Its dark, hairless skin was covered in horn-type growths, reaching their peak on the creatures head like crest. Reticulate eyes were positioned at the sides of the head; the mouth was huge with several rows of fangs. The beast sputtered, screaming and hissing.
It looked at archaeologists, turned one eye to them, then another, and taking a step closer.
“It’s an imp,” Julian whispered, backing away. “It looks exactly like the ones in the pictures.”
For a moment, Bella forgot her fear. “Where did you come from? Why do you want to destroy us?” She had finally found them; now, she needed to know the truth.
The imp screamed again and made a jump toward her. Then, a gunshot echoed under the vaults of the hall…then a second and then a third. The imp fell back. Three wounds ripped its chest open.
“Julian! What have you done?” Bella tried to pull the gun out of his hands, but Julian pushed her away.
Without a word, he took out the laser saw and made his way to the dark arcade. His guess had been correct. Dozens of cocoons were there, waiting for the right time to hatch. The fire from the laser took them all.
“What have you done, Julian? Have you lost your mind?” Bella stood in front of the first opened cocoon, searching for some lingering life. She turned to Bronson for help, but he was bent over, vomiting on the floor.
Julian took a square metal container out of his backpack and started to collect the cocoon crystals in it.
“What are you doing?” Bronson had finally pulled himself together. “Julian–these crystals, they’re…”
“God, Julian, one of these crystals wiped out the whole town. You’ve seen the pictures,” Bella screamed. She felt horrified spasms seize her stomach as she realized Julian’s intentions. “This amount is enough to decimate the population of the entire country.”
“Now, the gun makes sense,” Bronson growled. “Who are you working for?”
Julian turned the gun on them. “Easy, easy, my friends. I’m very grateful to you, Bella. You’ve done the whole shitty job for me. I just reap the benefits.”
“You’re a traitor,” Bella sobbed. “We’ve been colleagues for so many years. I trusted you, but you…”
“Everything has its end, darling,” Julian grinned. “It’s time to say goodbye, now. You’ve seen too much…” He raised the gun, pointing it at Bella’s head.
The low howl filled the hall from all directions. The walls and the floor started to crack.
“The water is coming!” Bronson shouted, and ran toward the exit.
Julian shot at him, but missed. Suddenly, the support column behind him cracked, ripping it in half, and burying Julian under the rubble of its weight.
There was no time for thoughts and doubts, now. Jets of water fired from all directions—from the ceiling, from the cracks in the walls. A few seconds later, Bella and Bronson found themselves swimming.
“Come on, girl!” Bronson grabbed her shoulder. “Let’s get out of here!”
The door to the hall started to close, but the water pressure was so high that it smashed the door into pieces, and flooded the tunnel.
Bella felt the cold water surround her ears and mouth, even her eyes. Never much of a swimmer, she realized that she was about to drown. Bronson’s head appeared in front of her and disappeared again as the water carried her along the tunnel.
“Come on, girl! We can do it!”
Bronson’s voice and his hand on her shoulder had been the last things caught by her consciousness before the complete darkness swallowed her.
Bronson visited her in the hopital a few days later. Bella felt fine and was ready to be discharged. She asked him about Julian.
“His body still hasn’t been found.” The engineer bowed his head.
Bella sighed heavily. She still couldn’t decide what was worse—the fact that her friend betrayed her, even wanted to kill her or the news that he had died.
“What about the ship and everything what was inside?” Bella broke the awkward silence.
“What ship? What are you talking about?”
“The ship, the cocoons?” Bella frowned.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Doctor.”
Bella’s breath caught and she whispered. “The crystals, Bronson. The imps? Where are the imps?”
“Maybe, you should spend some more time here, Bella.” The engineer smiled, patting her shoulder. “It was the flood. The water destroyed everything. It’s a miracle that the church wasn’t destroyed as well. But it was just the river, Bella, nothing more.”
L. Salt is an emerging, multi-genre writer from the UK. She studied History of World Culture and did Master’s Degree in Art Expertise at the St. Petersburg University of Culture and Arts. She was born in Belarus and has lived for many years in Ukraine and Russia, then finally settled down in the North of England, where she currently lives with her husband. L’s interest in writing dates back to her teenage years. Apart from creative writing, she has a passion for travelling, arts, history, and foreign languages. Her debut novella, His Personal Reich, was released on April 26 by Crazy Ink Publication. Her novel The Ways We Follow, a futuristic urban drama inspired by the glorious city of St. Petersburg, where the author has lived for almost ten years, was released on May, 25 by Wild Dreams Publishing. Her short stories have appeared in different anthologies.