By RD Rivero
By RD Rivero
March 9, 2000
“Down here! Down here!”
Tygra tossed and turned in bed in tortured movements. The bed covers
had acome from the mattress. The warm blankets hung off the side to the
cold ground. The pillow under his head slowly eased to the floor.
Naked and exposed, he stopped for a brief moment of relaxed comfort only
to resume the restless toil.
“I’m right down here! Don’t ignore me!”
“What? Willa? Willa! Who’s there?” Covered in sweat, he shivered, he
grunted. Tygra sat up, he looked down upon himself stunned at his
condition. He quivered in shudders of horror for what he saw, for what
he saw that had stirred him all along.
The room everywhere, already in shadow, darkened further but for the
faraway corners that glowed eerie light. “You know me!”
“By Jagga! No! Not again! No.”
Wileykat knocked on the door. The sound echoed in a dense timber. He
waited patiently before he tried again. His sister passed by on her way
to the kitchen. She teased his mane to his objection.
“You and Liono better save me some of the pie this time.”
Wileykit gave no response. He saw her fade away while she continued
through Cat’s Lair’s interior. He knew she had heard him and knew she
would pretend otherwise.
He knocked, rather, he tried to knock again but instead he opened the
door. He boldly entered. Though undamped sunlight poured into the
bedroom from bare windows, the high ceiling was cloaked in shadow.
Still, he could see faint features, features engraved in stone and in
Across the floor he saw the bed unoccupied and so completely disheveled
that it required his immediate attention. The bed covers, the blanket,
the pillow he had to collect from the floor where each had fallen. He
closed the open windows that filled the room in cool currents of fresh,
morning air, morning air florally scented in a way that was oddly
An arc of light came from around the bedroom door. Wileykat approached
cold slowly. To his left the bathroom door was wide open, Tygra stood
in front of the sink, rubbing himself with his hands. Wileykat did not
know what to do even though he had both seen and done such things
before. His impulse was to turn and run away but instead he came to the
naked, quivering, shuddering tiger with his arms outstretched.
He whispered softly to himself but Tygra noticed.
“You want to do it! Look at him! Look at him!”
“Kat? What’s wrong?” The boy had his arms around his waist.
“It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault.”
Tygra knelt down to the boy’s eye-level.
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“He knows! That’s what’s wrong!”
“Are you feeling OK?”
Tygra laughed: “Of course I am.”
“Kill him! Kill him!”
“I had a rough night. That’s all. That’s all. I’ve been working too
hard. You worry about me?” Wileykat nodded. The tears that welled in
his eyes shimmered in the dead light of the fluorescent fixtures. “Of
course you do.” Tygra hugged him hard, drew him up close to his body,
up close to his warmth, up close. The boy did not object, the boy
remained entirely passive to the tiger. “But it’s my job to worry about
you, remember?” Wileykat nodded, Tygra slightly petted his mane.
“Now’s your chance! Fool! Fool! Wring his neck! Do it! Do it!” The
voice, the timber faded and withered, evaporated into silence.
“It’s time for breakfast.”
“You wanted me to remind you about today, about Willa.”
“Yes. I know. Now go eat the pie before the others finish it, OK?”
Wileykat gave Tygra a quick kiss on the cheek and turned and walked out
reluctantly. The bedroom door closed shut behind him. So quietly, so
quietly that even his breath was inaudible, he thanked Jagga the boy had
not seen or at the least had not noticed the blue pills scattered on the
floor next to the toilet. The tiger picked up the tablets and put them
back into the small, into the plastic bottle that had fallen in the
sink. Only twenty doses were left and soon he would have to refill the
bottle with a more potent recipe.
Tygra stood in the kitchen doorway in utter disbelief. He shook his
head to try to get the images out of his mind. Liono sat at the end of
the table. He held a cup with both hands while he conversed
energetically with Cheetara. The cloudy liquid swayed violently over
the rim in the exaggerated gestures of his gesticulations. Liquid
spilled on both of them but neither cared. Panthro and Bengali
arm-wrestled over the crumbs left of that morning's pie. Their hands,
their arms, their bodies covered in a brown grease, the two smeared
everything in sight with that oily substance. Snarf waited on the
table, drooling, snotting all over himself while he served the others.
The kittens were not there, thankfully, the kittens were not there.
He did not know who was first but eventually they all rested their eyes
on him. The unbearable drone that had filled the room turned deadly
silent. He tried to step in closer but Snarf was too near him already.
He stared with his mouth wide open before he could summon the will to
He weighed the value of each and every word very carefully: “Willa.
Um. The warrior maidens. I have to. Um. I have to go. I’ll.”
The terrible drone returned though a hundred people dined rudely in that
small chamber. He turned around and in his mad rush to leave that place
he nearly trampled over the kittens. He was about to grunt or to growl
but stopped himself. He reached out and petted the boy behind the
ears. While Wileykat looked on Tygra disappeared, dissolved into
Outside, the sky was clear, crisp and clear. There were no clouds
visible, there were no winds beyond the gradient of breezes to storm the
tranquility. Even the sun had risen free, broken free from the
entangled branches of the trees of the forest. Even the air, though
replete with mist, was quiet, quiet with only the faintest hints of
birdcalls. Nothing more.
