Deleted Scene 6: Freeing the Monster

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Ned let out a whoop without noticing—or caring—how the confines of the cellar stifled the sound. He was through!

He’d been shoveling dirt onto the stolen tarp, dragging it to the cellar to dump it, and then repeating the process for hours. Unfortunately, progress meant every trip back and forth was a little longer. Just now however, his efforts had paid off.

Pulling the shovel from the hole he’d just punched through the back wall of the tunnel, Ned slid the tool behind him and grabbed the flashlight he’d picked up from the same campsite where he’d found the tarp. As he moved further into the tunnel, he’d found the complete blackness hard to fathom even with his enhanced vision. With his free hand, he cleared out the opening and rested the light against his cheek as he peered through the hole.

The small beam did little to reveal the entirety of the large chamber. He circuited the area with the light, noting the rock walls and possibly another opening on the opposite wall. His first impression was that the floor was lined in some smooth, shiny rock until he realized the black pool was water. His inspection revealed no signs of life.
As he stretched his neck to examine the surface below the hole, something moved. Ned jerked his head back instinctively and twitched the flashlight around the area. Just as he thought his imagination was getting the better of him, the surface of the water rippled. The sight of the churning, swirling inky liquid sent a cold worm of dread burrowing into his gut. He drew back from the hole.

His instructions were to enter the chamber and clear the way. But thoughts of what may lurk in the water made Ned reluctant to continue.

Revenge. He needed to keep his eye on the prize. To steel his resolve, he closed his eyes and let the scene he’d locked away play out in slow motion.

The side door of their house swung open and he stepped into the kitchen. Although everything looked normal, he could somehow feel the abandonment that had taken root in her absence. His shoes turned to lead and Ned hauled one foot in front of the other, making his way to their bedroom. Dead eyes gazed at the evidence of what his heart already knew. The closet door stood wide open, revealing minimal contents. Dresser drawers hung open, some empty, some containing only his clothes. On the vanity, dust surrounded clear areas where items had been removed.

He clutched at his heart and realized the truth of his feelings. Even though he knew about the lies and the cheating, he had still harbored a small kernel of hope that somehow things would turn around. No longer. Staring at the remnants of his marriage, his hope died. Although their relationship had never truly existed, for Ned it ended in that moment. Gathering the pain and humiliation, Ned transformed it into anger, emptied the bank account, and left without looking back.

He opened his eyes and summoned the fury from that day. Snatching the shovel from the ground, he jabbed at the hole until it was large enough to fit his body through. If death awaited him here, then so be it. Because if he didn’t get his revenge, there’d be no pieces of himself to pick up and put back together. Getting even was the only way Ned could fathom to fix his shattered psyche.
His arms dove through the opening, followed by his head. Scrabbling his feet in the loose tunnel dirt and wriggling his torso, eventually allowed him to squirm through the hole and drop to the floor of the cavern. Momentum sent him sprawling toward the water, but he spread his arms wide and stopped inches from the water’s edge.

The pool swelled, causing tiny waves that lapped gently at the shore. Ned slid backward until his back met the wall. He watched, wide-eyed, as a warm glow rose out of the black depths. Metallic horns broke the surface first, followed by eyes the size of plates with elliptically shaped pupils, and last, a scaled snout. The thought that filled Ned’s head as he slowly retracted his feet and rose unsteadily was dragon.

The enormous head swung in his direction and he was caught in the creature’s cat’s-eye gaze. The cunning and intelligence with which Ned was regarded negated any thought of flight. He would not outsmart this beast.

A voice filled his head and shivered down his spine. “What are you waiting for? Free me.”

“Manitou?” Ned’s voice croaked from his mouth. He swallowed hard around the lump in his throat. His assumption was that the being in his head had no earthly presence.

