The Lair of King Crow
(Part six of a seven part series)
By Hunter Liguore
Bright green and white light swirled with purple and blues towards the bottomless drop. I screamed and flailed as I fell into oblivion. My life flashed before me. I could’ve stayed and lived out a quiet life as a professor emeritus at the university. I could’ve taken simple vacations to treasured places I had always wanted to visit. Instead, I chose the unexplainable, the mystical, and the route leading me to my immediate death. As I prepared to go through the light, a voice called out to me, jarring my thoughts.
“Dad!” the voice yelled. “Grab a hold of the net!”
Before me, with only a second’s notice a giant net flung out at me. I swatted my arms like a bird and caught it. I was pulled and slung into the wall. I hit hard, but managed to hold tight. I kicked with my feet, as the net was dragged upward toward a cave. As I neared the ledge, I saw a blonde-haired, young boy, maybe sixteen at most. He was pulling me up with a type of makeshift crane. The boy called out, “Dad, are you all right?” He secured the pulley, and helped me up. My arm was bleeding, and the boy, upon seeing it, fetched water and rags.
“I told mom I would save you.” The boy was grinning. He wore trousers made from canvas, like a rucksack, complete with buckles and pocket, and was bare-chested. Tall for his age, and muscular, his hair was wild, and his body in need of a bath. “She told me to make sure you didn’t go through the portal.” He nodded sure of himself. “I knew I could do it. Nothing to it.”
“You made this?” I asked, watching him fold the net.
“Yep. I drew the specs, and for awhile mom was here to help me weave the net.”
“And where’s your mother now,” I asked, propping myself to the wall near the opening. I glanced around the oval chamber. A torch lit a small passageway. “Is she nearby?”
“Nope. Haven’t seen her in a long time. She’s probably looking for you. Looks like I found you first.” He laughed, resetting the crane and net.
“And why would she be looking for me?” I was confused. “Do I know her?”
“Of course you do. She’s your wife,” he said adamantly.
“My wife.” I chuckled. “I think you have me confused, son.” I went to say more, but he interrupted.
“You and my mom are famous anthropologists who went excavating the lair of King Crow, and now you’re stuck here. I’ve heard the story a thousand times.” He frowned. “You weren’t there when I was born, but mom says she saw you from time to time when I was growing up.” The boy came over to me and knelt down. From his small pocket he pulled out a worn, copper compass. With both hands he opened it. Much to my surprise it was engraved with the exact inscription as the one my father gave me when I was eighteen. To my son, may you always find your way home. Love, your father.
“My father’s compass,” I whispered, knowing the scratches and small dent on the lid by heart.
“You don’t remember giving me this?” the boy said. Before I could answer he said, “I don’t either. Mom said you may not, but to show it to you, that way you’d know I was really your son, and you’d help us figure a way to get out of here.”
“My son?” My voice went hoarse. “My son?” I said again, shaking my head. “I have a son.” Suddenly, my eyes watered, and the room spun, as I looked into his eyes, seeing the determination of Amelia’s, as well as mine, looking back at me. I was speechless. My thoughts went to her, and how alone she must be feeling, somewhere. “Where is she? Amelia. Where is your mother?”
“I don’t know.”
“We need to find her.”
“No,” he said, glancing up toward the forty-fifth step. “We need to kill that thing.”
When I glanced upward, I wasn’t prepared to see the beast hovering over the edge. Its two stalked eyes glaring down at us. It screeched and wailed in a fit. Its two giant pincer claws click-clicked and echoed throughout the void, and the other four sets of legs carried its massive, shelled body sideways across the walls.
“Oh, my word,” I declared. “It’s a king crab! A giant king crab!” I stood in awe. “That’s what Rockwell was trying to say to me. It wasn’t a king crow, nor a crob, but a crab. That’s the blasted thing that pushed me over the edge.” It all became clear to me. “It’s blocking the other doorway.”
“We should hide,” the boy said, pulling me into the cave.
The king crab charged down the side of the cliff toward us. I went with the boy. We took cover in the passageway, hovering behind a large boulder. The boy put a finger to his mouth, telling me to be silent. We waited, and nothing came. The boy broke cover first, telling me to stay put, but I followed.
“He’s gone,” he said and ran to the crane.
“What do you mean, he’s gone? How do you know?”
“I just do. I’ve been watching him for a while. Someone else is going over. Wait and watch.” The boy cranked the wooden arm and readied the net. True to his word, within moments, I heard a man screaming over the side. The boy hit the lever, casting the net outward, like a fishing line, yelling for the man to catch the net. He caught it, and dangling in midair. Together, we pulled him closer, and helped him to the cave. The man held his hand out to me. I was surprised to see Cook.
“Cook, what’re you doing here?” I smiled, happy to see a familiar face.
“Following you, turkey.” We untangled the net from his limbs. “When you didn’t come for dinner, I went after you. I don’t leave a friend three days, no help. I tried to follow you, but you’re a tricky one to find Dr. W. But Cook found you now.”
I turned to the boy and introduced him as my son. “What’s your name?” I asked, feeling a little silly.
“You don’t know your own son’s name?” Cook laughed.
“It’s complicated.” The boy’s name was John, named after John Rockwell, I presumed, chuckling at Amelia’s ingenuity.
Cook pulled out a bottle of Mexican rum and offered it to me. We sat together discussing our options. I knew that at all costs neither of us could go over the edge and into the light. If we did, we would be caught like everyone else. Somehow the key lay in getting to the other door. But we needed to get around the king crab first.
“If only we can lure him into the shaft.” I said, examining the net, the ropes, and other tools John had piled near the crane.
“Rest, my friend,” said Cook, extending the bottle. “It’s been a long journey.”
