For this girl he would go through water and fire; for her he would happily die.
From the book The Creatures
Mark and Rick, closest of friends, were taking a trip through the mountains.
They had no special plans, and were just wandering around. All their lives they lived in the big city, so they were curious about living in small towns placed far away from the strongholds of civilization.
Rick, tall, athletic and self-confident, was looking down at his pal. Thin, shy and calm, a classic nerd, Mark though, was also practical and erudite, and this made Rick open to the friendship. Honestly, he used Mark instead of an encyclopedia.
It was early on a beautiful sunny morning when they saw the mountain.
Bright yellow-brown, without any sign of plants, it stood out visibly against the dark green, thickly forested others.
"What the Hell is it?" Rick pointed to the phenomenon.
Mark thought for a while.
"Itís Bold Mount," he responded finally. "Next to it should be Townsville, a mining town, small one, about six thousand people. It has a very original attraction: Underground Tourist Mine."
He took out a guide and read aloud:
'Put on a miner's hat, light and boots and descend via a cage five hundred feet down mine shaft. Complete safety. Open daily.' Wanna check it out?"
"Why not?" Rick shrugged his shoulders. "Itís on our way, and Iíve never visited a mine."
Mark only nodded; they had already reached this tiny town and Mark liked it a lot. The small, cute and cozy buildings and clean, straight, narrow streets aroused in his soul strange dreams.
"I was thinking," he said slowly. "How wonderful to live in such a peaceful place."
"You meanóboring!" Rick laughed. "It's not for me, pal..." He stopped short.
They saw a girl. Dressed in the white gown of a nurse, she was standing by the entrance of the local hospital.
Tall, big-breasted, but with a slender and lithe body, she resembled a magic white king cobra. Her slightly wavy dark has tied tight into a long braid that seemed glued along her delicate back.
"Wow!" Rick said, stopping the car, but the girl had already walked inside the building.
"Wow!" he repeated. "What a pearl! I should have pretended to be sick. Maybe she would do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, eh, pal?"
Mark did not respond. If he were to say she was his dream girl, it wouldn't be enough. For this girl he would go through water and fire; for her he would happily die.
* * * * *
They circled around the downtown a few times before they finally found the Tourist Mine.
To their surprise it was fairly crowded.
The performer and guide, a man of middle age, gave them helmets with lights and boots, warning, "People! Here, under the ground, are miles and miles of abandoned corridors. It's like a maze; don't get lost! Please keep together all the time. No screaming ó it can cause the mine to collapse. Do not take off your hats, and watch your step!"
All together they boarded an elevator, and the cage slowly descended.
Mark suddenly felt his mouth awfully dry. Odd excitement seized him.
In the cool moist air, strange shadows raging on the wet dark brownish walls made him imagine himself a goblin or a dwarf.
He glanced at Rick, but his pal, with an obviously apathetic face, was indifferently looking about.
When they reached the bottom, the guide repeated the instructions, and the tourists slowly walked along the slippery corridor, glancing with interest at the stone walls and listening to the performer.
Very soon Mark and Rick were the last pair of the group. Rick, bored, and Mark, buried deep in his weird fantasies, lagged far behind their fellow explorers.
"Look!" Suddenly Rick gasped, and grabbed his friend's hand. Bewildered, Mark stood still, gaping at an almost impossible view.
This short passage led into a small cave with walls that themselves seemed to glow. Soft pinkish-gold fantastic light filled the grotto, and here, in the middle, washed over by those bizarre beams, the very same girl they had seen by the hospital was sitting on a big rock.
Without a helmet, feet bare, she was wearing a strange dress. Very short in front, the skirt went to the ground behind, in what seemed a tail. It was impossible to determine the color of her clothes. Maybe iridescent, or perhaps white and simply colored by these rays, the dress appeared made of precious stones. Her slightly wavy black hair was still twined into a plait stuck immovable to her lissome feminine back.
