Story Cubes #6

The Cubes: Shield, backpack, treasure chest, dino fossil, skull and crossbones, elephant, ax, laser gun, staircase to a hidden underground room.

            Benny trudged through the trees and watched the ground. It had been days since he’d seen anything interesting and he was just about ready to call it and head back home. His feet ached, his back was sunburned, and he was nearing the end of his food stores. He’d take a few weeks of rest and then head back out in a different direction. These woods were apparently just boring old woods.

            But then he tripped over something his brain didn’t quite process and he stumbled to his knees. Benny spun around and stared. It was a bone. No wonder his brain had skated over it. He wasn’t used to seeing bones in real life.

            “Well, well, well. This is definitely something I would call interesting.” Benny poked at the bone with a stick and considered picking it up. But what if he’d stumbled (literally) onto a crime scene? It wouldn’t be good to have his fingerprints on too many things.

            Benny sat back on his heels and contemplated what he might do now. Then his gaze drifted over and he noticed something else that was a little odd. Leaves covered the ground in general, but to the left of the bone there was a pile of leaves in an almost neat rectangle. Someone had tried to hide something here and done a terrible job of it.

            Benny scooted over and swept the leaves aside in one smooth motion, and he gasped at what he found. A door was flat in the ground with skull and crossbones engraved into the wood. Now, a regular man might have been deterred, but Benny was no regular man. He was an adventurer, and proud of it. He found nothing to be afraid of here. Especially since he had his blue and gold striped shield and his trusty ax. He would explore what lay beneath this door and bring back tales of wonder.

            Or something like that.

            Benny pulled at the edge of the door and it creaked out of the dirt on an old, rusty hinge. The air that escaped was foul, but mostly stale. Benny took up his ax and put one foot onto the narrow staircase he’d exposed and started down into the earth. He took a flashlight out of his backpack after a few steps and shone the light around.

            It didn’t illuminate much. The dirt walls were two feet away from the stairs on both sides and below him were just more stairs. He continued on. He counted the steps as he descended. The ground flattened out after 83 steps. Benny wiped the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his shirt and glanced around again. He couldn’t make out anything in his quick scan, but the flashlight reflected off of something red in the distance.

            Benny felt no fear. He was brave. And he was curious. But there was a nagging voice in his head that told him to go back. But he ignored it and pressed on, following the light to see what the red thing was.

            Benny heard a snort, and then a cloud of dust flew around him. He stopped in his tracks and second-guessed himself for a moment. There was something alive down here. But he didn’t know how that could be.

            But then the red thing moved and grew larger. It blinked out of focus as it came closer and closer to where Benny stood. When the flashlight finally fell across the entire form of the thing, Benny had to choke back a startled scream.

            An elephant. A giant, saggy-skinned, red-eyed elephant stood above him and snorted again. And then it whipped its trunk out at him.

            Benny was quick on his feet though, and he dodged out of reach. He didn’t allow himself to think about how an elephant had survived down here in the dark, and he took a wild swing with his ax. The first one didn’t connect, and neither did the second, but the third landed with a THUNK.

            The elephant let out a noise like a shriek and Benny was yanked off his feet when the ax moved with the leg it was stuck inside. He kept his grip firm, though and used the momentum to pull the blade free. And then he wasted no time in swinging again.

            The elephant shrank away from him now. A sound like a sob came from its trunk and then Benny stopped his assault. The elephant had moved off of the path and he took the opportunity to run on into the darkness. He didn’t need to defeat the beast to see what else lay beyond, and he didn’t relish killing things if he didn’t have to.

            Benny slowed to a walk after he was sure the beast wasn’t in pursuit. His heartbeat returned to normal, and he went back to scanning the cave around him for any sign of life or anything interesting. But as the cave went on and on and he found nothing but more darkness and dirt, Benny lost hope that he would find anything at all and just end up trapped underground.

            But then the light fell across an object on the floor. Benny stooped down to get a better look and found more bones. A tingle of fear crept up his spine as he wondered what could have died down here. Any type of animal, sure. But what if it was the remains of an adventurer like him that couldn’t get back out?

            Before he allowed himself to really panic, he saw something else in the circle of light. A larger object made of wood. He approached with caution and discovered a chest. One might even call it a treasure chest. Not Benny, though. Not until he’d opened it and determined that actual treasure was inside. For now, it was just a box.

            He fiddled with the latch and then swung the lid open. He jumped back with his ax at the ready, but nothing came flying out at him. He leaned forward again and saw something shaped like a gun at the bottom of the box.

            He picked it up and looked it over. It was silver and green and had a trigger, but no visible place for a clip to go or a way to ensure a bullet was in the chamber. With a shrug, Benny tucked it into his bag and went back the way he came. He felt this had been a successful adventure after all. Now to get back past the demonic elephant and out the trapdoor and he could go home.

            And it was almost as easy as that. The elephant didn’t approach him when he came upon it, and he was back at the foot of the stairs before he knew it. He climbed up. The muscles in his legs protested at all the steps, but he carried on.

            His head popped back out into the fresh air, and he took a deep breath in. But then he noticed a pair of feet on the ground in front of him, and he almost tumbled right back down the stairs.

            “Don’t be scared,” a familiar voice said from above him. “I will not hurt you.”

            Benny looked up, and his jaw dropped. Standing before him was something very close to his reflection. The hair was gray and there were lines around the eyes, but he knew what he looked like well enough to know.

            “How… what…” Benny stuttered, and he collapsed onto a log before his legs gave out entirely.

            “I’m you from the future. I knew you would find this hole and so I planted a laser gun down there for you to find. I had to know if was really you before I spoke to you.”

            “Me from the future?”

            “Yes. You are the savior of the universe, and you have to listen to me now.”