted.
The young man didn’t. He took a step closer.
The creature opened its eyes and focused on Bucknell.
The soldier’s back arched, and his head tilted back as if he was in pain. His body seemed to ripple beneath his uniform. Either that, or Bucknell was shaking in fear. He turned, and Owens gagged. The soldier’s face was gone. All the skin on his face had vanished, and it was raw flesh staring at him, and it all faded out of sight.
The creature inhaled deeply, and Owens saw the pits and gaps of missing flesh fill in. The blue glow faded.
The creature growled. It grabbed the fence and pulled. A link snapped and then another.
“Fire!” Owens yelled.
The rifle fire opened up again. The creature flinched under the bullets, but it continued pulling at the fence. More links snapped.
If they could put enough lead into the creature, it would have to stop again to rest and regenerate. Then what would happen? Would another soldier die? They had to get it to the point where it couldn’t regenerate.
It had grown from a skeleton, though! How much more could they do to it?
“I want a slow retreat one at a time toward the entrance. We need to shore up the barricade.”
One by one, the men stopped firing and ran toward the entrance to the tunnel, which was more than 100 yards away.
When all his men were gone, Owens took a hand grenade from his belt. He pulled the pin and let the handle fly. Then he lobbed it, so it landed in front of the fence and creature, and he ran.
He counted as he ran, and right before the explosion, he flattened himself on the ground to avoid any shrapnel.
He rolled over and looked back. He couldn’t see anything through all the dust. However, he heard an angry growl and more metal snapping.
Owens pushed himself to his feet and ran for the entrance.