LaPorte Caves – Chapter 12 (Old) Version
Written by circes_cup :: [Saturday, 03 September 2016 13:20] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 12 February 2017 19:57]
CHAPTER 12 – OLD
SYNOPSIS TO THIS POINT: A wrong turn in a Kentucky cave landed Howard and Julia in an alien world – a world run by amazon women whose supernatural strength was derived for a mysterious drink called Nourishment. Julia wound up taking this drink. With her new amazon abilities, she is capable of bringing them both home. But she isn’t ready to do that quite yet. Howard, meanwhile, has no intentions of sticking around. Which is why she wrapped him in a steel bar.
This story contains adult sexual content. If you are not of age to read this stuff, don’t. No resemblance between these characters and real people on Earth is implied or intended.
Think, Howard! Think!
He couldn’t. Emotion overwhelmed him as he watched his girlfriend’s hulking form recede into the coastal haze. The disappointment was almost too much to bear. His breaths came in deep gulps, each spasm of his ribcage digging the iron bar to dug painfully into his side.
Acting purely on instinct, Howard found himself suddenly fighting for his freedom. He thrust his torso forward, testing the firmness of the drainpipe to which the bar was attached. His chest smarted in pain, but wait – yes, there was a little bit of give.
UUUGGHGGGHH. Howard slammed his torso forward again, and felt the pipe give a little bit more. UUGGGH. After several more tries, POP. He felt the thing give way. With his feet tucked beneath his butt, Howard slowly lifted himself up, wiggling back and forth until he was finally free of the pipe. The bar was still wrapped around him, of course, a straight-jacket effect that kept his upper arms pinned to his sides. But he could deal with that later, after getting away from the house.
Propping his face against the side of the shed for balance, Howard slowly struggled to his feet. With a kneeling motion, he got his hand low enough to grab his caving bag, full of gear.
Then, Howard ran, as fast as he could. A few miles, that was all he needed – just get out of sight long enough to get the damn bar off of him and make a plan. What sort of plan? He had no idea. He would improvise. He would do whatever he needed to get away, to be free.
With the bar pinning his arms to his sides, running was more complicated than Howard had expected. He couldn’t move his arms up and down, as a runner normally would. And without the stabilizing effect of that motion, his torso jerked back and forth with every stride. He fell more than once, slamming into the earth with without the use of his arms to brace against the impact, and then having to struggle back to his feet. Only the swamp heard his grunts of pain.
But he was free, in a way. And freedom mattered, Howard told himself. There was no other way to live.
Howard came to a log on the edge of standing water and paused there for breath. The air was dank with the smell of standing water. The sky, still dark. And the path ahead, unclear.
Howard found himself panting. He had been running for a solid hour.
He dropped his caving bag, his fingers numb from carrying it this entire distance. He eased himself into a sitting position and appraised the bar wrapped around his chest. Maybe I could pry it open, he thought? He strained his arms outwardly against the metal, hoping to pry the closed circle into a “C”. The bar dug painfully into his arms but did not deform in the slightest. There was no way he could just slip out of it.
But he did have a metal file in his jackknife, Howard realized. Titanium in composition, it had seemed an expensive indulgence when Julia has bought it for him as a gift. Now, the quality of the tool might prove invaluable, Howard realized. He extracted the knife from his bag, the stars of the evening glistening off the steel casing as he rotated open the metal file.
He began sawing.
His muscles immediately felt the strain of the task. It would be slow going.
As metal dust filled his lap, the blacks of night became edged with the greys of dawn. Howard’s wrist hurt. He blew the metal dust away from the notch he had created. It was less than an eighth of an inch deep. He kept sawing.
The greys of night became edged with ochre. His wrist screamed at him with ache and exhaustion. He blew the filings away. His heart sank at the sight. Perhaps he was a full eighth of an inch through, now? He kept sawing.
The grey dome of the sky gave way to light blue. And his hands were shaking, numb with pain. He cleared the filings away another puff of air. The notch was more than an eighth now, but less than a quarter inch.
The yellow heat of the sun now blanketed his body. Howard went at it with renewed fury, grunting with the effort. The bar restricted his breathing, digging into his ribs as he tried to breathe. The motions of his hand were wild and unsteady as he hacked away at the metal.
The file slipped, and it the him off balance. He slid off the log and landed in about a foot of black water. He felt his butt sink into the mud.
Something swished in the water.
Howard stopped sawing.
He peered into the dank gloom of the swamp. Maybe it was his imagination.
The water rippled again.
Howard tried to slide away, but his feet only dug a hole in the mud.
The ripples separated themselves to reveal a broad, log-like shape, covered in reptilian scales.
