Teeth Clenched Teamwork II
“What do you want?” Maggie demands as she eyes you, waiting for you to answer so she can leave already.
You hesitate for a few seconds longer to decide. “Well,” you say, “do you have any other friends here? Any, um, other dingoes…?” You blink and recall the proper word. “A pack, I guess? Do dingoes travel in packs? I don’t know.”
She snorts. “Nah, mate, I’m on my own. Work better solo than with anyone else, usually. Besides, I haven’t seen anyone in a dingo costume ‘round these parts. I’ve been a dingo for a good few days by this point, so I’d know by smelling them if there was someone else like me.” She frowns. “What business of it is yours anyways? What’s it matter if I’m solo or in a pack?”
“I wanted to ask if you were open to traveling with me,” you reply.
She stares at you with wide eyes, and she slowly turns to face you fully. She blinks, and you can practically hear the gears in her head spinning while they try to effectively absorb what it is you just said to her.
“You’re joking, right?” Maggie asks. “Are you for real right now?”
You shake your head. “I’m being real, yeah. No joke.”
“You must be joking,” Maggie says. She scowls. “I just got done trying to KILL your sorry ass so I could eat you, and you’re asking me to, what, be your mate? Even after I just spelled out how your current gal pal and I aren’t exactly on the best of terms?”
You shrug. “Not everyone ever will get along with one another. I’ve known that for ages now. Besides, what’s the harm in it? And it’s not like you’ve got anything better to do with your time by your lonesome, is it?”
She gawks at you, stunned.
It’s admittedly a little comical to see someone that, not long ago, appeared like a legitimately threatening predator, only to now be gawking and staring like a cartoon character instead. She grits her teeth after soaking in your remark and seems to be unsure about it; she doesn’t abruptly deny you, nor does she agree.
“I don’t get you,” Maggie says. “Like, I sincerely don’t understand. You must be mental. Are you mental, or are you just stupid?”
“I don’t think of myself as either of those,” you say, rolling your eyes. “I’m just asking if you want to hang out, basically. You don’t have to say yes or no, it’s up to you in the end. But I’m serious about the offer. What happened is water under the bridge, at least as far as I’m concerned. So what do you say?”
Maggie continues to gawk as if you’re suddenly speaking to her in another language, and you have to kind of resist the urge to smile at her expression.
She blinks and then huffs. “Why would you want to be friendly toward me? What do you gain out of it?”
“Why not?” you reply, shrugging again. “And I’m not looking to GAIN anything out of it? I’m just asking, since, well, again, why not? What else are you going to do with yourself? You said you don’t have any fellow dingoes, so…”
She grunts. She looks around, thinking still, and you see no need to push her into choosing or rush her. You wait and simply glance back down the path that Erin probably went, and you wonder where she is, or how deep into this cave that path goes. Then you wonder… can she hear all this? Is she close or is she too far to know what’s being said? You have no clue on that end.
“Maybe,” Maggie says eventually. Her shoulders sag. “I can’t believe a damn kangaroo is asking me this sorta question. World’s gone tits up at this rate.”
“I’m still a human under this,” you reply. “Or. Um.” You glance down at your furry hands. “Beneath this? Whatever you want to call it, either way.”
“And say I do agree to this,” Maggie remarks, frowning. “What exactly do you think’ll happen with me and Erin? It ain’t gonna be a warm reunion, I can promise you that much. Best rethink this idea of yours unless you want to see how bad the blood between us really is.”
“You’re both adults,” you say, choosing your words carefully. “I’m sure you can work through it, or, I don’t know, pretend not to notice one another. But wouldn’t it beat wandering around this place all by yourself?”
She straightens her posture, and eyes you. Her eyes are full of intensity, and she stares you down while she’s busy trying to think about all this.
“I’ll…” She hesitates a moment, then lets out a quiet breath. “Whatever, I’ll think about it. Not guaranteeing anything to you, get that through your skull. Go and find your mate, and maybe, MAYBE, I’ll accept.” She emphasizes this with a growl. “But I can’t think with the stink of this place, and I’m not about to jump through hurdles to see my former friend, that much is for damn sure. I’m heading out to get some actual fresh air, and maybe something in my belly.”
“Alright,” you say. That’s the best answer you’re getting, you can tell. “Fine by me.”
“You’re bloody mental,” she mutters.
With that, she strides off and leaves.
You are now on your own again, sans the fear of being devoured by a hungry dingo. You watch after the direction of Maggie - watching her vanish into the depths, the sound of her footsteps echoing for a moment until they’re gone.
Now, it’s almost purely silent. Almost because you can hear the faint echo of water droplets somewhere in the cave, along with noises that seem to come from deeper in - you wonder if the cave has anyone living in it, real person or actual creature, but, you shrug this off and decide not to worry about it.
Your main concern is finding Erin, you think. She’s gone missing, and you have no clue where she is, or what else lies in wait within the cave for you.
‘Well,’ you think. ‘At least I talked down the hangry dingo. That counts for something, I guess.’
You nod to yourself and then proceed to start moving toward the path that Erin went. Much like before, the path is winding, although it’s at least spacious enough for a humanoid kangaroo to hop around without closing in too badly.
After a few minutes of this, the path opens up into another ‘room’ of the cave, but, there’s still a path for you. Oh is there ever a path. You come to a stop and gawk when you see that a good chunk of the cave is stretching onward into the depths… oh, and, you no longer have a lot of movement space. Instead, there is now a gigantic chasm that dips down into a black abyss, with no bottom in sight.
There are a few small ‘paths’ that you think you can hop down if you do so slowly, and these paths seem to dip down at a safe, less steep angle to wherever the bottom of the abyss is. But…
You halt your thoughts when you hear something - it’s faint, but it sounds like a voice calling out.
‘Erin,’ you think.
But what do you do? Do you keep following the path you’re on? Or chance going down and hope you don’t slip and fall to your demise?
Written by Hollowpage on 14 September 2020
Jumping Spelunking II