“…can you hear me?”
Reeking, slimy wet.
What. The. Fuck.
“God damn this day. Jason?”
What was he lying in? What was he lying on?
Soft but not a good soft. A mushy, wet sponge.
“Jason? West? Jason, can you hear me?”
Where was he? Jason blinked up at…a hole in the roof…and a white face hard with anxiety…and a hole in the roof over that white face…and the white face of the sun…
Even as he stared, the pallid sun slipped into shadow. Darkness fell across him.
Jason closed his eyes. He did not feel very well. He did not think moving would be a good idea.
The voice overhead was swearing quietly. “I’m coming down,” it said.
Jason’s eyes flew open.
A still worse idea.
Enough things had already come down.
“Wait,” he got out.
That’s who that was.
His heart lifted. He liked Kennedy.
“Goddamn it, you scared the hell out of me,” Kennedy yelled. He did sound a little scared, but mostly he sounded angry.
“Here,” Jason croaked. “I’m right here.”
“I know where the hell you are,” Kennedy shouted. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah.” Or not. Maybe not so much. Jason tried to sit up, and he thought maybe if he took it slowly he might not throw up or keel over or otherwise embarrass himself. He was confused about where he was and why he was wherever he was. He was pretty sure he’d hit his head—but he couldn’t tell if that stickiness was blood or something worse. He was lying—now sitting—in about an inch of worse. He’d lost his flashlight and his radio. He had his pistol. That was something. He could always kill himself if the situation went downhill from here.
“What happened?” he called.
The sun slunk out from behind the rafters and feeble rays illuminated what appeared to be patches of muddy fur floating in the muck around him. Jesus Christ. Had he landed on…what had he landed on? Were these bits of rotting upholstery or rotting taxidermy? He looked up, and his stomach gave another queasy roll at the sight of the rusty and twisted nails sticking out of the boards a few inches above his head.
Kennedy was still talking to him. “You fell through the floor. I’ve radioed for help. Are you sure you’re not injured?”
“What the hell did I land on?”
Good question. It had probably saved his life. Or at least his spine.
Jason tried to stand up—taking care not to brain himself on the nail-studded overhanging boards. He stepped down with a splash into water that reached his shins. The water was shockingly cold. Like melted ice.
The hole in the ceiling above him—the floor above him—the whatever-it-was above him—was about twenty feet up. He was not going to be able to jump or climb out that way—even assuming the remaining floor would support such an effort.
“What are you doing?” Kennedy sounded alarmed again.
“I’m just going to…”
“You’re out of visual range. Come back to where I can see you. Don’t move around down there. The basement is flooded. This entire structure is compromised.”
He peered at what he could see of his surroundings and made the discovery that he was sloshing around what had probably been some kind of a storage room. No windows. One wall was lined with shelves crowded with grimy jars containing murky substances. Wooden crates were stacked against the opposite wall. Then more shelves, these stocked with…skulls. Animal skulls, but skulls.
As Jason stared, he noticed a snake crawling its way through the eye of one of the skulls.
Yes. An actual live snake. Not a natural history exhibit.
“Is the girl okay?” he called, never taking his gaze from the snake. He was relieved that he sounded pretty normal. For a guy trapped in a flooded basement full of skulls and snakes.
“She’s alive. Jason, move back to where I can see you.”
“I think there’s a stairway on the east wall.”
“Jason, listen to me. Help is on the way. You need to remain where I can see you.”
Was the flashlight down here somewhere? Jason took a couple of slurpy steps, peering into the cold and slimy water. The sun slid away again and the room plunged back into opacity.
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