Thought to be the creation of mother nature, it was a cave inhabited by wild animals and criminals over the thousands of years. Readings on complex instruments showed an abnormal collection of elements deep within, which led to a full investigation. Leading field experts collected their best students and made it a training expedition, thinking it was only trapped gases or perhaps the morbid remains of the great lizards from before.
Dr Jenson Calloway led the investigation.
“You will notice the cave entrance has been worn down by the elements,” Jenson began simply. “Which particular element do you think had the greatest effect?”
“Water, sir,” Stuart replied.
“Explanation, Stuart, you must give an explanation.”
“The deep grooves-”
“Stuart, you know the rules. Who can explain Stuart’s theory for him?”
Millie looked at Stuart and shrugged a ‘What can you do?’.
“The deep grooves in the surface of the rock suggest water,” Millie began. “Most likely during the warmer months when the snow melts, rather than rain.”
“A sound theory, Millie, I concur,” Dr Calloway smiled.
Calloway gestured for Stuart, Millie, Norah and Michael to follow inside. The cave welcomed them with a toothy maw, jagged rocks threatening to impale them should they slip or even stumble. Calloway led the line deeper into the mountain, the student’s instruments beeping continuously as they examined the surface of the cave, the moisture that gathered on the cave floor and even the air they were breathing.
“Strange, the emissions seem to correlate with the same emissions around the deceased,” Michael noted.
“How would you explain that?” Calloway asked as they walked deeper.
“Not sure, sir.”
“Give me your best guess.”
“Well, perhaps wild-animals recently inhabited the cave, such as the wolves in the area. They might have brought their prey in here, could have rotted away?”
“It’s possible, but if that were so, we would also smell it. No, I believe those emissions are due to something else. I will put you in charge of that,” Calloway ordered. “While I’m at it, Stuart, you are in charge of studying the moisture, Norah, you examine the rock surface and look for anything unusual about those stalactites. Millie, you’re with me.”
Calloway led onwards, this time with only Millie. It wasn’t long before Millie could only hear the echoes of her classmates as they faded in the darkness, a corner blocking their lights from sight. As they descended. Millie noticed the surface ahead seemed to change from jagged rock to something more defined.
“What are your observations so far?” Calloway asked.
“I believe we’re entering a deposit, sir,” Millie replied.
“Indeed. From the looks of the rock surface, I am sure you will agree with me that it is not of any mineral we traditionally find.”
Millie did agree. The tone was unusual, lighter than the black, moist rock. In addition, the tone of their footsteps changed as well, making a more woody sound. Millie was about to give her opinion, but both Calloway and Millie found themselves slipping. The two exclaimed as they fell forward, the cave seemingly slanting downwards, causing them to roll down.
By the time their descent ended, Millie could hear Calloways pained groaning over the ringing in her ears. Turning her head, Millie caught sight of Dr Calloway trying to push himself onto his feet, but one leg kept giving out.
“Doctor!” Millie grunted, stumbling over and helping him up. “Are you alright? Is anything broken?”
“No, no, just too old too brush off falls like that,” Calloway muttered, jealous at how easily Millie took such a fall. “I’ll be fine, but let’s be careful from now on. It seems there are smooth lattices to the structure...most peculiar”
“Are you sure you’re okay to walk?”
“Yes, I am.”
Calloway wrenched his arm out of Millie’s hands and stood proudly. With gritted teeth, he even subdued the slight limp.
“Onwards!” Calloway bellowed.
Millie couldn’t help but smile, following Calloway’s march deeper into the strange cave. The further they walked the more confused they became. Millie tried to analyze the walls, but they became more unusual the further they walked. If anything, they seemed less like stone and more like…
“Bone,” Millie whispered. “It’s bone, sir.”
“I can see that, but how? What creature has a bone structure so large, so twisted?”
“And how did it get here?”
The gravity of these questions began to set in and the two fell silent. It wasn’t until they reached a dead-end that they spoke again. Yet, it was a dead-end of bone or stone, it was a wall of what appeared to be a dry, porous sponge. The very sight of the strange substance made both Millie and Calloway cringe in disgust.