A crocodile, Howard realized. Or this world’s equivalent of it. The tips of his fingers went cold.
Howard tried to stand but his feet only sunk further in the mud. He tried to slide himself away. But the mud was above his kneecaps now, and it held him in its cold embrace.
The creature, meanwhile, was taking form. The ridge of its long torso had broken the surface now, a full fifteen feet in length. And even through the murk of the water, Howard could see more of the animal, the size of a torpedo. Two eyes, grey and malevolent, broke the surface to focus on him.
Howard watched his hands fumble with the jackknife. He had wanted to fold away the file and extract a blade. But his hands were shaking beyond his control, and the knife tumbled into the water with a PLOP.
The creature moved toward him. Time seemed to slow down. Howard’s breath came in rough gulps. He could get away from it, with luck, if he moved gingerly.
The alligator was emerging from the water now, its fearsome girth spreading the water away in small waves as it rose. This thing is larger than the Florida version, Howard realized. Its jaw is the size of my leg. Howard tried to extricate himself from the mud, but only sank in deeper.
“Honey, what in the WORLD are you doing?” The voice belonged to Julia. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?”
The ground darkened as his girlfriend’s shadow enveloped him. She towered into the sky: eight feet of genetically redesigned muscle that blotted out the sun. The soft earth slouched underneath Howard in deference to her excessive weight. He threw out a hand to avoid going face first into the muck, only to have the bar once again dig into his upper arm.
Julia waded into the black water and reached toward the creature’s midsection. The animal’s body erupted out of the water, hundreds of pounds of reptile hoisted forcibly by Julia’s superhuman strength. The alligator turned out to be even larger than Howard anticipated – perhaps twenty feet in length rather than fifteen. It thrashed violently in Julia’s grip, its tail and snout throwing water twenty feet in each direction. Julia held it at arm’s length with no sign of effort on her face.
The creature’s turned its head toward Julia, reaching back with an open jaw.
She turned to Howard. “You didn’t answer my question.”
The beast opened its mouth further, the top of its jaw rising like a drawbridge.
“Julia... watch out!” Howard responded.
The creature closed its jaws on her leg with viscous force. Howard watched the muscles of its mandible flare as its teeth sank into her skin.
Or rather, the teeth tried to sink. To the degree the creature was causing Julia pain, her face sure didn’t show it.
Julia, rolled her eyes. “Still worried about me, are you? Still trying to protect your helpless girl? YOU’RE the one that should have been more careful around it.” Without bothering to turn her head, Julia shoved the twenty-foot-long beast into the air-- a one-handed shove that sent frightening mass spinning for twenty yards before hitting the water with immense force. The plume of water rose high into the air.
Howard felt her grab the bar that encircled him, and then felt his legs yanked violently out of the mud. She raised her forearm until he was eye-level with her, his feet dangling several feet above the surface of the water. It was like being lifted by the hydraulics of an elevator, a smooth motion that did nothing to suggest muscle strain. She was wearing a heather-colored body suit that hugged every curve and swell like a synthetic skin, every movement of every muscle on awe-inducing display
“One more time. Care to tell me why you decided to wander into the middle of a swamp?”
“I was reclaiming the freedom you took away from me.”
“How?” She was pissed. “By becoming lunch for an alligator?”
“That wasn’t the plan.”
“And what WAS the plan, Howard?” Her voice boomed throughout the swamp.
Her walnut irises appeared as hard as wood, and her pupils had narrowed in anger. The eyes are the window to the soul, Howard know, and this soul commanded a body of superhuman ferocity. He diverted his gaze, lest he anger it further.
“I don’t know,” Howard admitted.
He could hear his girlfriend release a sigh of frustration. The tendons on her hand loosened a bit.
“I was worried sick about you.”
Huh, that goes both ways, Howard wanted to point out. I almost got eaten by an alligator. But you’re getting eaten, too – by an addiction to power. And that’s worse. At least with an alligator, it’s obvious how much of the person remains unconsumed.
Carrying him like a satchel, she strode out of the water and onto dry ground.
“How did you find me?” he asked as she placed his feet on the ground.
“I don’t know,” she responded. “Instinct, I guess.”
She crouched on one knee to examine the bar. Her thumb traced the notch that Howard’s hours of effort had created. “How did this happen? Did you try to saw your way out?”
Howard nodded. The muscles of his hands ached at the memory.
“With your man muscles?” She tried to restrain a giggle. “How many hours were you at it?”
His hands ached all the more. He decided to round the number down. “Several.”
“Wow. You’re stubborner than ever. It’s cute, in a way.”
