Luke lay next to John's corpse and breathing hard. After a few minutes his breathing shallowed, and he could feel his scalp tingle. He was still in a mental fog, but felt stronger. He worked his way toward the fading light and grabbed for the crystal. After a few minutes he found it and began scratching the floor. His eyelids grew heavy and his eyes felt healed because when he closed them the sandpaper and itching feeling had faded away. Luke fell into a deep sleep that seemed to wrap around him with loving arms. He felt calm and safe for the first time in what seemed an eternity.
"Christ!" Luke screamed as he woke to the pinching of the insects that were constantly scouring the cave. He began to stuff them in his mouth which he had become accustom to doing, but something seemed different. He spit them out with great eagerness.
The light was bright as he made his way to where he was excavating the cave floor in order make his escape. Luke spent the next several hours scratching at the floor before falling asleep. When he woke, he began scratching the floor again. After three cycles of sleeping and scratching Luke began to feel the aching of hunger once again. He began eating the bugs again.
The smell of rotting flesh was dissipating, and the stirring of thoughts about food other than bugs began to fill his mind. Then came the groan from John's direction. At first Luck was startled, then he knew there was food over there. He inched his way toward John, slowly at first, then as fast as he could crawl. When he got to John his hunger was at a fever pitch. John was at the conscious level where the pain was just becoming overwhelming, and his groaning escalated to screaming. At first Luke drew back, then he honed in on John's arm and began to rip the flesh from the bone. John screamed louder and louder, but Luke had no ear for it.
Every week or so this process recurred, over and over again. Week after week, month after month, year after year. Finally, Luke had scratched his way to a point where he could break a small chunk of rock away and stick most of his arm out of the cave into the sunlight. He could feel the sun light on his skin. It burned, and he could see the toll the insects had taken. His arm was covered in deep wounds from the insects eating their fill.
He could hear people talking and metal clanking, but he had long since forgotten what human speech was, or humans for that matter.
John had begun to scream as usual after a period of moaning. Luke paid little attention to John, he was focused on the new sounds, the sounds made by people.
"What was that?" asked Paula, who was a botanist doing field work in the area.
"What was what?" replied her associate, Dale.
"Sounded like a scream," Jewel replied.
"Oh, the screaming. There's lot of old scary stories about the screams. One story goes that it's the ghost of lost trapper. Another is that it's the mountain itself screaming from the mining going on around here," Dale answered.
"That was no ghost. It was a real scream," Paula replied.
Paula dropped her tools and started to work her way up the side of the rock face where she thought the scream had come from. She got about halfway up when she saw the small opening. As she made her way closer, she heard the screaming again.
"Up here. Up here, there's somebody screaming like they're really hurt. There's a small opening up here," Paula shouted down to Dale.
Dale began the climb to where Paula was clinging to the rack face. It was only about twenty feet up, and there were two narrow ledges in front of the hole.
"You sure?" Dale asked.
"Hell yeah. There is somebody in there, and their hurt. Sounds really bad. Hello! We will get you some help. How are you hurt?" Paula yelled into the hole.
She waited a moment for an answer, but there was no reply. The screaming just continued.
"Your right. There's somebody in there. Hello," shouted.
"Go down to the Ranger station. They will know what to do." Paula said to Dale.
Just then Luke reached out of the hole and grabbed Paula with a bony arm and hand covered in bloody insect bites. Paula let out a scream and pasted out at the same time, and fell from the cliff face. Fortunately, the ground was the soft sandy type. Dale jumped down to her, mostly out of fright. They were both so scared they could hardly breath.
"Jesus Crist, what the hell was that?" Dale said in a loud shaky voice.
"Damned if know, but I think I know why he's screaming. Let's get to the Ranger Station," Paula said.
They helped each other down the mountain, looking backward with every other step.
"That poor son of a bitch looked like he got caught in an explosion or something," Dale said.
"Or something," Paula answered.
They both started laughing at their reaction to the encounter with Luke.
"I've never been that frightened in my life," said Paula. Her voice was still a little shaky.
They made their way down the canyon as fast as they could go. When they got to the Station, they burst through the door almost giving the Ranger on duty a heart attack.
"There's a man trapped about a mile up the canyon," Paula said in a loud voice.
The Ranger took a few seconds to compose himself.
"There's a man trapped up the canyon. How is he trapped?" the Ranger asked.
They explained what had transpired as best they could while breathing hard and shifting from laughing to uttering expletives.
An hour later there were fireman, cops and mining engineers crawling all over the mountain.
Robert Evan Howard