For the first time in a long time -- since that night, since that
morning -- Tygra felt at peace. His heartbeat had settled, his
breathing had slowed and had paced. At last the blue pill had taken
effect and that voice, that horrible voice had ceased.
He had decided not to take any form of transportation. He wanted to go
on alone, on foot. Willa and the warrior maidens were not more than two
Over the open meadows that surrounded Cat’s Lair, leaves of grass swayed
gently and ruffled softly underfoot while he treaded. The ground was
only slightly moist, remarkably still wet though there had not been much
rain in quite a while.
Well into the woods the image of his home could be seen through the tree
tops, the tall tree tops. But as the miles slowly evolved in his path,
as he entered the deeper parts of Amazonian country, he lost completely
the guidance of that benevolent landmark of his own creation.
Green and brown. Roots that shot up from the ground. Rocks. Pebbles.
The occasional pond where the water’s surface rippled in circular,
intercepted waves. Right through his quivering reflections he could see
long, thin, brightly colored fish swim within in the lakes: red,
orange, green, eyes always black, fins always clear.
For a few moments, for a few clouded moments Tygra imagined himself a
fish, swimming through the clear water, swimming through plants that
swayed in the current, through dark mazes of smooth rocks, the abyss
below. He wondered why he feared the water. He wondered how it would
be to dive into the blue without the need to be invisible. He wondered
why the ethereal beauty of the naturalness of third earth came easily to
him. Few of the other Thundercats were as comfortable in that alien
environment as he.
He continued on his trek and nearly walked into an enormous spider web.
The vast construction sparkled in the dew that had collected on the
threads earlier that night. The web quivered violently but there were
no strong breezes, there were no sudden winds, there was not even a
He peered closely into the central portions where a red spider was busy
dealing with a large dragonfly that had ensnared itself on the trap.
The insect struggled hard but was no match for the spider.
In one swift move the arachnid pressed down with its fangs into the
insect’s abdomen. Blood and mangled globs of internal organs, complete
with unhatched eggs squirted and erupted around onto the ground, onto
the fabric of the web in the pop, in the sudden burst.
After very little time the dragonfly’s struggle ceased, ceased, ceased
and slowly its fight died out, it moved no longer. Then and only then
did the spider begin its daunting task to devour the prey.
A deep gorge, covered in dirt and dried, browned leaves broke through
the ground before him. The tiger turned right and closely followed the
unstable edge of the cliff to a large oak tree that stood, superimposed,
onto the local scene. Tied to its prominent roots was a raggedy
suspension bridge, ravished and disfigured by time.
Some of the wooden boards were loose, some others were rotted gray and
would no doubt break as soon as be stepped on, yet some were missing
altogether. Carefully, with his eyes pointed down to his feet, he made
his way onto and across the dangling, swaying bridge.
His hands tingled with thoughts of falling into the gapping darkness
beneath. His head swayed in unison to the flimsy structure. He became
nauseous, disoriented. The bridge seemed to at once stretch out forever
and at once fall down deeper than usual. He feared it would give way
yet he did not want to run across or even up-pace himself in the
At last Tygra had made it past the midpoint of the structure. The
bridge rose once again. Then one of the boards broke free from the hemp
ropes that tied it in place and fell down. Down, tumbling down,
spinning down, down into that chasm that he could now see just a little
bit more of, just a little bit more of than he wanted. He never did
hear the broken board impact at the terminus of its voyagerous, odyssial
fall or was there even a bottom to the gorge?
Safe on the other side, his heart raced, the beating pounded visibly
against his chest. He would have to talk to Panthro about building a
new bridge when he returned to Cat’s Lair sometime that evening.
“Wait a moment,” he said aloud. “Wait a moment. Talk to Panthro? I
saw him this morning? What? What?” His eyes hurt, his vision clouded,
his head pounded in rhythm with his heart. He felt hot all over. Tygra
fell dizzy onto the ground, onto his back. He wanted to throw up but
nothing would come out. Panthro was dead. Panthro had been dead for
>From a pocket on the inside of his shirt, which he had loosened, Tygra
pulled out the plastic bottle. A single blue pill rested in the cup of
the palm of his hand. He looked at it, studied it before he put it into
his mouth and swallowed it with his then acidic saliva.
Tygra sat up on the sloped ground, he faced a small brook where fallen
trees, hollowed out over the years, lay across rapidly flowing water.
Moss and shrubs spread out, moved out in the wake of the currents.
Rocks and boulders dotted the landscape. Before him, on the other side
of the river, the earth was flat and smooth and covered in only the
slightest dusting of grass. Past the small meadow the rest of the trees
of the forest rose above the horizon. Yet further in the distance,
white clouds, dense clouds without perceptible outlines clogged the
elsewise blue sky.
“Don’t ignore me!”
Quietly he wondered to himself about Willa. He was supposed to meet her
there but apparently he had arrived early. Or maybe she was there,
spying on him through the underbrush. “No, no, why would she do that?”
Why would she spy on him? Did she like him? Did she think about him
the way he thought about her?
“You’re a man and she hates you! Kill her! Kill her! Burn the village
“No, that’s not true.” Or was it true? “No. It is not true! She
wouldn’t have asked me to come if she hated me. She’s not like that at
“That voice that shatters glass!”
