Skylar hung from the lip of the cave. Stomach growling, they let gravity stretch their tentacles. Pointed, mossy rocks were to be avoided. Drips of water got louder as Skylar inched their way deeper into the cave.
They swiped a tentacle through a cluster of glowing mushrooms. Poisonous, but after their phenogland had access to the DNA, Skylar was able to glow too. More light showed the damp rocks and veins of copper more clearly. Carefully moving between the stalagmites, Skylar moved deeper.
Their stomach growled, their tentacles shivered. Their eye bobbed quickly, searching every angle. All they found was plenty of purple and pink moss growing along the trickles of water. Then they came to The Pit.
A perfectly round opening in the cave floor, dark, with cold air flowing up. The glow didn’t pierce very far down, but what Skylar could see was more rocks, moss, mushrooms, and water.
Anchoring three tentacles to a large rock on the edge of The Pit, Skylar lowered themselves into the darkness. The chill bit at their skin as they got lower. Patting moss onto themselves kept the cold from turning their stretchy skin brittle. Each breath formed a little cloud which quickly floated back to warmer air.
But Skylar pressed on. Deeper and deeper, their eye now focused only downward. Finally there was a glint of deeper waters, and the shore along the underground lake. They rested along the water’s edge while they pulled the three tentacles down from the top of The Pit.
The drips of water echoed down here, as ripples were constantly breaking up the smooth surface of the water. Emboldened by finding the rumors true, Skylar made their way along the edge of the lake. There, a carving on a boulder, pointing out the crevice which was key to what Skylar was searching for.
An odd smell permeated the air just outside the passageway. Skylar didn’t see anything odd, but the narrow opening was long, and the end was only black. With rocks lining the space, it took a lot of concentration, and small movements to move through without getting scratched, or worse, punctured. The smell kept getting worse too.
The stench was thick, heavy, filling the air and invading Skylar’s beak. Just before they retracted their beak to be rid of the smell, they realized the wet, musty smell, was the worst thing they could come across.
Rotting flesh of the plants produced the dank smell. The last hope, a stash of plants unaffected by the virus plaguing the surface, had been infected. Skylar only spared the sludge left behind a small glance before returning the way they came. It was official, help would have to come from somewhere else.
And Skylar knew just where to look.
Word count: 461