Jason and the Cave-o-nauts
Five of them in the dark waiting for the monster. Jason, the Cooper twins, Darren, and rather weirdly, Millie, and she was scared of everything. She was fascinated by Darren’s tale of a half man half bull creature that stalked the caverns gobbling up kids who had foolishly ventured from the safety of the bunker.
‘But which half is it?’ Millie said. ‘Is the top half the man, or the bottom half?’
Darren squinted at his hand of cards in the gloomy light shining from the lantern in the middle of their circle. ‘What? Oh, um, whatever you normally get, top half bull, I suppose.’
‘Oh,’ Millie said. ‘Gosh.’
The game moved around the circle once more, and this time it was Donny Cooper who spoke, but quietly, almost as though he were thinking out loud. He said, ‘Top half man, bottom half bull. Definitely.’
A clang from one of the bulkhead doors startled the group into shushed silence. Jason turned off the lamp. In the sudden darkness their breathing was a rolling thunder, this fear creeping up his insides, of the creature on the prowl. He felt a hand reach for his leg and squeeze, and this was a new horror; who was on his right, Millie, or Donny Cooper?
Booted feet were crunching the loose rock path, and then the light of a head torch faintly illuminating auburn hair swept past and away into the caves.
‘That was your Hot Aunt Susan,’ Darren said.
‘Bitch Aunt Susan,’ Jason muttered. He searched around on the ground for his cards.
Darren said, ‘Yeah, she caught him in an awkward moment. Let’s just say, when he was pretty relaxed. Mostly.’
A shocked silence, and then giggles. Jason tried to sort through his cards, but it was hard, the way Millie was staring. Jason turned the other way, to find Donny Cooper with the exact same look on his face.
Darren opened his mouth but didn’t speak. A faint scream was echoing, and then a faint voice, calling in agony: ‘Oh God, help!’
Millie shot to her feet. She was digging deep in one of her belt pouches. She thrust up her hand in triumph, small pieces of paper fluttering between her fingers.
‘Plasters! She might be hurt. Come on, guys.’
No one moved.
‘Guys?’ Millie said.
The screaming began once more. Millie turned and raced towards it.
‘Maybe we should…’ Donny Cooper said.
Jason rolled his eyes, remembered the darkness, and sighed in deep condescension.
He said, ‘If there’s a monster, I’m pretty sure it’s top half man, bottom half man.’
Donny Cooper leapt to his feet and raced after Millie.
Darren said to Bobby Cooper, ‘Dude, your brother, is he…?’
Bobby Cooper said, ‘Hot Aunt Susan’s top half woman, bottom half woman, right?’
They were both gone before their cards hit the ground.
‘Bunch of idiots,’ Jason said. He began to gather up the cards, face still burning hot at the memory of his aunt’s triumphant screeching, at her torch pointing in accusation as his franticly clawing hands.
The cards fluttered once more, and Jason was off, haring and hoping because if he was late, he’d be the idiot.