The flare cracked and sputtered against the dark, illuminating the underground chamber with flickering red light.
Sergei held his arm up to see under the glare. His breath fogged and obscured his vision. Behind him another one of the team, Vasya, rappelled nicely down to the chamber floor.
“The floor,” he started.
“Yes,” Sergei interrupted, “It’s even. Perfectly even. This had to be built.”
Vasya separated himself from his line, laughing.
“30 seconds and you already say it is aliens,” he scoffed.
“I did not say aliens” Sergei pointed, indignant, “But it was constructed! How can you argue?”
Vasya held his hands up in surrender.
“We will see once Nikolai gets down here with his people,” he added less harshly.
“Let’s go,” Sergei said to no one.
“We must wait for Nikolai! Did you not hear me?”
“I want to see. I have to.”
Sergei moved forward, the spikes on his climbing shoes made a horrible splitting sound as he walked.
“Sergei!” Vasya began trying to get in front of him.
He pushed him back, holding the flare away from him. The two men got further and further from the wall they came down. They argued and grabbed at each other, threats were made.
But a sound made them stop. The splitting sound of treading on ice had changed to something else. A scrape, as if walking over sheet metal. It pierced their ears, vibrating to their teeth.
“We’ll have to continue without the spikes.”
Sergei sat on the flat chamber floor and quickly began taking his spikes off.
“Stop this! We are going to wait for the others! They gave us our funding for this! Do you not care? Do you not want to be involved in what is down here? You are acting crazy!”
“There is something running. A machine. I must find it first. Did you not understand why I rushed down here?”
“Surely you must feel it too?”
Vasya leaned down, making direct eye contact, trying to find a hint of insanity.
“Sergei, you are scaring me,” he pleaded.
His hand went to his comrade’s shoulder. Sergei brushed it away.
“No matter. I am alone in this. It calls to me, the machine. The answers wait for me just a little ways ahead,” Sergei spoke as if it was common knowledge.
“The answers?” Vasya repeated in a grave tone, “What answers?”
Sergei rose to his feet.
“All of them,” he whispered excitedly.
He turned from his bewildered comrade and started deeper into the chamber.
“Sergei!” Vasya shouted after him.
He took a couple steps and the sound of his spikes against the metal floor cut into his skeleton. Impatiently he sat and yanked off his spikes.
As he ripped the rubber and metal off his shoes in the dark a sound came from behind him. The rest of the team was touching down to the floor.
“Sergei has gone insane! Take your spikes off and come help me!” Vasya shouted.
Flares were lit and angry shouting clamored towards him. Another sound filled the chamber, drowning out even their very thoughts.
A beam of light showered the chamber as a door opened. The unseen hinges creaked for the first time in millions of years. As high as small building, and just as wide. The brilliant white light silhouetted a figure of a single man: Sergei.
The men froze, and after a few terrifying moments that felt like much longer the chamber became abruptly silent.
“Goodbye, my friends!” Sergei yelled from almost a football field’s length away, “I cannot explain. I must go.”
The door began to close with a thunderous echoing. Vasya rose to his feet and found himself sprinting towards the bright light.
“Sergei!” he screamed as he went.
The door closed shut.