WHUUUNG. With a quick tug of her hands, she snapped the steel like a piece of dry spaghetti.
At the sight of the severed bar, Howard felt his breath catch. His hours of painful work had produced nothing compared to the casual might of her superhuman body.
“But your stubborn side is super maddening too. Do you have any idea how upset I was when you’d gone missing? Ruth had to take me inside I was in such hysterics.”
“Good. That’s what you get for wrapping me in a bar,” Howard retorted.
Julia seemed wounded. “Come on, let’s get you back to the beach house. You need some sleep.”
Howard couldn’t agree more. But when Julia began to lead the way out of the swamp, he objected. “Perhaps I should go first,” he said. “I memorized a number of the landmarks coming in.”
“So did I,” Julia said, not turning around, continuing to walk. “And I’m better at memorization than you.”
“That’s not true,” Howard objected. “I’ve always been good at it.”
“How always have, Howard.” She stopped and turned. Howard had to crane his neck to see her face. “But as long as we are here, I’m better. Way better. Stop fighting the truth and you will be happier. Get used to it.”
The rest of the walk was accomplished in silence, the bright day suddenly feeling somehow dark.
When the couple returned to the house, half the neighborhood was out, drawn out of doors by the intrigue and the crisis.
Julia sat her exhausted boyfriend down on a log to rest.
As she did so, she picked up disturbing snippets of conversation. “... can’t control her man... household is pure chaos...” It suddenly dawned on Julia what a completely different culture this was. Julia was being seen by other women as inadequate and irresponsible. The chatter continued. “...needs to remind him who is in charge... the boy could have gotten hurt”
“That’s enough!” Ruth announced, quelling the conversation. “My houseguests are new in this world, and still learning our ways. Anything that happens within my four walls is my responsibility. The blame is on me.”
Ruth’s words were dignified, but Julia could tell the woman was full of shame at what had happened. And seeing Ruth’s shame, in turn, embarrassed Julia. “I had no idea that our problems as a couple would bring disdain upon your household,” Julia offered, as the neighborhood conclave began to break up.
Ruth sighed, her scoop-neck top surrendering easily the swell of her breasts. “Having you two here has been fascinating, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. But I had no idea how entirely different your culture would be. For a man, Howard is so insolent. Curing him of that is your responsibility. And for a woman, forgive me for saying so, but you are almost naive. If you’re going to wrap your man in steel, do it right. Use a six-inch beam.”
Julia nodded. Ruth’s tone was disappointed and maternal, as if any young woman would have none these things by age twenty, set as age thirty five. It made Julia feel self-conscious.
“But even better than steel beams, you should seek other ways to control him. Remember what I told you about The Dance. Rub men’s inferiority in their faces, and they become hopeless, or in Howard’s case, rebellious. Give them room to move within their box, and they’ll forget they are even in a box. Understand?”
Julia nodded again, her face reddening. “I’m sorry that I caused you such trouble. Howard doesn’t respond well to boxes, period, but you have my word that I will find a way to control him. I’ll do it not only for his own safety, but also because I owe you that much.”
After the neighbors dissipated, Julia joined Howard on the log, her weight elevating his end of the it like a see-saw. She seemed too lost in thought to notice that, as a result of her weight, his feet were dangling off the ground. She held the remains of the bar in her hand, and eventually brought her hands together, collapsing the bar as though it were nothing more than a cylinder of soft clay. A metallic GROAN emanated across the swamp, reminding Howard of the sickening extremes of her power.
“I’m sorry I wrapped you this.” She kneaded the wad of steel nervously, reshaping it with thoughtless superhuman might. “But last night, I needed to get laid, just as surely as a person needs food or water. It wasn’t a choice. And it wasn’t something that you were willing to help me with. So, I had to leave you there.”
“That doesn’t mean you had to tie me up like a captive.”
“And I couldn’t take the risk that you would run away and get yourself hurt.” She turned to him. “I love you too much to lose you like that. And I didn’t know what else to do.”
“Trusting me would have been a good start. If you treat someone like a captive, then they start thinking like a captive – looking for a way to escape.”
“I know, and I’m sorry.” She pecked him on the cheek and fiddled nervously with the clump of metal in her hand. “But we’re staying only for a few more weeks. And really, nobody should feel the need to endanger themselves over only a few weeks. So maybe I just need to trust that you can be a little rational about this. And I’m sorry that I didn’t trust that to begin with.”
“A little rational?” Howard asked. “What’s rational about keeping me in a world where everybody else a hundred times stronger?”
