Jonah awoke with a start. He sat up quickly, which made his head spin. Pain throbbed through his skull and he gripped both sides of his head. He shook from shock as a hand gently landed on his shoulder. He looked up to see Emily, looking not much better.
"It's real bad at the start, and you'll probably vomit, but its starts to pass pretty quick." As Emily finished, her words become prophetic as Jonah emptied what little he had in his stomach into the dirt. He wiped his mouth with his arm and Emily helped him up. He could see the whole team was there, and in the same state of recovery.
"Worst hangover I've ever had. Even worse than when my second wife left me," Randall belched and covered his mouth, his quip seemingly causing more distress than it was worth.
Jonah eyed their surroundings. They were outside, not within the hut. A clearing, somewhere deep within the forest. It did not seem natural, more man made. Before he could ponder on it further, Arantu, still in his ritual garb, emerged silently from the thick vegetation. No grin, just a solemn look on his face, he beckoned the group to follow.
Through smothering heat and underbrush, the group followed as best they could. It did not take long to find their destination. The jungle gave way to an expansive clearing that was itself a sight to behold. Gasps echoed around as the smile had returned to Arantu's face. A massive stone city lay before them. Pillars rose to the sky, cracked and weathered. Large, pyramid shaped structures covered in stairs and littered with vines were abundant. Front and center, just meters away, was a temple of sorts, damaged from the years it had seen. Giant stones lay scattered at the entrance, a colossal monument of a civilization unseen by the world until now. The team walked toward the large structure as Arantu followed.
"This was city of other tribe. They believe in great eagle, Claw of Fire. It help them build this. But when Claw try to kill Eight of Eyes, oh..." Arantu chuckled and looked to the sky. Composing himself, he continued.
"Eight of Eyes kill Claw of Fire. We small tribe, but Eight of Eyes strong. She provide. We let her take city. We stay away. She provides all." Arantu eyes welled with tears, but none would fall. Jonah found his moment to confront Arantu.
"We have heard of the Eight of Eyes this whole time, yet you don't tell us what she is. A god? A person? Your queen? What?" Jonah’s voice had raised, mainly due to Arantu being unable to contain his laughter.
"She is more than all of that. If you wish to know, it is all inside." Arantu directed his hand at the darkness within the entrance. Jonah looked at the darkness, then patted his hands on his shirt pockets, then to his pants. Sure enough, his flashlight was there. The only thing he had on him, aside from the journal tucked into his back pocket. Roger, Terrence, and Randall also produced flashlights from their pockets, following suit. Peculiar, yet everything since landing had been. Jonah looked to the team, one by one, and then took a deep breath. Everything came back to him, everything from his Great-Grandfather’s journal, everything he had learned with his degree, it was all there. He found this to be calming, and walked confidently into the darkness, the others following close behind.
The hall of the entrance was extremely tall, and the walls had several carvings depicting animals and people. Cobwebs covered the walls from top to bottom, a clear sign that no one had entered in years. Emily had found her way to Jonah's side.
"This place...this place is incredible. A whole empire was here once. This is an unknown history." Emily's eyes gathered in everything they could.
They reached the end of the hallway, which opened up to a large room. The ceiling had caved in somewhat, letting rays of light illuminate the center of the gigantic room. It was then clear; this was a throne room. A set of stairs in the center led to a large stone throne in a state of decay. The top half had broken and fallen on the seat. The team scaled the stairs. It was almost too much to take in. Jonah pulled out his journal and held it, tears in his eyes. The ordeal of getting here was slowly fading. He had made it. The whole team looked awestruck, even Roger, who was scratching his head, trying to process the reality he was now in. The reverie they had all entered was cut by the sound of movement. A loud shuffling from behind the throne. All of the team reacted, and all light had found its focus on the broken throne. Silence now ruled. The only sound was the erratic breathing from the team.
"What was that?" Randall muttered under his breath. A sudden loud tapping and shuffling came from behind them. The lights swung and illuminated several black glassy eyes, set within the head of a tarantula the size of a tank. Emily opened her mouth to scream. Before it pierced the silence, two venom laced fangs impaled Randall through his chest. His sternum cracked, and the fangs protruded out his back. His body was lifted high as the spider maneuvered its jaws through the wreckage that was now the lifeless body of Randall, seeking to inject its venom and drink his insides.
Chaos had taken root. Gerard had tried to run down the stairs, but with no light, he had taken a bad step. He fell face first into the stairs, his head catching on the stone and twisting violently. His weight fell upon his neck, snapping it and ending his fear. His body continued to tumble, sending the sounds of cracking bones to echo off the wall and add to the cacophony of death that reverberated through the throne room.