“I’m...not sure what I’m looking at here, sir,” Millie murmured. “What is this?”
“I am as confused as you.”
The two approached the wall simultaneously, reaching out to touch the fine web of bone, but were immediately put on guard. As Millie’s fingertips graced the wall, beyond the bone there was a movement or a large, grey mass. It was visible for only a moment before returning to the darkness, but in that moment both Calloway and his student stumbled backwards onto the ground again.
“S-s-sir?” Millie stuttered.
“I saw it! I saw it,” Calloway cried, pushing himself back to his feet.
Both stared, at the darkness, watching as the mass once more loomed forward, then back into the darkness. The motion was slow to repeat, but both the doctor and the student could make out the mass for what it was. A wall of flesh, pulsating like a heartbeat, but far slower. With each appearance, they understood more.
“The creature is still alive,” Calloway murmured, shaking at the thought of making the discovery of the century. He approached the wall, examining what appeared to be a segment of the creature’s brain. “It’s remarkable, untouched beneath the earth, a...dinosaur?”
Millie couldn’t help but join in on the excitement, slight fear make her a little tense as she joined the doctor. She examined the bone weave wall more than the brain.
“Scratches on the wall,” Millie noted. “Animals have been trying to get through her, but they only seem to create surface scratches, nothing deep.”
“A creature of this size needs an incredibly strong bone structure to sustain its weight,” Calloway told her. “I don’t know much about biology...I don’t know what kind of animal we are standing in, but it seems so familiar. The structure of this cave...if this is the brain, and I think it is, then this would be a channel towards…”
As Calloway spoke, Millie noticed movement in the darkness on their side of the bone wall. Looking around her, she saw on the ground fragments of stone, no doubt broken from the cave walls above. She saw bones, but these were bones of smaller creatures, no doubt brought into the cave by wild animals. Yet, the further she looked into the darkness, the more she saw evidence of more recent life.
“Hair? No...fur,” Millie murmured, kneeling down.
Patches of fur were easy to make out, but then she noticed the wet clumps of hair. Thinking it might have been hairballs, she almost dismissed it, but then she noticed larger, dry clumps of fur. Finally, the ray of her flashlight illuminated the wolf. It was fixed to the wall, lacking most of its fur and seemingly melting into the surface of a porous section of bone. Millie’s mouth was open, but she couldn’t say anything.
It was only when the wolf’s eyes opened and focused on her that she finally screamed.
Millie turned to Doctor Calloway, who stumbled once more at her scream, falling onto his rear painfully for the third time. Millie was able to see why in that moment. Fine tendrils of the bonelike surface had spread to clutch Calloway’s shoes. The tendrils were fast enough to make you stumble in moments, but you had to be standing in one spot for a minute or two to be completely trapped.
Calloway saw this too when Millie pointed her light towards it. All semblance of fascination vanished from his mind, replaced with deep horror. The creature they were in was slowly consuming any living matter. Millie and the doctor didn’t need to exchange thoughts, as they shared only one. Both climbed out of the cave, feeling safer once their hands clasped stone, instead of bone.
Michael, Norah and Stuart stood at the ready, having heard Millie’s scream. Calloway and Millie didn’t explain, they just marched out of the cave. Once they could breathe fresh air, Calloway spun on the spot to face his students, wearing a smile of excitement once more.
“Millie, Michael, Norah, Stuart, my finest students,” Calloway began. “We have found something worthy of a nobel prize. A discovery that could shake this world, both figuratively and literally. Millie, I ask that you fill the others in, I am going to make some calls. But know this, each and everyone of you, I will take you to the top of this field in days. Keep your mouths shut, your thoughts to yourself.”
Calloway turned to hobble back to their small field tent, but Millie stopped him.
“Sir, that is not a dinosaur,” Millie told him.
“Dinosaur?” Michael repeated.
“Wait, there’s a-” Stuart began.
“No, Millie, it is not,” Calloway nodded. “In fact, I’m not sure if it’s even prehistoric...or from here, for that matter...”
There was more to that statement and Calloway’s students read as much into it. Exchanging looks of excitement, wonder and even fear, they watched the doctor enter the tent to report their finding.