Tygra pictured Willa in his mind: she sat in front of him, her hands on
his thighs, running up to his chest, dropping back down, feeling him
warmly, deliberately. “I push back her hair gently. I look into her
eyes. I kiss her lips.” He spoke softly, the birds that called and
flew nearby drowned out completely his speech to his own ears. He could
no longer tell the difference between what his mind thought and what his
“Kill her! Kill the whore! Kill her!”
“She wraps her arms around me, she pulls me close to her body.”
“Burn her alive, skin her alive, claw her to death!”
“Snug, in bed, in soothing softness.”
“Hunt her down! Pounce her down!”
“No! Not by Jagga! No!” He shook his head violently, he dropped his
head into his hands in tears.
“Tear her flesh out!”
“No! No! No! Why have you done this to me?” Tygra looked down upon
himself once more. In total revulsion he crawled back away from the
horror, back away from the fear but no matter how fast he was he could
not escape the completeness of its presence, as though the voice was, as
though the voice could actually be a part of him. “That’s not true!
That’s impossible!” The impact of the terror was unavoidable and
undeniable and in a thousand years he knew then he could never escape
that source of evil.
Tygra took out the plastic bottle and, with the foamy water from the
brook, he swallowed yet another blue pill. He sprayed his face with
more of that refreshing liquid but he felt no better, no better.
His heart still pounded when Willa arrived but at the least he had his
breathing back under control. Tygra was a little nervous and edgy
around her at first but he wanted to make sure she would not notice what
was really wrong. He walked in the fringe between the clear ground and
trees, cast in shadows and surrounded by fresh, cool air, in which
evolved the strong aroma of mint and lilac. Fortunately Willa had other
things on her mind. She had been speaking from the moment she had
arrived but only then was Tygra finally paying attention.
“The ruins are ancient, of course, a million or more years old but it’s
amazing how much survives intact. Most of the city is made from rock,
not concrete, not steel even.”
“Rocks erode over time.”
“Yes. It helps that the city was covered by earth and by ash, from the
The trees cleared and there was no where for Tygra to hide. He was
calmer, though, the pill had taken effect. “The mile-high cliff.”
“We’ll have to walk around the long way, the short route is crossed by a
strong and innavigable river.”
There was a long pause and in the meanwhile the two had managed to hike
through about another few miles of ankle-high, grassy meadow. The
clouds Tygra had seen before were still there but just then he noticed
that the white swirls were in fact wrapped around the promontory length
of the mile-high cliff. A single peak in an otherwise flat plain, the
extreme portions of the monolith were perpetually obscured by clouds.
“It’s quite rare to find relics from second-earth. Especially ones in
as good conditions as you described.”
“And there’s more, I just know it, there’s still more to the city buried
in the ground and yet unexplored. Oh, it’ll be so much fun, Tygra! You
know, maybe we should have prepared for an all-night trip instead of
this brisk excursion?”
“Then we’ll make time, just for ourselves, just for the two of us. I
have no reason to hurry back home so soon, any time soon.” He did not
want to take that line of thought too far.
The earth below them transformed from fertile to barren desert, from
green, to yellowed to no grass at all. The trees and the rest of the
forest in general were faraway and distant.
The mile-high cliff loomed in the scene as nothing else could, as
nothing else in the universe possibly could. There was no where to run,
there was no where hide, there was no where to go to escape its
omnipresence. Massive, deformed, jagged rock formations scarred the
thin, sliverous, steppe faces cast before them to the unimaginable
heights above where the cloud cover masked in ignorance the full, the
clear details of the peak and of what ever other unthinkable, invaluable
ruins may have remained up there.
“Do the mutants or anyone else know about the ruins?”
“The mutants are just brainless freaks. I’m sure Mumm-Ra knows but
there’s nothing much to interest him. Second-earthers were more into
science and technology than wizardry or sorcery.”
“A whole city of stone. What did second-earthers have for pets?”
“Some bugs got larger after first-earth.”
“The radiation from its destruction.”
“I doubt we have much to worry about. Those second-earth bugs don’t
exist anymore. At the least none that we’re aware off. We’ve never
really seen them. All we have are mere legends and handed-down
Tygra wanted to reach out and touch her, just once, draw her close to
him, hug her in some way that would seem innocent more than anything
else. “There’s so much for me to learn, Willa and you know what that
means to me.” She smiled at him but kept most of her face away, covered
in her long hair. “I want to tell you all about Thundera one of these
days.” Instead it was she who drew close to him, she rubbed up against
his side gently and may have said something under her breath or may have
not. The two walked steadily in the open, flat plain, side-by-side,
inches apart but whole worlds away.
The ground did not feel right to Tygra, the soil was too loose, too
airy. With no plants, no trees anywhere on the deserted wasteland that
surrounded the coast of the mile-high cliff there was no reason for the
dirt to be that way.
Willa noticed the problem, too. While she treaded in circles she kept
her eyes fixed down on her feet. Her feet sank deep into the soil, to
the point that they were almost completely buried in the ground.
“Tygra. Look at yours.”
“Your feet. The ground’s up to your ankles.”