“I need to think,” I said. “What was it that Ferdinand said to me? Time is like a living, breathing entity.” A million thoughts passed through my mind. My head hurt trying to sift through what I knew, and what I’d learned about the cave. I didn’t have years to spend to getting all the details right. Amelia was out there somewhere, and plenty of other soul’s that wouldn’t find rest until we helped them.
Cook broke my train of thought. “That’s not a real crab up there. If you want to kill it, you’ll have to find something that’ll go through metal.”
“What do you mean?”
Cook threw something at me. I caught it. In my hand was a heavy metal bolt. “Where did you get this?”
“Off Mr. Crab. He’s mechanical. I got a look at the underbelly. Looks like a bunch of turning disks.”
“Toothed wheels, like a watch?” I suggested.
“Don’t know.” He shrugged. “I never owned a watch. Never needed one.”
I took my watch off and quickly opened the back. “Is this what you saw?” John leaned closer, interested, and poked his dirty finger at the tiny bronze gears.
“Maybe,” Cook said, scratching his head.
If Cook was right, and the king crab was made with gears, then maybe in some way it was responsible for the time differential. “It’s a clock,” I said aloud. “It has to be. I can’t explain how, but if my assumption is correct, all we have to do is destroy it, and time will return to normal.”
Cook laughed. “And how do you suppose we’re going to kill a mechanical crab the size of King Kong.”
“What’s King Kong?” John looked confused.
“Never mind, John. One day we’ll watch the movie together. For now,” I said, taking up the ropes, “we’re going to lure it over the side.”
“Which one of us is going to do the luring?” Cook stood up joining me and John in a semi-circle.
“You will,” I said, tying the rope around Cook’s waist as he protested.
The plan was easy. All Cook had to do was lead the crab over the side. John would use his net to tangle up its claws, and I would come from behind and push it over. If John tied up the crab’s legs enough, the crab would lose his balance, allowing me to heave-ho him to the other side.
We spent days preparing the nets, dragging them to the step, setting them up for the trap, securing the rope, sharpening wooden sticks into spears to use to catapult the crab over. We reviewed the plan and tried in the small cave to practice each of our roles. When we finally felt ready, we rested and then never looked back.
We climbed to our positions silently. I made no assurances to John or Cook. Deep inside I hoped my calculations were correct. I hoped that we could win our freedom from the lair. At the edge of the step, we glanced inward. I could see the second door, the true door, as Rockwell called it. I had a clear shot to it, and almost considered abandoning the first plan, and settling for a brazen dash across the sandy chamber.
I stepped forward. Nothing happened. Not a beetle or a crab. Nothing. I made it to the ring of glyphs on he floor. “Should I run for it?” I glanced back at them both. No sooner did I say it, then I heard the clicking of its claws. My steps must’ve sent a vibration out, alerting the crab of my presence. I looked up, and dangling over me was the gigantic crab. In a flash it jumped, descending upon me. I dove for cover. “Now, Cook!”
Cook stood at the entrance cackling and banging two spears together. “Come here, crabby-crabby-crabby. Come and get me.” Around his waist the rope was tied tightly. “Come and get me you delicious little sea rat. Let me make a big soup with you.”
I hid behind a stone stele. The crab turned his focus on Cook. As it clicked and wailed forward, John readied with net at the side of the entrance, clinging to the wall.
We watched and waited only moments, until he was right under the net. “Now, John,” I called. The net fell onto the crab, catching several of its pincers. I charged with a battle cry, as vicious as a Spartan, with raised spear. I dug underneath its belly, into the sand, and tried to catapult him over the edge.
Cook yelled some more to bate him, and jumped over the edge, hoping to lure the crab over. John had joined me with a spear on the other side. The crab was flailing. I gave him one last push with everything I had, knowing that my survival, and that of everyone’s, relied on my actions. I felt the crab’s body give, and pushed more and more, until his body was shifted, and started to slide. Cook call out, “Its going over!” I felt a wash of relief come over my body, but then suddenly, my legs dropped out from underneath me. I looked down and saw the net wrapped around my ankle. I was going over with the crab.
John cried out for me. Our hands touched briefly for a second. I let go, knowing I would take his small body over with me. As the ceiling spun in front of my eyes, and my body felt weightless, I felt one last pull. The crab had stopped its fall. The sight lay before—Cook was dangling from the rope over the cliff, and climbing for safety; the crab hanging over the side, digging its pincers into the stone, its massive claw cutting the net away from its heavy shelled body; and there I was, dangling head first into the abyss once more.
“Dad!” John cried out.
“It’ll be all right,” I called out. “It’s the way it was always meant to happen. Keep fighting. It’s up to you both now.” I saw the crab cut the final cord, the last thread to safety, to the old life, the old path. I didn’t scream as I fell. No. It all came together in my mind as the lights swirled around me, cradling my body and blinding my eyes. I had to go through the light. John had confirmed I’d come to him and Amelia on other occasions, and if my thoughts were correct, I had seen myself an old man at the start of my adventure. If only I had paid attention. I was trying to warn myself of the crab. The terrible king crab that would send me into oblivion. It was over for me. I would live my whole life inside the King Crow lair.
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Hunter Liguore holds a BA in History and is finishing her MFA in Creative Writing. She enjoys writing in different genres, and even more so mixing genres, rather than limiting herself to one. Her work has appeared in diverse publications, including, "Katie Ireland," in Miranda Literary Magazine, "Piece," in Terra Incognito, and "The Wizard of Peillon," forthcoming in Mirror Dance. If you would like to follow Hunter Liguore on her journey around the world in thirty stories and thirty genres, visit: http://www.theworldinthirtystories.com
Labels: Hunter Liguore