A noise woke Brock, who sat up to find his clothes still damp. He rubbed the crust from his eyes and blinked to shake the cobwebs from his brain.
Recognizing his surroundings, he remembered the cave they had found to escape the rain. Early morning light emanated from the entrance, shedding light on Tipper, who lay asleep beside him. In the dim light, Brock noticed something near Tipper.
He leaned close to get a better look, finding bones he hadn’t noticed in the dark of night. Near the bones, rows of four parallel lines marked the surface of the rock. His chest constricted as he realized that something lived here, something large.
A howl echoed in the forest outside the cave.
Brock urgently shook Tipper.
“What? What’s happening?” Tipper blurted, sitting up in confusion.
“Shh.” Brock whispered. “Be quiet. There’s something out there.”
Tipper rubbed his eyes. “Huh? What are you talking about?”
A shadow eclipsed the light at the mouth of the cave. As Brock turned toward the entrance, his breath caught in his throat.
Against the light of the morning sky, the silhouette of a massive four-legged creature blocked the opening. Whatever it was, they were in its home and it was angry.
A low growl sounded, its ferocity rumbling in the small cave. The boys backed away, and Brock stumbled when he collided with a boulder near the rear of the cave. He scrambled to his feet as his mind raced. The beast blocked the only exit. Like the banshee attack at Glowridge Pass, they were trapped in a hopeless situation with no way out. His mind drifted back to that event and he reacted.
Brock scooped a bone from the cave floor and began scraping a symbol on the boulder: the same rune he had drawn on Hank.
The creature stepped forward, and Brock noticed the beast’s eyes, glowing an angry red. The smell of wet animal filled the cave, mixing with the smell of fear from Brock and Tipper.
Spurred by desperation, Brock closed his eyes and began pushing with his will. He felt the same force as last time, just beyond himself. Pushing harder, he latched onto it and his body grew flush with hot energy. A storm raged within, threatening to destroy him. He opened his eyes and poured the energy into the rune. It glowed bright red, pulsing as the boulder began to shake.
Brock backed from the advancing creature into the rear of the cave, against Tipper’s cowering form.
The boulder suddenly burst. Bits of rock pelted him, cutting hands held up to protect his face from the beast. The creature leapt back from the blast, dozens of small shards hitting its face and body. It growled in rage. Brock lowered his throbbing hand to see what had happened.
The boulder moved toward the beast. The round headless body of the rock advanced on four legs made of stone, emitting crunching and grinding sounds with each movement.
The hairy beast attacked, swinging vicious swipes with its huge paws. Sharp claws scraped the hard surface of the living boulder and bounced off harmlessly. The beast backed away, but the boulder continued to advance.
The beast attacked again, with little result as the boulder relentlessly forced it backwards. Suddenly, animal was outside, its red eyes squinting in the pale light of pre-dawn. It made one last swipe and then bolted.
The boulder turned the corner to give chase, one leg stepping over the edge, and it disappeared. The rumbling and crunching sound of a small rockslide followed as it tumbled away.
The cave became silent.
“What in the blazes? Brock, what did you do?” Tipper shouted. “What was that thing? What’s happening?”
“I don’t know!” Brock yelled back. He was breathing heavily, trying to calm himself. “I don’t know, Tipper. I had to do something, and it just came to me. I don’t know what it is.”
“It’s like what happened with Hank. You did it again with that big rock,” Tipper said.
“Yeah. I know,” Brock replied. “I wish I knew what it was, but I don’t.”
Brock grabbed his pack and headed toward the entrance. “Let’s get out of here before that thing comes back.”
Stepping outside the cave, he looked down. The rock-thing lay at the bottom of the outcropping, its legs broken off with the pieces still twitching. A shiver went down Brock’s spine.
“That’s creepy,” Tipper said.
Nodding, Brock began to climb down as the first rays of morning sun streaked across the valley.