Tygra looked down upon himself oddly relieved that nothing else was
wrong. “It’s not quicksand.” He waddled to her. “It’s only soil
that’s really, really loose.”
“Look!” Tygra pointed to a wide area where the ground was indented down
“I --” but it was too late. The indentation grew instantly into a deep
crater. The very ground beneath them shook. “Tygra!”
“Hold on to me.”
“Down here! Don’t ignore me!”
Tygra grabbed her just in time, he wrapped his arms around her just in
time. The crater collapsed, the two free-fell into the darkness, past
the surface, into a shaft of immeasurable proportions. The two fell
through the air faster than the soil. Engulfed and immersed in the
dirt, they coughed, they choked, they screamed, they tumbled and spun
around each other. At length, after no less than an eternity, the ride
ended. They bounced, they scattered in wild directions when they hit
Moans and groans followed while Tygra and Willa tried to recompose
themselves. Willa looked over the body of an unmistakably nervous Tygra
to check to make sure he was all right. The tiger had a partially
dislocated shoulder but at the least that much was easy to fix.
Anxious, his hands trembled when it was his turn to look her over. She
had landed on top him, she was marred only by a slight bruise on her
Tygra felt something very strange when he got up. Something sharply
stabbed the side of his chest and he feared the worst. He loosened his
shirt and impulsively stuck his hand into his uniform. He pulled out
the plastic bottle that had been smashed apart in the ordeal, but he
pulled it free so fast that the blue pills flew into the air, to be
lost, to be forever mixed with the ground and with the darkness.
“No!” he caught himself and stopped. Willa had seen it all from the
distance, half-in, half-out of shadow. Tygra walked to her side and
refitted his clothes. “You wouldn’t happen to have any aspirin of your
own on you?”
“Good boy! Good boy! Let her think it was something else!”
“We have more important things to consider.”
“You stupid looser! She didn’t believe you! You’re a stupid junkie and
she didn’t believe you!”
“Those were aspirins, I swear!” Willa may have grunted, may have said
something to herself but she turned away.
“She doesn’t believe you! She doesn’t believe you! She doesn’t believe
Tygra looked up at the hole they had fallen through. The shaft was
square-shaped, not circular and deep, maybe one, maybe two hundred feet
deep. Certainly well out of the range of Tygra’s whip. The walls were
rough, uneven. Roots and fungi shot out and dotted the faces. Small
rocks and pebbles, handfuls of misty dirt continued to fall in by the
action of the wind. The pressure in the shaft was low, the air was cold
and arcidly scented.
The two found it easy to maneuver through the ground for it now had the
proper consistency. Thankfully there had been enough loose soil to
cushion the fall, the landing. The only problem they faced was the
abject darkness. Though sunshine broke through the shaft’s entrance
only some parts of the ground and some faces of the walls were
“Tygra, come here,” she called and the tiger ran to her as fast as he
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
“The walls here, the walls here aren’t made of dirt.”
Neither could see particularly well in the shadows but they could feel.
Tygra ran his hands across the wall under Willa’s hands. Yes, at the
least that much of the shaft was unnatural. “The stones are all about
the same shape, the same size.”
“There’s mortar between them.”
“How far do you suppose this extends?”
“Let’s find out. You walk along that way and I’ll walk along this way.”
They parted on their search. Tygra’s path was enshrouded in darkness
but Willa found herself in the fringes with the light for a good portion
of her search. Tygra had stopped and she worried.
“I’m all right. I found something important over here.”
“I’ll be right there. The masonry extends throughout the whole of the
“Yes, but it’s not more than twenty feet high.”
“What did you find?” Without thought she bumped into him face-to-face.
“She felt something, didn’t she! She likes it! She likes it!”
“Oh, oh, I’m sorry, Tygra, I’m sorry.” He could not see her blush, but
she turned her face away in embarrassment.
“That’s all right, Willa.” He took her hand and placed it flat against
the wall where the stones had been replaced by riveted metal, cold to
“A door? Great. Where’s the door knob?” She asked excited about
“I couldn’t find one, there are some hinges over here on my side. We
could force it open out to us if we could grab it from the edges.”
“Then let’s hope it’s not locked.”
Willa dug her fingertips into what crevice she could find between the
metal door and the stoney frame. Tygra had the advantage of claws.
Together the door began to squeak, softly at first, the loudly. They
sweated, they raced for breath, but they had pulled the door out barely
an inch. She poked the staff into what improvement hand been made and
with the lever action the door pried open much more.
But there was a problem. “There’s a spring mechanism that’s driving the
door shut. I can only hold on to this for a little while.”
Willa got under the staff and ran into the absolute darkness behind the
metal door. Tygra sprinted to the side and with his back to the stoney
frame -- had his grip faltered the door would have smashed him in half
lengthwise -- with his legs he opened the doors wide enough for him to
enter. First Willa’s staff fell down to the ground with a clang, she
rushed to grab it, then when the path was clear Tygra swiftly dashed in.
“Don’t we have matches or something?” she asked.
“Now’s your chance! Kill her! Kill her!”
Tygra saw an eerie light come off the upper edges of the tunnel the two
were now in. Odd that Willa was unaware of it. “I can make out some
details. Here, hold my hand.”
