“McKinnon, you need to keep him safe. Don’t let anything happen to him.”
His answer had been a glib, “Don’t worry Mrs. Baynes, your son is perfectly capable of taking care of himself as long as it doesn’t involve doing any laundry.” Still, he had felt the weight pushing on his shoulders as he stepped down the ornate Baynes Mansion steps, and he felt it even more now as he walked along a stone pathway, about ten feet wide, that ran halfway between the floor and ceiling of a tremendous cavern. Darkness and silence filled the timeless ruins of the ancient humanoid race he and his friend had just discovered.
What if Leonard became lost in this place? What id they never emerged? McKinnon’s rational mind told him not to worry, and that the way out was just behind and Leonard just ahead, but the deeper he delved into the mountain fortress the more an uneasy dread crept upon him.
He felt out of place. Small. Unwanted. The species that had built this place, whose remains now littered the floor far below, were far more advanced than humans. Their technology lay all around, fascinating and bewildering. Strange lights would come on as he approached, and dim as he moved past. Metallic objects sat in the air hovering, not moving at all. Doors slid open and shut soundlessly. One wall featured characters belonging to some kind of alphabet that rearranged themselves freely in no discernible pattern.
McKinnon’s world was getting bigger all the time, and he was thinking about Leonard, alone in this vast underground place.
“We are the champions,” hummed Leonard, swaying with the music, shifting his feet across the stone floor, avoiding broken machine parts. Squinting at something on the wall, he removes his head phones. He touches it, and feels vibration. “What’s this?”
“Oh no,” he says, stumbling back. “I just unleashed an ancient evil! Run, run before it consumes the world!”
Already forgetting his sarcastic joke, Leonard turned back to his phone, switching songs with a brush of his finger.
The wall slid open, and water vapor poured forward from a brightly lit door. Leonard yipped like the dog he had when he was ten, and skittered away from the new opening. Then he started filming the phenomenon with his phone.
The steam thinned after a moment, and then Leonard saw movement inside. Something larger than him was coming out. Something with two arms, two legs, and a head. Something not quite human.
Two eyes gleamed from the mist, locking with Leonard.
“I guess they aren’t all dead,” says Leonard.
McKinnon is running, something which he doesn’t do often. He can hear Leonard’s shouts just up ahead, and he is getting his weapon ready. McKinnon doesn’t use firearms, but he is very intelligent, and perfectly capable of fighting. He locks together a dart gun and boldly rounds the last worn, stone corner.
Leonard is being held aloft by his shirt. The offender is a hulking, man-shaped creature with flowing hair and bright yellow eyes and wrapped in tight, design-covered clothing. They turn widely towards the inventor as he scampers into view.
He raises his weapon but does not loose. He hears a voice in his head, and it isn’t his conscience.
“What are you?” it said.
He didn’t mean it as a reply, but the Baynes Family mansion, surrounded by Peekaboo Corners, Minnesota, jumped into his head.
Immediately, the disdain hit him like a wave. “You are feeble, you are weak.”
“Don’t let anything happen to him,” Leonard’s mom had said.
He released the tranquilizing darts, all six of them, into the telepathic monster.