"Guys!" she called calmly.
And the confused young men neared her as if hypnotized.
Rick shook his head and asked uncertainly, "Are you lost?"
"I see you like minerals." She smiled. "No one but me knows these inside passages of Bold Mount. I can show to you some interesting places."
"Great!" Rick exclaimed enthusiastically. He gained back his self-confidence. He gallantly offered her his hand, but she just slid down the rock like mercury.
She neared a wall, pushed it, and the stone turned, reminding the men of a rotating door. She went in, and the amazed friends followed her.
Magical views came one-by-one in sight. The marvelous majesty of enormous caverns struck them dumb.
Enchanting cozy grottos invited them to stay forever. Narrow passages along which they had to walk in single file brought them together quite intimately.
Overwhelmed with unfamiliar feelings and impressions, Mark did not realize at once what Rick was whispering to him. When he did, his hair stood on end.
"Let's get this girl!" his pal breathed out eagerly. "We'll kill her, and no one would find her ever!"
"Youíre crazy!" gasped Mark, looking at his pal in horror. He saw a fierce flash in Rick's wild glare. "How could you even think about it?"
"Nobody's here; nobody will hear," he responded through clenched teeth, drawing closer to the girl.
Mark understood no moral reasoning would get through to Rick right now.
"Without her we'll never find our way back!" This logic might sway Rick, if nothing else.
"I remember the path!" Rick muttered and rushed to the girl.
They had just entered another, smallish cave. It was dark, very dry, with dull brownish walls without any unusual attributes.
Rick grabbed the girl as would a hunter from the Stone Age, and roaring with savage desire fell with his prey to the floor.
The girl resisted wildly but without making a sound.
"Stop it!" Mark screamed. He grasped Rick's shoulder, but his pal flung him off with such a powerful push that Mark flew to the wall, collapsed and rose only shakily.
In despair he glanced about.
He stumbled over a rock and hoisted it.
Having never used a stone as a tool Mark had no expectations of how strong the hit would be so he struck Rick across the helmet with all the effort he could gather.
The weight of the rock tripled the effect. The girl pushed off the lifeless body of Rick, and in a twinkling of eye was on her feet.
"I killed him..." moaned Mark.
He felt sick and dizzy.
A faint shining from nowhere lighted up the cave.
In that ghostly glow the girl seemed to Mark not as a human being. He could swear it was not a skirt that flowed to the floor behind her but a real tail, and her braid was the black line down the back that many lizards have.
The creature lifted her arm, and with long reptilian nails pointed to another passage.
"This way!" she hissed, and the shocked Mark did as she bid.
As he left, the cave collapsed with a crash just behind him.
A mighty gust of air pushed into his back, and Mark fell right at the feet of the guide-performer who had been running along the corridor.
"O my God!" The guide bent over Mark. "What happened? Where is the other guy?"
Mark could only point to the buried cave.
When Mark opened his eyes, he found himself in the ward of a hospital.
A man was standing beside the bed.
"Rick?" Mark mumbled hoarsely. "Did you find him?"
"I'm very sorry about your pal," answered the man. "He was still alive when he was brought to the hospital, but died from multitudinous injuries."
"And the girl?"
"What girl?" asked the man, looking surprised.
Mark did not respond.
A nurse entered the ward. Her wavy dark hair was twisted into a plait going all the way down her back, to below her waist.
Like some fantastic snake, it repeated any movement of her lithe womanly body, emphasizing every curve.
Seeing Mark was silent, the man said, "No one else was hurt."
"I'm glad." Mark stared at the nurse.
The man uttered a few canonical phrases and left.
Then the nurse neared Mark's bedside.
"It was you," he said calmly. "How is it possible? What was that?"
"Sh-sh-sh!" she whispered, tenderly kissing him. "Get well first. We have eternity to talk about it."
Mark nodded, closed his eyes and a deep healing sleep took him into its soft embrace.†††††