Jonah found Emily gripping onto his arm, and he dragged her and himself behind the throne. His mind raced and somehow, through the fear and panic, found hold of a single thought. The Eight of Eyes. Horror now permeated through his body, and he could not stop the tremors that shook both him and Emily as he held her.
More giant spiders came crawling from the darkness that outlined the throne room. Terrence tried to take a more successful descent down the stairs, but halfway down two massive legs came swinging down from his left side. The impact broke both of Terrence's legs. His shin bones were sticking out of his skin and his feet dangled about, nearly disconnected. He wailed in pain as the spider dragged his body over the side of the stairs. He did not scream for long.
Roger had given a sideway glance at Terrence being pulled over the edge. He had known Terrence for a long time, and it was a damn shame to see him go, but this was survival, and he was not going to die in this shit hole. With quick deliberate steps Roger sped down the stairs and was able to get to the hallway. He began a full sprint in the darkness, heading towards the column of light that was his only chance. He could not hear anything following, but he would not look back. The light grew and he closed in on the exit. Roger was free, he was sure of it.
Arantu held firm as Roger ran straight into his spear. Roger was running so fast that Arantu nearly fell backwards. Arantu regained his grip and stood. Roger had blood flowing from his mouth as Arantu slowly backed out into the light so Roger could see his face, but Roger did not cross out of the entrance. Sputtering blood, Roger was dying.
"No...harm..." It was all Roger could say. Arantu had the largest smile he perhaps ever had. He maintained it as he spoke.
"Fuck you," Arantu said as Roger died upon his spear. He then cast both spear and man aside and headed within the temple to finish what had begun.
The room had grown silent. Jonah and Emily were wrapped in each other’s arms, locked in what they believed to be their final embrace. Their frenzied breathing was all they heard as they waited for the strike to come. But it did not. It was Arantu's voice that came first.
"Jonah. Emily. Come out now." He had reached the top of the stairs, and as they looked out from behind the throne for the first time since the attack began, they could see that the room was now filled with giant spiders, yet they remained off to the side, almost maintaining an audience to what was happening at the throne. Jonah and Emily slowly moved out from behind the broken throne and approached Arantu.
"We thank you for what you give to us." Arantu spoke and gestured to the gaping hole in the ceiling of the throne room. The room darkened for a moment, as a spider, much larger than the rest, clambered in, and thundered down the walls. Other spiders moved quickly out of its way as it meandered to the bottom of the stairs. It slowly and meticulously moved closer to the top. Jonah and Emily backed up in fear, Jonah stumbling and falling into a seated position on the throne. Arantu shot him a strange glance and flared his smile once more. The enormous spider had now reached the top of the stairs, where now visibly was a man impaled upon its massive fangs. A quick shake of its head sent the man falling to the ground just in front of Arantu. The corpse landed with a wet thud. The body had been sucked dry of its insides, but Jonah immediately recognized the man by the tattered uniform he had on. It was Juan Ochoa, captain of the Ortega.
"Eight of Eyes take your heart, and soul, and mind." After Arantu spoke, his eyes rolled into the back of his head and it seemed he would collapse. His body swayed, and the spider seemed to pulse with an energy that filled the entire room. Arantu then stiffened, and he regained himself and his eerie grin.
"We thank you because now we know how to use your ship. We will take the children of Eight of Eyes to other lands, so she may rule all as she rules us." Jonah could not believe it, but it all clicked. It was how they knew their language. It must be why the ships of all other expeditions were lost or abandoned on land. The Eight of Eyes wanted off of this island, and they had brought her just what she wanted.
"She likes you both. She offers you chance. Bow to her, give yourself, and you can follow her and get what she has to give." Arantu pointed to the ground right in front of the spider’s massive head, that had now moved right beside him.
"This is madness, this, this cannot be..." Jonah was mumbling and looking around the room for an answer that would not appear. Emily then stepped forward and fell to her knees, a few feet from the spider's fangs.
"I will serve. I am yours."
Arantu bared his teeth with jubilation, but Jonah stood from the throne and rushed at Emily. He tried to pull her away.
"You can't! They will kill so many! This thing must be destroyed!" Jonah was frantic, and the spider became irate.
"It is the only way. We have no choice." Emily spoke calmly and maintained her position. The spider then lunged just above her. She shook with fear but did not move. The spider's abdomen hovered just inches over her head for what felt like an eternity, and then it retreated down the stairs, with Jonah grasped within its jaws. His lifeless body swung about as the spider moved. His journal fell from his corpse and landed upon the stairs, now soaked in his blood. Jonah's journey had found its end. Arantu knelt to Emily and helped her stand. He held her as they slowly descended the stairs. The other spiders slowly dispersing into the shadows.
Seven days later the Ortega had found itself pulling into the port city of Los Angeles.
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