I wouldn't have noticed the sound. It blended all too well into the myriad of sounds emanating from this room. But it was there. A distinct tapping sound, like someone was slapping two stones together. It was faint at first, which is why we didn't notice it. It could've been anything. Until it came closer. We could hear its footsteps now. Soft clanks on the stone ground.
Each footstep bellowed as it drew closer. The suspense was almost more than I could take. We readied ourselves, unsure of what would come out of that darkness.
Finally, out of the darkness a gray figure emerged. Tattered remains of clothes hung off its empty figure. Dry tendons and little bits of flesh connected together like a spider web drawn across it. Two red eyes stared at us. It looked oddly human, but it was nearly devoid of flesh.
As we gazed at it the figure continued to drift towards us. Each step echoed off the walls. Each slow step drew it closer and closer. As the skeleton walked bits of cloth and dust drifted off it, creating a trail of debris behind it. Suddenly, there was a loud crack.
My father's pickaxe collided squarely on the skeleton's torso. Bones, flesh and rags flew from the impact site as the skeleton stuttered backwards yet it continued, seemingly unfazed.
This was different from a zombie. A zombie would die from a hit like that.
I threw my pickaxe toward the skeleton, my weapon colliding with the skeleton's jaw. This time, the pickaxe sunk deep into its skull, sending it reeling backwards right over a dark ledge.
We stood there for a second, unsure if we should peer over the cliff.
I moved first. Drawing a torch from a nearby wall I approached the ledge. As I closed in the fire cast its light around me.
Sharp ridge stone stalactites jutted out from either side of the ravine I was looking in to. The darkness seemed to go on forever.
I threw the torch down the ravine. My eyes followed the light as it traveled downward further, and further until it disappeared, vanishing into a thick cloud of darkness. If that skeleton was still alive after I hit it with my pickaxe it most certainly wasn't after this fall.
I stepped away from the ledge and looked back to my dad. He had drifted closer to me and was still in apparent awe.
"There is nothing documented about this. Nothing”
"What do you mean nothing?! Out of all those mystical texts you've read and all those books on ancient history."
"It.. it shouldn't be possible. Zombies have a brain.. a body.. none of that.. on that.. thing..."
"Well is there some way it could be alive? You must know something! We just saw an actual skeleton walk across this cave and try to attack us."
"There is a place. I.. I need my books."
I'd stopped listening to him, to be honest. I'd been paying attention to something else. It was coming from the town we'd uncovered. It sounded similar to our encounter earlier, yet more broken up. Like it was echoing.
"Do you hear that?"
It took him a second but he eventually picked out the sound - the echoes in the city - the clatter of bones shaking as skeletons walked.
I lit a torch and quietly walked past the gateway we'd uncovered. The fire created fierce shadows that danced along the walls. Peering into the gateway the wreckage of buildings was barely visible. I threw the torch into the town.
Now visible, several skeletons moved into view. The torch created an even more sinister look for these skeletons; most of them wore tattered remains of tunics, cloth hanging off their bones and their arms. Tendons and muscles stretched like threads over their bodies, like the one before. Some of m in the back wore old, rusted chainmail and clutched stone swords as they shuffled forward.
As the group drew closer I noticed that in the back was a much darker figure. The skeleton appeared to be at least a full meter taller than the skeletons up front, its bones attached by silky muscles that rippled across its body, and a faint gray glow coming from its eyes. The other skeletons parted as it moved, allowing it to advance to the front. This coal-black skeleton carried no weapons and wore no armor.
I retreated from the gateway, brandishing a shovel from the pile we'd brought to continue the excavation. My dad had already picked up a pickaxe and was readying to throw it.
"We can use the TNT if needed but it might cause a cave-in."
Suddenly, the clattering of bones stopped; they were directly at the threshold of the gate and they'd all halted. All was still in that moment.
Then, the dark skeleton broke into a sprint. It was faster than any zombie I'd ever encountered, crossing the distance between us in mere seconds as it barred down on us.
With ungodly speed the skeleton extended an arm and threw me backwards towards the cavern entrance. The blunt force of the strike like getting hit by a full-speed man.
Immediately upon impact with the wall, stone and sand began crumbling from the ceiling above us covering me in a blanket of debris.
The skeleton then turned towards my dad, who'd already retreated back to the gatehouse of the bridge.
I brushed off the rocks that had cascaded down on me and hoisted myself up using my shovel as a brace. The pain was barely noticeable. Maybe it was the adrenaline running through me, but I didn't feel a thing. I started limping back towards the gatehouse on the bridge, and looked toward my dad.
The dark skeleton had slowly advanced upon him and was looming over him like a dark shadow ready to envelope him.
Before it pounced.
My dad sidestepped the attack, barely dodging the blow that would certainly have sent him plummeting into the dark cavern below us.
The other skeletons that had been behind him now began to advance. They were not as fast as their leader, but what they lacked in speed they certainly made up in numbers.
They advanced like a wall slowly closing the distance between them and my dad.
That was when the dark skeleton began to sprint again, circling my dad. He lunged with his pickaxe, missing the skeleton by inches. It then stopped behind him, as if hunting him, before striking him on the back.
My dad flew into the gatehouse wall, cracking the brick there and slumping into a crumpled pile at the dark skeleton's feet. I had begun running towards him, but it was too late.
By now the skeletons had already covered the distance between the town and the gate house. The five of them flanking their leader, It approached the crumbled heap that was my dad.
He struck out with his pickaxe, catching the skeleton off balance and teetering to one side before falling over. The skeletons behind him became agitated. One struck out with its sword, landing squarely on my dad's shoulder. It tore through his leather armor before coming to a stop deep within his shoulder. Blood oozed out of the visible damage. He screamed out in agony.
I was close, but I could feel something wasn't quite right. I must've sprained my ankle when I landed on the wall, but it didn't matter. I raised my shovel above my head and brought it down hard against the closest skeleton's skull. It stood only for a moment before the skull caved in, the light leaving its disintegrated eye sockets as it fell to the floor in a heap of bones and tattered remains.
The four remaining skeletons advanced. Their leader, obviously disoriented, was just now rising from the previous blow.
I knelt down and wrapped an arm around my dad, hoisting him up. The wound on his shoulder was gushing blood.
We slowly limped towards the exit. If we could just make it close enough to the beginning of the chasm we could light the TNT we'd left over there and seal the skeletons in.
I looked over my shoulder, past the gatehouse, past the symbol carved into the wall. Two of the skeletons in chainmail had followed us. I threw my shovel at one, staggering it, but it didn't stop.
We slowly continued our desperate struggle forward, a trail of blood oozing from my dad's shoulder. We were almost there. I could see a light emanating from the entrance we had dug much earlier.
Suddenly my dad lurched backwards. One of the skeletons had grabbed onto him and was pulling him back. Looking at me and then back to the skeletons behind us he pushed me forward past the TNT and flicked the switch, just as another skeleton grabbed onto him.
The fuses crackled to life and the TNT lit with excitement.
My dad struggled to remain standing as the skeletons poured onto him. He forced one of them to the ground and ripped a bone from it to use as a weapon.
The dark skeleton was now close to him, but before it could strike my dad thrust his free hand up into its rib cage, grabbing a firm hold.
The dark skeleton struggled, launching another blow at him. The bone of its fist impacted the already wounded shoulder.
He yelped in pain but held on. Blood flew from the site of the impact as the force of the punch hit him. He pushed against the skeleton, moving ever closer towards the edge of the bridge.
The other skeletons surrounded my dad and their leader. I heard one last struggle from him as he pushed the dark skeleton back.