Deleted Scene 11: Ned Reaps What He Sowed

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Ned didn’t realize how awesome the cold ground felt on his pounding head until he tried to examine his surroundings. As his face lifted from the dirt, pain skewered his left eye and only his right eyelid lifted to allow him to look around. Memories flooded back: the explosion of the cave entrance, the chase through the forest, and the boy’s fist smashing into his temple.

Despite the prevailing darkness, he could make out the shape of the nearby dirt pile and further in the distance, the furnace. The kid had deposited him in the cellar. Ned guessed the throbbing in his left shoulder was more likely due to the seven foot tumble than his hands being tied behind his back. Since his legs were unencumbered, he rolled to his right side, bent his knee to provide a stable base, then gradually drew himself upright.

He needed to free his hands and then get the heck out of here before the boy brought back the cavalry.

A moan slipped out as he rose unsteadily to his feet. More than his shoulder had absorbed the impact of being dropped into the cellar. Shuffling to the corner where he’d stowed his pilfered tools, Ned let loose with a string of obscenities. Crap! He’d forgotten he got rid of everything when he expected the cops to show up here.

Son of a B. This could not be happening. He considered summoning Manitou, but the monster was in the lake when the cave entrance blew; it was no help to Ned here. And even if Manitou could persuade someone to help—just as he’d recruited Ned—surely it would be too late.

He stared blankly at the ancient furnace. An eyebrow twitched upward. Maybe there was something useful left down here. He crouched to inspect the structure which consisted mainly of steel plates and ductwork. The rolled metal was fairly crude, with rough edges.

Possibly sharp edges?

The door which allowed fuel to be added to the furnace was already removed so Ned sat down and turned his back to the opening. He tested the edge with his thumb. It was worth a try. The angle he needed to press the ropes against the corner of the steel wrenched his aching shoulder even more, but he knew he had no other options. The rasping of hemp across the uneven surface sounded promising.

Time stretched out, until Ned hovered near hysteria. At first, he’d allowed an occasional break in his efforts to rest his shoulder—the dull ache had soon turned into a sharp pain—but as time passed, he paused only for a brief moment. If he didn’t free himself, he faced a whole new world of hurt. Problem was, he couldn’t see behind his back; couldn’t judge his progress. The subtle snap each time a rope fiber broke convinced him he wasn’t wasting his time though—assuming the tiny noise was actually the rope splitting.

Beads of sweat formed on Ned’s forehead and dripped into his eyes. Suddenly he stopped. What was that?

It sounded like the swish of footsteps through dead leaves on the forest floor.

Ah crap.

Ned began scraping the rope against the steel at a frenzied pace. His muscles strained with effort as he pushed hard against the rough edge.

Voices sounded from above—too muffled to make out words, but the timbre of the conversation indicated males.

Ned’s heart hammered in his chest at the grating noise on the trap door. He knew the sound. Heck, he’d made that sound while dragging logs both on and off the door above.

Without warning, his hands jerked. His right wrist slammed into the unyielding metal and Ned emitted a small cry of pain. His left hand thrust through the opening used to fuel the furnace, leaving some flesh from his knuckles on the inside furnace wall. Neither of these things warranted much attention because Ned was free.

His choice of action was limited. Judging by the voices above, there were more than two people up there—more than Ned could handle by himself—which meant he must hide. Only one avenue remained: the tunnel.

Ned scurried in that direction, wishing he hadn’t caved the shaft in already. As he hurried forward on hands and knees, he realized the passage was open. He didn’t have time to consider why that might be, he was just grateful.

The creak of old hinges echoed from the cellar.

He crawled backward, brushing away his tracks. Then he scooped up loose dirt with both hands and threw it down the passage to further erase his trail. He heard shoes crunch on the cellar’s floor. Ned’s breath came in uneven gasps as he frantically regressed down the tunnel. After scrambling through the hole and into the cavern, he glanced back along the small shaft and caught a flash of light from the other end. He began making his way around the pool.

The cave was silent as a tomb. Ned wondered if the girl was in here. The thought didn’t bother him; she could be taken care of easily.

The pitch black challenged his enhanced vision as he picked his way around the water, mostly by feel. At the opening to the passage which once led to the lake, Ned recoiled at the feel of something soft against his face. He patted his shirt pocket and removed a lighter. After three tries, his shaking hands succeeded in producing a flame and he examined the object hanging from the cave ceiling. He remembered breaking through here days ago. This time though, the barrier was not mostly disintegrated so he ducked under it, his skin crawling at the furry sensation on the back of his neck.

On the other side he paused, unsure what to do next. Was the girl in here? Was she alive? Or was she buried in the rubble that used to be the cave entrance?

Ned froze at a sound from the cavern. Wavering light leaked from around the edges of the barrier. “He’s not in here,” a voice called. A comment Ned couldn’t make out came from further down the tunnel followed by a reply: “There aren’t any tracks. Besides, why would he come this way? It’s a dead end. I’m telling you, he escaped.”

A grin tugged at the corners of Ned’s mouth. Seriously? They’d fallen for his ruse?

The light disappeared from the other side of the crude curtain. Ned peeked into the large chamber. The tunnel entrance flickered dimly for a moment and then went black. He began making his way around the pool. Intent on listening for sounds from the tunnel, he didn’t notice the black water lapping at the periphery of the huge basin.

“Gushkewau’ .” The name crawled up Ned’s spine and the fine hair on the back of his neck prickled in warning.

He was ten feet from the exit. He dashed toward it.

“You have failed miserably.”

Ned could still hear voices in the cellar and he paused with his hands on the lip of the tunnel opening. “But I disposed of the statue. And the girl,” he whispered desperately. He peered over his shoulder at the churning water.

It was here. The monster was in here!

“The girl lives. I am trapped. Our deal is null.”

His lips pursed to protest, Ned clamped his mouth shut when he saw the twin spikes pierce the water’s surface. He needed to cut his losses. Pulling hard with his hands, he heaved himself into the tunnel. He could barely hear the others—he guessed they must be out of the cellar. He did, however, clearly make out four words which seized his chest in a vice-grip of terror: “Let’s blow it then.”

The trap door banged shut, breaking Ned’s stupor and spurring him into action. He opened his mouth to shout as he scurried down the tunnel, but the explosion drowned out any sound he might have made and propelled him back the way he came.

Later, minutes or hours, Ned had no way of knowing, his eyes fluttered open. He lay in a crumpled heap covered with dirt. The lighter remained gripped in his fist. He thumbed the wheel twice before the small flame came to life. He lay near the tunnel opening to the cavern. His gaze was fixed on the hole; facing his fate.

A cunning, elliptically shaped eyeball stared back at him.

“Son of a B,” he whispered.