CONTENT WARNING: This update contains vivid descriptions of body horror.
“You could help,” Austin says dryly over his shoulder, hopping out of the way as the revenant rears back and strikes at him again.
Naberius shrugs wordlessly. He’s just standing there, a few paces back, watching the fight intently with an expression that almost looks amused. Austin wonders if this is entertainment for demons, watching humans get horribly maimed. He doesn’t have time to ask, because the revenant drags itself further up the tunnel and is almost on him before he can blink.
The weight of the revenant bowls him over, knocking the wind out of his lungs and pinning him down to the mine cart tracks. Fingernails tear at his chest and stomach as he squirms, gulping down air in case the revenant completely covers him and he starts to suffocate. A pair of teeth dig into his shoulder, a sharp blossom of pain shooting through it as Austin feels his shirt start to soak with blood. Gripping the knife that Naberius gave him, he twists it in his hand and drives it upwards, into the underbelly of the revenant.
The revenant screams, in all of its voices at once, and slithers backwards off of him. Austin clings to the knife handle with white knuckles, lets it slide out of the revenant’s flesh, and looks down at the blade to find it dripping with a lumpy, black ichor that can’t possibly be human blood. It stinks - not of copper, but of the same, rotting flesh smell that permeates the rest of the tunnel. Austin gags before he can help himself, his knees nearly buckling underneath of him as he gets back on his feet.
If I can get it out into the main tunnel, where it’s bigger, maybe it won’t be able to fill up the space like this, he thinks, watching the way the revenant oozes itself into every nook and cranny of the mine shaft in front of him, an impassable obstacle. Regardless, I need to try and get the upper hand on this thing somehow.
“Be careful, Aust,” he hears Richard say, sounding far away though he’s presumably somewhere nearby. Probably just overhead, really, but Austin won’t tear his eyes off the revenant to look.
“I’m always careful,” he says through gritted teeth, and lunges for the revenant, carving a crescent-moon shaped line into its front-facing side. The wound starts to ooze strange, black blood almost immediately, though it looks too shallow for that. Thin skin, maybe.
“What’s it take to kill this thing, anyway?” Austin asks Naberius loudly, lunging again. This time the revenant meets him in the middle, the knife passing into a new mouth that bubbles to the surface. Austin yanks his arm back sharply just before the revenant’s teeth snap down on the blade to either trap or shatter it, unwilling to see the outcome.
Naberius shrugs again. “Just keep hitting it until it stops moving, I’d say.”
“Great, thanks,” Austin says as insincerely as he can manage, wishing for the first time in his relatively short life that Walker was here to help him out.
He jabs at the revenant a few more times, dancing backwards after each step towards it, trying to lure it forwards. It works, at least a little. Austin can hear the wooden supports groaning as the revenant squeezes more of itself forward in the tunnel, dirt falling from the ceiling in a nearly steady rain. A large chunk of rock shakes loose and smacks Austin in his injured shoulder, making him clench his teeth around a gasp as the pain radiates down his arm, all the way through his wrist. He nearly loses his hold on the knife, and switches it quickly to his other hand, unwilling to drop it and let the revenant swallow it up.
“I’m trying to help you,” he snaps at the revenant. “Can you just sit still for one fucking second?”
It doesn’t respond. Maybe it can’t even hear him at all. If anything, it seems to inflate, consolidating more of its mass and growing taller, looming over Austin. The wooden beams above and around it splinter and snap. Austin can see the fragments of them spraying onto the revenant, its skin slowly folding over them, sucking them inside. The revenant is very still - surprisingly so - as this happens, though maybe some combination of the noise and the wood around it suddenly breaking managed to startle it.
Austin takes the opening, rushing forward and shoving the knife into the revenant, thrusting up with both hands. He can already feel its blood flowing down the blade onto the handle, flowing warm and wet over his hands. This close to it, the death-smell of the revenant is strong enough to make Austin’s eyes water.
The revenant howls, quaking and writhing above Austin, each movement only agitating the blade stuck inside of it. The sound of every voice inside the revenant crying out in pain and fear pounds on the inside of Austin’s head, his vision going gray around the edges just as it did before he threw up before. More rocks are falling from the ceiling, bouncing off his head and shoulders, but he hardly notices them as anything more than an annoyance. Somewhere, a long way away, either Naberius or Richard is saying something that he can’t hear.
Austin pulls the knife halfway out of the revenant, and thrusts up and in again. Its howls reach a fever pitch, the sheer volume of them making the earth start to rumble and shake. It’s the same sort of earthquake Austin remembers from the last time he was in the mine. From when the revenant, assumedly, was being summoned back here. The ground pitches underneath of him, and Austin nearly loses his balance, but throws his weight forward against the revenant and digs his feet into the grooves of the mine car track.
“Just a little more,” Naberius urges from behind him.
“Austin,” Richard says hesitantly, from above.
Austin grunts, not really in response to either of them. The ground is still shaking, but he manages to yank the knife out and plunge it into the revenant one more time. The tunnel is filling up with dust, and Austin can feel it scratching his throat as he inhales, his breath heavy in his ears. The revenant cries out shrilly, hands emerging from its surface to try and grasp at the knife, to remove it, but its fingers slip on its bloody surface.
“Just die already,” Austin wheezes, pushing the knife as far as he can into the revenant. It screeches at him, a hand wrapping around his wrist, smearing blood on his arm. But its grip is frail, nowhere close to painful.
The revenant howls again, a long, sustained cacophony. The whole tunnel shudders violently - Austin loses his grip on the knife and is laid out flat on the ground, his head bouncing against the mine car track. Pain explodes through his vision, turning everything white for a split second before he can see again. The revenant is thrashing in the confines of the small mine shaft, the knife still lodged somewhere in its underside. Austin’s brain feels scrambled, but he pushes himself backwards, scooting along on his hands and knees to get away in case the revenant tries to overtake him again.
But it doesn’t. In fact, the longer Austin looks at the revenant, the more it looks like it’s beginning to disappear. Maybe it’s his imagination, or a hallucination from the head wound, but the revenant is almost definitely fading in and out of existence. It howls one more time before vanishing entirely - there one moment, erased from reality the next. Austin closes his eyes and lies back on the ground, feeling the adrenaline draining out of his body.
“Messy,” Naberius says, “but efficient, I suppose.”
Austin opens his mouth to reply, but the mine shaft convulses again, drowning out his words with a rumbling that he recognizes too late as the sound of a rockslide. He tries to lever himself to his feet, but the energy is gone from his arms and legs now, the injuries in his head and shoulder aching deeply.
Richard shouts something. Austin can’t quite hear it over the ringing in his ears, but instinctively looks up, hoping to see his father but instead catching a glimpse of the large rock hurtling down towards him. Before he can react, it slams into his stomach, pinning him down to the ground. Austin screams as he feels something inside of him rupture, arching his back in pain, his body not even affording him time for a last, deep breath before his eyes roll back in his head and everything goes black.
naberius’s fucking color commentary this whole fight is a thing of beauty