When the time came, we were ready. We did not know what to expect, despite the preparations, despite the training. We were ready though, even though none of us really knew what it was we were ready for.
The command came and the first few edged cautiously towards the opening. All of us were trembling, shaking and it wasn’t just the cold morning. Everyone was breathing heavily, their breath like the smoke from idling steam trains in the cold autumn air.
We all watched those first few edging forward towards the hole… the cave… or whatever it was.
Someone, one of the officers, had said the contractors had pulled out what looked like a stone plug from the front of the cave. A stone deliberately fashioned to seal the hole. This officer said that the archaeologists and historians had laughed, all agreeing that the humans of so long ago would not have the technology to fashion such a thing, not to the precision needed.
None of that really matters to us, the poor bloody infantry. We saw the mobile phone footage of those few engineers and site workers who’d been the first to venture in into the hole.
One of them had joked to the camera of making sure to capture it all. ‘It will be – in the future – like that bloke who discovered Tutankhamen’s pyramid, when we find the treasure.’ He’d laughed. No-one, not in their wildest dreams actually expected to find any treasure. Well, maybe they did in their wildest dreams. I’ve had wild dreams, so I know how unrealistic they can be.
None of them expected what they got, not in this world, not in Britain, not from a mere hole in the ground.
Even in slow motion, the thing – whatever it was – was a blur, like a whole herd of octopuses, octopi… or whatever. It was a mass of writhing tentacles, filaments, tendrils. The men didn’t stand a chance, torn apart in front of the camera. The woman with the camera just stood there, frozen to the spot. She’s in shock in hospital now. I’m not sure she even took in what she was filming. Someone grabbed her from behind and carried her back to safety, the picture jumping and shaking, the sound distorted by her screaming.
Apparently, she didn’t stop screaming until the paramedic from the ambulance injected her with something to calm her down.
Then a voice came over the tactical radio band. ‘All clear… so far. Come on down.’
I took a tight grip on my rifle and stood. Then I followed them down into the hole, doubting I’d ever come back out again.