“Or something else?”
He detected a hint of levity in her tone. What did she think was
funny? -- he wondered out loud by accident.
“Just that you seem to be talking to, someone else.”
“No. There’s no one else. No. Have your eyes adjusted?”
“Somewhat. Is there light up a head?”
“I see the green glow too.”
“First thing’s to find a way out of this place.”
The hall, the tunnel through which their footsteps rang loudly,
terminated in a series of steps basked in bright green light. The steps
led up to a vast chamber where the light came from five orbs, confined
in grated cages, suspended by chains that hung taut from the
imperceptible ceiling above. The gargantuan figures wobbled though
caught in the way of a current neither Willa nor Tygra could detect.
The faraway walls appeared to be made of the same stone pattern
encountered earlier. The ground was sandy, the floor was adorned with
large, circular holes elevated slightly.
“I take it that these are some of the unexplored ruins of second-earth.”
“Were these fountains once?”
“They go down deep, they go down to the bowels of third earth.”
“The size of it! The thought of it! What could be so immense, Willa,
do these ruins go on forever?”
“These are passages to even more remote chambers.”
“But there could be no way to use them unless one could walk on walls.”
“Let’s look at some others.”
Many openings were indistinguishable, merely different entrances to the
same cavern complex, perpetually cast in the shadow of ignorance. A
state air, tainted by foul odors, evolved from them. Other openings
were lighted in green with steps, with regular passages and
“Slash her! Split her gut open!”
“Do you hear that?”
“Eat her alive!”
The two were silent. Tygra was even more nervous than usual. In the
background of audibility came soft, high-pitched humming, vibrating.
“Maybe it’s the sound of the lights, maybe it’s the power generator.”
“Shut up, boy! Kill her! Kill her!”
“It’s louder below,” Willa said.
“I don’t think there’s anything more up here.”
“Shut up, boy!”
“We shouldn’t go down there, into the openings. We want to go up, not
down. There must be some parts of this room that we’ve not looked at
Tygra agreed. He did not want to say it but he thought he had seen
something move in one of the openings. The light was so glaring, so
bright that he did not trust his senses and he did not want to upset
The two walked toward the walls together.
“She’s trying to get you killed, idiot, can’t you see that? She wants
to skin you and turn you into a throw rug!”
“Stop it! She would never do that! Stop it! I’ve had about enough of
Willa looked back. The tiger was on the floor convulsing. His body
flopped around violently. She tried to restrain him but she shook her
off with his wild jerks. He got up suddenly, he walked to her
With the staff she tripped him. He fell face-forward onto himself. She
grabbed the whip, stood over him, hog-tied him. She secured his hands
and feet together very tightly.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” She turned him to the side. Tygra
was still awake, she thought. His eyes were open but unfocussed. He
panted for breath. His heart beat tremendously fast. He was
unresponsive. She began to cry: “God damn you! Did you think you
could fool me? Aspirins?”
Though she had made every effort not to look she saw to her utter
surprise and confusion that the cause of her embarrassment, Tygra’s
‘condition,’ had not changed and, if anything, had gotten far more
pronounced. Gently she dragged him to an entrance in the wall she had
discovered before he had gone mad.
Stooped over him she waited for his heart to calm down and for him to
snap out of it, out of what ever controlled him that time. She could do
nothing for him until he was ‘normal’ again, conscious again. Slowly,
ever so slowly the tiger began to fall asleep, his eyes shut, his
panting ceased, he fell back relaxed, totally relaxed, visibly relaxed.
“Tygra! Tygra! Tygra!”
Willa’s voice broke through the darkness of his mind and clawed him
awake from beyond grasp of sleep. He tried to get up from the cold,
damp floor but stumbled over to the side. He hit his face and cried out
in pain. His hands and feet were tied with his own whip, no doubt, he
thought. His clothes were loose, his insignia had been removed and was
no where to be seen.
“Help! Tygra! Help!”
“I’ll be right there.” He rubbed his wrists together, he squeezed his
hands tightly. The whip loosened somewhat and he swiftly turned. Again
he hit his face only on the other side. He repeated the maneuvers until
he freed his right hand. “I’ll be right there.” He was so tensed and
so irrational that it actually took him longer to free his left hand
than it ought to have. “I’m almost untied.” Tygra sat up and undid the
parts of the whip still tied to his feet. “Where are you? Where are
“Find the opening on the wall right in front of you.”
The tiger did not take long to see the rectangular orifice. Tall and
thin he was barely able to squeeze in. He was immediately confronted
with a series of steps that led up and on and on forever.
“What’s wrong with you? What’s your condition?”
“Is there any one with you? Is there any one threatening you?”
“No. I’m alone. I’m in the only room you’ll find. Just keep walking
The stairs ended in an equally thin hallway. Tygra had to crawl through
it on his hands and knees. He was careful, very careful for the ceiling
was only three feet above his head.
“I’m almost through the tunnel. Willa?”
“I’m still here. I’m still intact.”
The hallway terminated in a wide opening, a circular opening formed
along a wall of a darkened room. Tygra slid down to the floor beneath
and he looked up. The tunnel he had been in was elevated several feet
above the ground he had fallen on. The hallway was still accessible and
emanated the faintest, eeriest light he had seen yet.