“It’s more than a hundred, Howard.” Absently, Julia tore the clump of metal in half and squeezed one of the halves. It squished out from between her fingers like toothpaste. Howard could feel the heat of its deformation. “And there’s lots of rationality to keeping you here for that period. A little humility would be great lesson for you.”
Howard tried to ignore the frightening power of his girlfriend’s absent-minded fiddling. He wanted more than anything to be away from here.
“When you misbehave, other women whisper nasty things about how I am too lenient with you. And since we’ve been guests of Ruth for some time now, a tarnish on my reputation tarnishes her reputation as well. You make things more difficult for everybody.”
“That’s pretty crazy,” Howard informed the woman with the crazy strength.
“That’s how it works here.”
He ran an uncomfortable hand through his hair. “I want to go back to Earth. Not in three weeks. Now.”
“No, I’ve already made my decision.” Julia rose off the log, returning Howard’s end to the ground with a THUD and forcing him to flail for balance. She straightened to her full eight-foot height, a pillar of superhuman fortitude. “And you will obey me, my love.”
Howard thought he had a retort for that, but none emerged. What had emerged was an awareness of her towering presence, and just how much power was at her disposal. When she motioned him inside, his feet obeyed.
Rather than give Howard privacy, Julia lingered in the doorway of the bathroom, watching him, arms crossed.
“What?” he asked as he unbuttoned his shirt.
“You scared the crap out of me, you know.”
“I’m not a baby, Julia. I can handle myself.” Howard stripped out of his shirt, revealing a torso that was covered in bruises, many around the places the bar had held him, but many others as well.
“My lord, Howard. Look at you!” Julia descended to her haunches, as if the spectacle of his damaged body was too strange to believe from eight feet in the air. “You’re covered in black and blue!”
“That’s what happens when you wrap a guy in a bar.”
“That’s what happens when a guy wrapped in a bar runs down a trail like fool, falls a bunch of times, and then decides to drown himself in a swamp.” Julia hooked a finger inside the waistline of his shorts and tugged, dispatching with them as if they had been constructed of nothing more than parchment paper.
His lower half was just as abused as his upper half – bruises combined with the gashes he had received from sharp edged sticks buried in the mud. Howard could hear Julia’s sharp intake of breath as the additional damage was revealed.
His girlfriend rose off her haunches, putting her hands on her knees like a baseball outfielder between pitches. This brought her eye-to-eye with her smaller boyfriend.
“Howard, I want you to promise me you are not going to run away again. I’m not being possessive. I’m being practical. No matter what you think of our little sojourn here, it’s not worth getting eaten by an alligator over it. Or getting lost in a cave over it. Or anything else that would get you killed. Am I clear?”
Howard shuffled his feet in discomfort.
“And it’s completely unfair to Ruth that you are diminished the reputation of her household by doing crazy stuff. You have to respect female authority in this society. It’s not a choice.”
“I’m a prisoner here,” Howard retorted.
“I’m sorry that I wrapped you in a bar, OK? I really am. But enough is enough. You’re not a prisoner now...” She paused. “....and I’d like to keep it that way.”
“Is that a threat?”
“HOWARD.” Her voice resonated off the hard walls of the bathroom like a war drum. Her arms and shoulders, easily capable of tearing him in half, tensed with her frustration.
He felt his willpower buckle. “Sure,” he said. “I promise.”
That earned him a soft kiss on the lips. “You’ve had a long night and a long day. You’ll feel better after you get cleaned up and get some sleep.”
As Howard stepped into the shower, he felt dismay at the knowledge that his resolve had buckled so quickly. She loves me, but she has the strength of a battalion of men. How can any man stand up to that?
The hot water felt better than he cared to admit. It washed away so much mud and dirt, the that he had to unblock the drain with a sweep of his foot. Would that it washed away the anger, too, he thought.
The heat and the steam seemed to relax his muscles, flooding him with a sensation of drowsiness. He was yawning before he even got to the bedroom.
Despite the fact that mid-morning light streamed through the windows, Julia was waiting for him in bed, herself freshly showered and adorned in a diaphanous silk-like nightshirt. “I need some shuteye, too,” she admitted. “It’s been a big twenty-four hours for me.... all the changes I’m going through, how angry you got at me, and then finding you gone...”
Howard said nothing as he crawled into bed next to her. His skin was bruised and scraped, but hers showed none of that damage. It was a flawless expanse of bronze. He couldn’t even find the place where the “alligator” had bit her, as if the razor-sharp teeth of the animal were so feeble that the didn’t even merit an acknowledgement from the superhuman surface of her superhuman body.
