I had just turned to run when I heard Sissy fire the first shot.
"Don't shoot, run," I yelled over my shoulder.
When I turned to look and see if she was following, I saw her fire another round. An enraged, ear-busting roar came from the creature in the breach.
Another shot. She stood straight, with her feet apart and her arms raised and locked into position like a life-size GI Jane.
One of the creatures eyes was now a liquid red pulp. I saw a tiny hole above the other eye.
She fired again. Again.
I saw its entire head protrude through the energy breach. Then a thick scaly neck. The breach widened and a giant pair of clawed hands came through followed by arms the color of copper cable.
Sissy sent a bullet straight through one of its nostrils. It opened its mouth and screamed.
I grabbed her by the collar and pulled her back through the door. She slammed me backward with the butt of her rifle, knocking me to the ground, then dropped to one knee and kept firing as the entire creature came through. The floor trembled under its weight.
Sissy fired one last shot.
The creature reared up and back to its full height. In the eerie red sparkle lights, it glowed with dark energy. Sissy dropped the rifle and ran past me through the door and into the darkness beyond.
"Hurry up," she yelled back at me.
The beast was over twenty feet tall. If it wasn't for the domed ceiling, it couldn't have stood up. It was six or seven feet wide and I realized at that instant it couldn't follow me out through the door.
But first I had to make it to the door.
I started scooting backward slowly as the creature eyed me with its one good eye. It took a step forward. The floor shook. I panicked, scrambled back to my feet and bolted through the door faster than I knew I could run.
A small light clicked on and I brought my hand up to protect my eyes. Sissy now had a small halogen lamp strapped to her head. She had me by the sleeve and was pulling me down the corridor, her camper's lamp lighting the way. We slowed in front of a door and she reached for the handle.
There was a crash behind us and we turned in time to see the entire wall explode into pieces that bounced off the tunnel wall like defective shrapnel. The beast's grotesque head stuck out into the hallway. It turned away from us, then turned back, fixing on our light.
Sissy reached for the handle again.
"No," I shouted. "Run."
She got the point. If the monster could knock down one wall, it could knock down another.
The sound of claws raking over stone and loud, slithering rasps. The thudding impact of its weight with each step. We tore down the hallway like we were on fire and looking for water.
"Isn't there any place the tunnels aren't so wide?" I shouted in between heaving gulps of air.
We came to an intersection of three tunnels. Sissy's head swung back and forth for a moment, trying to make up her mind.
"This one," she said as she turned left.
The tunnel began to slant downward.
We were going from bad to worse.
Sissy slipped and went down. I doubled back, lifted her to her feet and pulled her behind me. She resisted and tried to turn back.
"No," I said. "It's still back there. Can't you hear it?"
"My rifle's back there, you idiot. I dropped it."
The air shook with a roaring rage.
No time to go back for the rifle.
We turned and starting running. Sissy's light went out. The darkness descended on us again. I could hear the creature's claws raking the rocks behind us.
A new terror suddenly seized me. It was the complete and inexplicable conviction that no matter how horrifying the creature behind us, there was something ahead much worse worse, and I knew that it could see us coming.