The new room he was now in was not a room at all but only part of a
larger chamber. He got up and walked forward. While the right wall,
adorned with the glowing, circular tunnel opening, the left wall
receded. Sprawled before him was a vault of considerable proportions.
Fifty feet by fifty feet, the roof was high above, so high above that it
remained imperceptible. The light came from a glowing circle of
undeterminable character, suspended by impalpable forces by a hundred
feet over the floor, or what he thought was the floor.
“No. Don’t come closer. Don’t come closer.”
Willa, who he saw clearly, lay flat on her back, arms and legs spread
out over, over, over what? There did not seem to be anything under
her. Then he gasped, he gasped when he realized what had happened.
Willa was caught on a spider web, whose thin threads were barely
visible. The effect was caused by the distorting action of the
chamber’s one and only light source.
“The web is too strong.”
“I’ll throw the whip on around you and try to pull you free. This might
“It doesn’t matter, just don’t miss.”
Tygra posed and aimed but waited a few moments before he let the whip
loose. With an echoed crack the lash made its way to Willa and had
almost, almost caught a good hold of her.
But: “Oh, Tygra, it’s no use, the web is too meshed.”
Tygra could not recover the whip. He tried to pull and to pry the whip
with all his might but nothing budged, nothing gave way. He approached
closer artfully aware that the network of the web was all around him.
Below the web there was no floor, there was nothing more than a pool of
water. The surface was calm and smooth and beautifully reflected the
scene, like mirrors, like black mirrors, shining, glimmering.
“It’s the water, isn’t it? I tried to use the staff but it broke in
half and fell into the water.”
“I’ll get you free. I’ll be there with you. Willa.”
He sat on the edge between the cold, stone ground and the cold, deep
water. First he let his feet drop in, then he eased closer, then a
little closer still, then, slowly, so slowly he let the rest of his body
fall into the water. The surface wobbled and churned but not
violently. He shivered. He shook. The water engulfed his clothes. Up
to his neck, he treaded to the image of a struggling, captive Willa.
She may have spoken to him, she may have said something but he was too
enthralled in the fear of that experience to notice.
“What’s wrong with you? What’s happened to you? Tygra?”
Tygra wanted to turn his face away but he forced himself to utter the
words. “All my life I’ve seen things, I’ve heard voices. Bad voices.
Evil voices. Terrible voices. Willa! I can’t stop it. I can’t stop
it. Please don’t be mad at me.”
“Tygra. I. I. What were those ‘aspirins’?”
“The blue pills, silence the voice for a little while but it always
comes back, always stronger.”
“What does the voice say?”
“To do things.”
“What kind of things?”
“No. Don’t make me repeat it. No.”
“Please, Tygra, tell me.”
“To kill, to hurt people. I can resist it, I can fight it sometimes,
but I need help.”
“I love you.” He reached out and ran his fingers down her cheek, pushed
her hair away from her face. “I’ve always loved you.”
“I love you, Tygra, I’ve wanted you for so long, I’ve wanted to be in
your arms, wrapped in your arms for so long.”
Tygra eased himself up and kissed Willa. The two were passionately
interlocked for but a few fleeting moments and no more. He parted back
“Can you hear the voice now? Has the voice come back?”
“No voice. No voice.” Tygra put his arms around Willa as best as he
could without getting caught in the web himself.
“I had to tie you up. You were convulsing. You were frightening.”
“I know and I’m sorry, I lost control, I, I lost all the blue pills
after the fall.”
“When you were out I searched through your clothes and I found one,
there was one left.”
“Did you give it to me?”
“Yes. I fed it to you. You really don’t hear that voice now, do you?”
“It’s silent.” He stopped and grabbed the whip that was still stuck to
the web, a broken half of the staff lay nearby. He grabbed a long,
loose length and passed it under Willa’s head. He rubbed it to and fro
around her back, from her neck down. The adherence began to come off
but slowly, very slowly. “I think this is working.”
“Can’t the web be set on fire?”
“You might be harmed if the flames get out of control.”
All around Tygra the water vibrated, the web vibrated. A loud machine
suddenly whined in the distance. In the far corner of the vault a part
of one of the walls acame to a square patch of absolute blackness.
“Get out of here, Tygra --”
“No. Never. I’ll never leave your side.” Tygra shook his head. “No!”
The dull humming and vibrating the two had heard before came louder, far
louder from that shadowy alcove. The web rocked violently and Willa
screamed. Tygra reached out to comfort her but he had not seen those
parts of the web that were the closest to him. He had gotten
unwittingly stuck in place, along side her, the two lay close together
lengthwise but were too far apart to touch.
“What’s going to happen?”
“I don’t know.”
At first there were only legs, two or three legs that stuck out of the
dark alcove. The legs were segmented into two longer, thinner parts and
one smaller, flat section at the end that could have only been the
foot. The legs were oily black, tar black and glittered with sharp,
pointed hairs, bundled in small groups that dotted the form of the
appendages throughout. The legs moved in the most frightening
mechanical way. Then more legs came into view, neither Willa nor Tygra
could or would count them.