The creature shifted its formidable girth and pointed its nose at the wall opposite the hole Ned just crawled through. He raised the light that hung from his trembling hand and pointed it across the pool at the opening he’d noticed earlier. It appeared as though the passage was blocked. Edging slowly around the cavern, side-stepping, and never taking his eyes from the monster, Ned ascended the slight incline to examine the blockage. To test the solidity of the obstruction he shoved at it with his hand and was shocked when it shifted. So he put both hands on the obstacle and pushed.

The object, whatever it was, had decayed beyond recognition. “Could’ve broken out of here a long time ago,” Ned muttered under his breath.

“Do not take me for a fool, human,” the creature snarled, making Ned start and press his hands to his head. The repugnant voice seared his brain. “Powerful medicine holds me here. Destroy the jailers!”

Ned regarded the opening reluctantly. Jailers?

But he didn’t want that voice in his head again or the creature’s teeth in his flesh, so he tore into the rotting mass. He blocked out any thoughts as to what the materials were or might have once been. When his hands penetrated the debris, he tore off huge hunks and threw them down. With a last mighty yank, the barrier crashed to the ground and his flashlight illuminated the dark hallowed eyes of the jailers. He took a step backward.

The skeletons sat, propped against the wall, spears by their sides. Decades of dust and cobwebs clung to shreds of clothing and protruding bones. Rawhide and beaded necklaces lay draped over exposed ribcages.

“Smash them!” The creature urged.

Wanting nothing more than to get out of this place, Ned didn’t hesitate. He swung his leg sideways and smashed his foot into the closest skeleton. With minimal resistance from the brittle bones, the momentum carried through to the second body. Remains scattered and a cloud of dust billowed forth. He continued to kick and stomp, mutilating the decayed bodies. One of the skulls rolled toward Ned and he jumped back instinctively, watching it roll down the short passage to land at the edge of the water.

For the first time he glimpsed the creature’s mighty tail. Longer than he would have imagined and slightly round, it was covered with shiny scales. The appendage snaked out of the water and slammed down on the skull, cracking it into shards. Then a mighty paw emerged, claws the size of a velociraptor’s digging into the wet dirt as the monster began to haul itself from the pool.

Ned ran in the only direction possible to escape the monster, crunching through the wreckage. Blindly, he fled down the dark passage, slamming into a rock wall as the shaft took a turn. With hardly a pause he continued, the burn in his thighs telling him the path sloped upward. A waft of fresh air urged him onward and he realized he could make out shapes. Slowing slightly, he scanned the shadows, fearing he might miss the outlet. The vegetation gave it away. Once Ned comprehended the shape of leaves and vines, he rushed to the opening clogged by stones and overgrown brush. Shoving large rocks in whichever direction they moved easily and ripping aside the vine riddled undergrowth; he extracted himself from the cave. Once he found stable footing on the loose stones, Ned paused for a moment to take in his surroundings.

He stood on a shoreline at the base of a high embankment. The moon had set. Before him the black waters of the lake he’d bathed in lay still and serene awaiting the brink of dawn. A noise like sand grating against the bottom of a metal boat emanated from the passage, spoiling the peaceful scene and spurring Ned into action. Not wanting to end up between the water and the monster, he searched the wall of earth and stone that surrounded the cave entrance. An exposed root offered a handhold while his feet found leverage on protruding rocks so he could scramble up the bank. At the top, he crawled over the edge, continuing into the woods on hands and knees, then turned and sat back on his heels to watch the spectacle below.

The mighty horned head appeared. The beast paused, muzzle in the air, testing the wind. With a snort, the monster jerked forward, shoving aside rocks and debris; using its shoulders to widen the cave opening. Claws gouged the sandy dirt as the creature extracted its mass from the subterranean prison and made its way to the lake. Once in the water, it glided snakelike, away from the shore until the tip of its tail was finally submerged.

Ned remained transfixed, marking the uncannily graceful progress of the beast until its muzzle sank. Only the copper horns protruded from the gentle waves. Seconds later, they too disappeared.