Peter Grayson thought with diamonds.
The Oxford-educated businessman adored them. If it was of no intrinsic value, it was of no value at all to him. So when he heard of a legendary treasure, deep within a South African cave in Richtersveld, he was determined, to come back either a wealthy man or a dead man.
However, he was far from walking in blindly. Hundreds of maps and diaries from prospectors, he’d read. He’d learned African languages and customs to get whatever information he could from the natives. According to some of the villages he visited, the cave was guarded by large serpents, but that would not deter him. For he sought after the treasure in the cave of Richtersveld.
Grayson knew that despite all his preparation, a team was needed. After his research, he set sail to the north-western corner of South Africa with six companions in the summer, arriving in the lush Orange River territory. Peter was confident that he had prepared to the best of his abilities, and that he would return as rich as he had boasted.
The first companion died the night they arrived due to a lion attacking their camp and taking them by surprise. It killed him and severely injured another man, before they managed to kill it. The first day wasn’t even over and morale was low throughout the expedition group. Peter however, remained confident that he would get his riches. He’d often remark to his companions, how he could practically see a pair of shining diamonds waiting for him in the distance where Richtersveld was.
Over the next few days the lush Orange River territory they walked was replaced by flat, sandy coastal plains, going further from the boat they sailed on. These were territories expected by the group, but being one man down and having to compensate for the injuries of another made it far more difficult. A third companion however, died on night three. The team suspected it was either the bite of a venomous insect or a snake bite.
The fourth night held no respite as one companion became horribly sick after traversing into craggy sharp mountains. Peter thought it a disease caught from a cloudy yellow pool making it clear that some sort of animal had been there. The man had carelessly fallen into it earlier that day, which the rest of the team mocked him for due to being careless. The only upside was that there was less wildlife in that area. The fourth man was delirious and desperate, and begged to be taken back to civilisation. He would scream for hours, his pleading never ceasing. The remaining two companions stepped up, volunteering to take the sick and wounded men back to the nearest village, but deep down they were happy, all but ready to leave anyway after the clear failure of the expedition, the sick and wounded giving them an out. They urged Peter to come with them, but he refused.
“I can do this on my own,” Were his last words before the guides left him alone.
He traveled for three days, before making his way to the cave. Though, it was more like a large hole in the ground. He saw a sign next to it, and looked at the writing for a moment, translating it to "Wonder Pit". It was far too dark to see the bottom. He got a rope ladder out of his rucksack and nailed the top parts to the ground. He then threw it down the entrance, before climbing down himself, ready for the beautiful pair of diamonds he had envisioned.
When his feet finally touched the ground, he jumped and gasped, perceiving the sound as louder than it was. The echoing of the cave didn’t help. He then reached and got out a torch, turning it on. The walls, everywhere around him was much wider than the entrance had been. The large hole he had crawled down through in question, he could barely see. It was comparable to a dot in the sky. Or in this case, blackness.
Peter paused for a moment, marvelling at how far down he was before sighing. He wasn’t here to gawk at entrances, after all. He shone his torch into the cave and began walking, the sounds his footsteps made in the otherwise silent tunnel unnerving him. The promise of riches ahead however, steeled his nerves. He could practically see those shining gemstones in the distance and walked forward.
As he kept walking thought he he saw something silhouetted in the distance. Something just beyond the range of his torch. But one thing that was clear were two shining gems. Peter paused for a moment, before taking a step forward. The pair of eyes instantly receded back into the darkness, a sliding sound only just heard by Peter. He stayed silent, but got out a machete. He hadn’t completely disregarded the stories of snakes, after all.
He proceeded through the cave, machete still in hand until objects shone on his torch. His eyes widened, as he got closer. Diamonds. His mouth grew into a smile. The sight of it all, was almost too much to take. Everything he had worked for, worked toward, was standing right in front of him. To say he was ecstatic would be an understatement. He shone his torch all over the walls, relishing in the moment. However, the largest seemed to be a pair of diamonds in the distance, shining all the same whilst not directly in the light. Despite not remembering seeing such large diamonds when he first stepped in, he was too happy to care.
In a moment, he cared once again.
What he thought were gemstones, were a pair of large eyes that, on very first glance appeared to belong to an elephant. Its body was grey like an elephant, it had tusks, a trunk and ears like an elephant too. Where it stopped being a elephant however, was its body. It had no legs, no stocky body with stubby feet. Instead, was the body of a snake. It was gigantic. He couldn’t see where it ended. He didn’t want to be anywhere near where it began either. His memory drifted back to a legend that he had stumbled across in many of the nearby villages, of the cave being guarded by a giant snake. He remembered the word they all used; Grootslang.
His breath was shaky as he backed away, pointing his machete at the beast. Whether it was more elephant or snake, he didn’t want to find out as he turned and ran.
He heard a loud hiss behind him, echoing through the cave. He dared to look back, seeing the one part of its head that was more snake than elephant. The Grootslang’s mouth opened up wide, exposing fangs that were each at least the size of his hand. He only saw them for a second as they attached to his leg.
Peter screamed as he fell over, his wails echoing as well. It ripped its fangs through his flesh. It was a pain indescribable. He didn’t dare look back to see the Grootslang with its teeth in his leg. He tried do move his leg out of its mouth, resulting in another scream. He clawed at the ground, and raised his free foot, to try and kick at the creature. It did nothing, but make it sink its teeth further. Tears streamed down his face as he felt its teeth tap on his bone. It did more than just tap though. It applied pressure to his bones, slowly squeezing and scraping them under its fangs. It made sure he felt every bit of it, and savoured it. He once again tried forcing its mouth open with his other foot, but it just bit down even harder. It kept pressing, and pressing.
His eyes widened and cried out. He wailed and called for someone, anyone to come and help him. It let go, towering over him, just staring down at him. Peter wasn’t sure why, but he didn’t waste any time pondering it. He crawled, gripping the stony ground as best he could. His destroyed leg shifting on the uneven ground made him gasp and scream every few seconds. He looked back as he crawled, seeing its eyes glow, watching him leave a small trail of blood. He dragged his way through the tunnels, as the Grootslang slithered towards him. Its giant head hovered over him. He tried dragging himself quickly, but it didn’t help.
It didn’t seem to be doing anything. Just looming over him, watching him crawl. He saw its fangs seemed to have a liquid building up on them. It seemed to be building up. A drop went on Peter’s hand, which suddenly began turning red, becoming riddled with blisters. More venom dripped onto his back, making him feel like his body was on fire. The cloudy yellow venom slowly showered him as he screamed out, begging for help, for anyone, who by the slightest chance might happen to be near the entrance to hear him. No one.
Peter wasn’t sure how long he crawled for, but he could feel whatever adrenaline rush he had dying down. He saw a light ahead shining down, and began to smile. The entrance, he was close. He would get out. His voice had become hoarse from the screaming, For some reason, it wasn’t attacking him, so he should be able to leave. When he got a better look at the entrance, he found out immediately, why it had spared him.
The ladder was lying on floor, pulled down. His heart sank as he watched, just stared at the useless coils of rope that were his only exit. It wanted him to see this. He heard another hiss above him, one that he could tell was happy as his torso was bit into, and Peter Grayson was dragged away.