The crazy humming and vibrating echoed and resonated in the vast
chamber, on the violently swaying web and through the pool of water
below. Tygra saw clearly the massive set of red eyes, red dots that
crawled to him. “Don’t look, Willa, keep your eyes shut.”
“What is it? What is it?”
Willa could not turn her head to see the red dots, the red glowing dots,
the red angry dots. Three large eyes formed a triangle, five small eyes
surrounded the figure in a near-perfect circle. The head was small,
about as small as either of theirs but grotesquely offset by the
presence of two fangs formed in the shape of claws that pointed down.
The fangs were wet with some unknown, odorless liquid that dropped on
the web in large, yellow globs or outright dripped loudly into the water
beneath. The fangs were several times the size of the head and in
between the mandibles a rough, red tongue licked those moving outer jaws
and whipped the air to sense the location of the next meal.
Behind, the head narrowed to the thinnest neck possible. A neck so thin
that Tygra -- to divert his mind’s attention from fear -- wondered in
amazement at how it could support the weight of the body at all. Past
the neck was an equally deprived chest that was not bigger than the head
and at which the legs -- all eight of them -- were attached to. The
strange and surreal sound the two had heard came from the chest, from
the dense packing of the legs above the chest where the course hairs
rubbed and smacked against each other.
The great bulk came only at the end. The abdomen was truly the most
horrific part of the beast. The abdomen was serrated in radial
sections. Beginning from the waist, each section was thinner than the
last, each section was slightly above the last where, in between, a
slick oil evolved from the quivering air holes in thin bursts of
vapors. The very end of the abdomen terminated in four fingers that
were not really fingers but spinners from which fresh webbing poured out
at will. The abdomen was not exactly round, its soft exterior gave it a
flat appearance, though it would squish itself by the action of its own
Completely elevated from the sticky thread a good two feet, the spider
crawled to Tygra and Willa in a circling, spiraling path. The web
around them conformed to the beast’s presence much the way a mattress
would, the two were bounced around violently, jarringly. The ends of
the legs brushed up against them, they reacted in quick, electric
Tygra closed his eyes. Willa whispered rapidly to herself. The tiger
felt something hard and pointed stab the nape of his neck. He jerked
his head back uncontrollably while his body shivered in wild tremors.
She screamed. She yelled. He opened his eyes just then. The spider
was completely over them, passing over them. He saw the underside of
the abdomen where yellow figures were carved into the course flesh. He
saw the chest that was diamond in shape and incredibly flat, thin. When
the head brushed their bodies a gooey, yellow pus spewed onto them from
the open hole between the fangs.
The strange substance began to eat away their clothes, fizzing in
incredibly hot, in incredibly painful chemical reactions. Gray fumes
smoked up into the air. Tygra began to scream when the acidic excrement
reached his skin. He could not move, he could not move for the agony
was too intense. He did not know what was going through her mind but
she was awake, alert, her eyes fixed on the spider.
The head raised and pointed up, the legs stretched and the spider lifted
itself yet further. The snaking tongue could not be seen, no doubt
retracted into the safety of the interior. “Willa! No! No!” The
tiger shot up screaming, screaming, blood burst forth free from the
gaping wound burnt into his flesh from that yellow substance. He turned
his body, the upper half of which he had freed from the hold of the web
through sheer will of force, to act to cover her.
The spider’s fangs came down in a swift movement but Tygra caught them
in his hands. To the limit of his and strength he kept the sharp
stingers away from her. He tried to twist the head but the neck was
incredibly powerful. The spider began to rock back and forth violently,
the web began to deform uncontrollably. The tiger was pressed down into
the water of the pool, the mesh work around him began to tear.
The spider turned abruptly to be over him. Willa screamed and there was
a great burst of blood but Tygra did not notice, or did not attempt to
notice for he was too busy at the time trying to keep the fangs away.
More of the yellow pus, the acid spewed out of the head’s mouth. His
hands and fingers were smeared in it and began to bleed and began to
dissolve. He had no choice, he had to let go. The spider drew back
into the darkness but its red eyes were still unmistakably present. His
upper arms swayed, jiggled. Some of his fingers were gone. His palms
bled thick streams of blood, his palms were clumped in together, like
globs, like blobs of boneless meat. All over, his appendages had the
consistency of gelatin.
Worse had befallen his one and only love.
Her voice could not possibly rise any higher than that whisper. He saw
to his horror that the giant spider had trampled over her. A large gash
had been carved along the side of the body, from her ribs to her waist.
Blood and just the slightest traces of internal organs came out of the
open rent. The webbing around her had also loosened, elongated and was
missing in some areas. Her arms moved, she wailed them in the air,
nearly spent, nearly without energy. She could no longer resist, she
could no longer fight. She turned her head to face him. Blood came out
of her mouth.
The tiger himself was almost free from the spider’s trap but, alas, he
was pointed headed-down, headfirst into the pool of water. He tried to
lift himself up from that precarious and dangerous position but the pain
was too great. He could not just grab some part of the web for
leverage since he had no real hands left and in any case he would have
only gotten stuck again.
He wanted to say something to her but at the end even his voice failed
him. The yellow pus was more than digestive, it was a poison, it was a
sedative. His movements were arthritic, sluggish. His breathing was
heavy. His heartbeat began to cease slowly, slowly, slowly. He felt
all over an overpowering sense of completion and as he came to total
rest, as he succame to vulnerable weakness there was a certain pleasure
that tingled throughout his body.