He tried to snuggle up to her, placing his head on her shoulder and letting her drape an arm around him. It was how the couple has been sleeping since the night they first shared a bed. And doing it now introduced a scrap of normalcy into Howard’s entirely abnormal life. After all the insult he had suffered, he still had a deep connection to her, he realized. He hoped it was enough to get him through this awful world.
But if the activity cuddling was normal, the sensation was anything but. Being sandwiched between her torso and her arm was like shoving his body into the crevasse of a granite mountain. He could hear her humming happily at his embrace and felt her granite arm pulling him into her the way she might pull a sweater tight to ward off the cold. He felt the wind leave his lungs her breast bore into his ribcage like a battering ram.
“It’s nice to have you back,” she whispered. “You embarrassed the crap out of me. And you scared the crap out of me, too. Don’t ever do that again.”
Howard tried to reply, but there was no air to do it with. Her body was like an industrial compactor, squeezing him to only a portion of his natural size.
She could crush me to death, Howard realized, as he lay his head on the rounded granite of her shoulder. From this angle, he could appreciate the thick layers of pectoral muscle that undergirded her breasts – slabs of pure power that she had obtained without ever sitting down at the fly machine at the gym. Howard tried to squirm out of her embrace, but she seemed to interpret the motion as a desire to be even closer together, because her herculean bicep tightened just a little bit more, causing Howard to feel as though someone had piled a boulder on top of him.
Howard wanted to tell her that she was crushing him. But his lungs couldn’t expand enough to get the words out. He tried to avoid the instinct to panic. He ran a hand over the cobblestone street that her abdomen had become, the hard swells of muscle there yielding nothing to his touch. Her body responded by relaxing a bit. Howard found himself almost panting with relief.
Contentment filled Julia’s body as she snuggled with her boyfriend and allowed sleep to overcome her. In her old body, attempts to sleep usually began with extended insomnia, as was the case with many women. But her new body was supremely efficient. When she wanted rest, her body easily sank into a deep and restful sleep.
This time, though, the darkness was followed by something else.
She and Howard were walking along the beach, arm in arm. The tide was in, and the water was high. It coursed over the sand and lapped at the bases of the houses.
The houses were too far forward, Julia realized. Why hadn’t they been moved back? And why were some of them askew of their concrete footings, as if someone had tried to move them and failed? There were no voices, no footfalls only the SLAP SLAP SLAP of the waves to keep them company.
Julia felt her hair. What had once been silken and resilient was now coarse and frayed. She felt her muscles. They were still large, but not as much as they used to be. And her feet – the cold ocean water had chilled them to an uncomfortable degree. When was the last time Julia had felt uncomfortable, she wondered? Before Nourishment.
Something was wrong.
Julia was scared. She nestled Howard closer to her, glad of his presence.
Without warning, Howard felt Julia’s arm contract, not gently but with anxious force. The breath went out of him again as her superhuman bicep collapsed his torso and then began to bend his ribs inward. Her rounded shoulder muscle, which had already been an uncomfortable pillow for his head, swelled with tension now, jamming his head to one side. His body was being pulled into hers with remorseless, industrial force. Her breast, soft in appearance, proved far firmer than him collapsing his windpipe and jamming his head backward.
“Julia!” Howard rasped. But his tortured body could manage no more than a whisper.
She stirred slightly, seemingly mollified by the sound of his voice. Her body gave his a little squeeze, doubling the amount of pressure her Herculean arm easily exerted. Howard’s rib cage was on the verge of snapping now.
I’m being crushed to death, Howard knew. He put a hand on her ribcage and pushed away with all his might. He might as well have been trying to move a mountain. His muscles shook from the exertion but did not move her arm an inch, or even a millimeter.
Panic overcame control. Howard drove his knee into her side, but her thigh was like iron. He tried to scream at the pain but it came out as only a hiss from his collapsing lung volume. He reached for her face, hoping that a poke there would wake her. But at the moment he did so, she turned on her side, sandwiching his wrist between her breasts. He tried to extract his wrist, but the pressure from her breasts was vice-like in its power. He realized that it was only a matter of time before it shattered.
As the peril to Howard’s life mounted, he realized that running headlong into the swamp had not been a mistake – not at all. His only regret was that he hadn’t run further.
The shift in Julia’s position dragged Howard’s lips closer to her ear. With his final moments of coherence, Howard inserted a whisper, “Julia, it’s me. It’s going to be ok. I’m right here. And I’m not going anywhere. It’s going to be ok.”
That seemed to relax her a bit, and Howard felt his breath returning to him. In a whisper, he reiterated, “I’m not going anywhere,” and she relaxed some more.
It’s a lie, Howard thought. But such lies might be the only things that keep me breathing.