We came upon a trench around noon. A glance down the narrow stairs showed the length of the corridor and the cells which ran along either side. There was a foul odor to the entire structure, and I forbade anyone from following me as I descended the steps.
The first few cells were empty, but the fifth held a rifle I had not seen previously in my life. It was a curious breech loader, with brass-shells and metal jacketed rounds instead of lead. The weapon came with an olive-drab strap and perhaps a hundred bullets in a matching pouch that bore the stamp, USMC.
I slung the rifle over one shoulder and the pouch over the other and continued on my way, inspecting as I went. In some of the cells, I found the remains of animals and men, tattered clothes and broken weapons, some of which I was familiar, others which – like the rifle – were unknown to me.
Finally, I came to the iron crossbars, and I listened.
There was a snuffling sound, as of some great beast moving towards me. Yet try as I might, I couldn’t see it. Then, as I drew my pistols and cocked the hammers of the Colts, I saw a flicker of shadow. As my eyes locked onto it, the unseen creature understood that I knew it was there, and it charged.
I did not believe the iron would hold it in place. In fact, I believed it would collapse, and my fate would be the same as the others I had passed by.
Instead of retreating, I raised both pistols and fired, emptying them both. Blood exploded from the unseen beast, splattering across the walls and shooting into the air as it came down in a massive heap, invisible even in death.
I reloaded my weapons, waited for signs of any others, and then returned to Isaiah and his people.
I had loitered enough.
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