The spider jumped down hard on Willa, the fangs were buried deep in her
chest, the head shook violently. The sounds of her screaming were
accompanied by the relentless noises of ripping and tearing. Willa was
sliced in half, jaggedly, slowly. Spewed forth everywhere forever, in
explosive eruptions, came gnarled and churned scraps carrion flesh, came
wild, multi-hued assortments of organs, came fountainous squirts of
dense, dark, red blood and other, foul bodily fluids. The legs and
lower abdomen remained glued on the web while the head, arms and upper
torso slipped with a dull splash into the awaiting water below.
Tygra watched the whole thing, he could not shut his eyes, he could turn
his head away. The tiger saw her, her face still turned to his, her
arms still flayed while she swam, sank deeper, deeper into the dark
pool. He saw her disappear in darkness surrounded in flowing, growing
red clouds of blood. He mouthed to her but he doubted she could have
still seen him, he doubted she could have still been alive or at the
least he hoped so anyway.
He felt the cold water on the top and back of his head crawl steadily up
down his back while he slowly drooped from the web into the water. He
was disoriented. He had lost a lot of blood.
“Don’t ignore me! Don’t ignore me! Don’t ignore me!”
“So what have we learned today, boy?”
“I thought --”
“You thought what? You thought what, boy? That you could beat me?
That you could silence me? With those puny, little blue pills of
yours? Those aspirins of yours? Don’t make me laugh, boy!”
“You don’t frighten me anymore. I know what you are. You don’t have
power over me anymore.”
The voice laughed. “I am you, you are me. Forever! I am power, your
only power, don’t fool yourself, boy, nothing else you have, not the
whip, not the Thundercats, no, not even the Sword of Omens comes close
to me. And what about your precious Thundercats? Where are they?
Where are they? Coming to your rescue? Not this time! Code of
Thundera! I mock your pretended morality, your holier-than-thou,
snotty, stuck-up attitude, your ‘Honor, Truth, Justice’! Who’d you
think you were fooling? You’re an animal! An animal! Everyone knows
that, Liono, Panthro, Cheetara, the kittens. Everyone knows that,
everyone and especially Wileykat and especially Willa.”
“Willa loved me! She loved me, not you! Wrong, you’re wrong, you’re
wrong, or do you forget that I know what you are. You’re nothing!
Fool! You’re nothing!”
“Oh, you know what I am? Enlighten me, boy!” The voice laughed. “Is
that what you think of me? Is that what you really think of me? After
all this time? I suppose it’s my fault, I suppose I’ve taught you
nothing. I’ll tell you what I am, boy, at the end I have to do
everything for you. Well let me tell you what I am. I’m what turns you
invisible, not that useless whip Jagga gave you. I’m what designed the
Tower of Omens and Cat’s Lair. I’m the sole source and singular cause
of all those gifts and the many, many others you never tapped into, that
you could never imagine you could ever tap into, boy, I’m your mind, I’m
your head, I’ve always been up here, always. It’s you that’ve put me
down there, you and your weaknesses, your petty desires and ambitions,
your urges, your perverted urges. Hunt? Kill? Eat? Those were all
you, all you, all along.
“It was I who conquered my fear of water! It was I who spent years
studying, cultivating my profession! It was I, for all those things and
more, it was I.”
“What are you? What are you? The body, the gross and the base, the
animalistic. Not me. Not me. What? I’ve never needed you, never, you
were but a mere, a mere useless, a frail vehicle for my absolute
genius. And you were never any good at even that meniality. Worms in
the ground chewing dirt would have been better than you, boy, you’ve
suffered me one addiction too many. What would you have been without
“You’re afraid! Yes! You’re afraid and I don’t believe you. All my
life you have been the one that tormented me, you have been the one that
lied to me, you have been the once that caused me more pain than I care
to recall. But at the end, but at the very end it’s I who’ve destroyed
you! Right here, right now. I’ve beaten you! I’ve willed you away!
I’ve torture you back with every last ounce of anger and hatred that
I’ve suffered with you! You are nothing! You were never anything! Now
look at you, boy, look at you, stare at yourself, stare at your wounds,
at the flowing blood, at the opening gashes, at the spilling guts.
You’re a bloody pulp! You’re a crippled bully. You can’t resist me
now, now you’re at my mercy! You are dead because I have killed you.
How did you think I got stuck on this spider web in the first place? An
accident? An accident, boy? Fool! Fool! I did that!”
“Did that?” The voice laughed. “Did that. Yeah, sure, of course, you
did that. You conquered me, boy, all right, you conquered me. I never
thought you would ever have the guts to do that, but then it sure took
you a while to figure it out, didn’t you? I yield, yeah, I yield, but,
hey, you’re dead, too. In me did you exist and in my death see my image
-- which is your own -- see how utterly you have destroyed yourself.
You’re dead! You’re dead! You’re dead! I’m dead!”
The two voices ended in uncontrollable laughter, in unison, in
indistinguishable harmony and then there was darkness, engulfing
darkness, enveloping darkness, sinking darkness and then there was cold
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