It was incomprehensible to us then; later we understood. And we had not long to wait.
Harry and Desiree were bending over me, attempting to stop the flow of blood from a cut on my shoulder.
“We must have water,” said Desiree. Harry straightened up to look about the cavern, which was so dark that we could barely see one another’s faces but a few feet away.
Suddenly an exclamation of wonder came from his lips.
Desiree and I followed the direction of his gaze, and saw the huge, black, indistinct form of some animal suddenly detach itself from the wall of the cavern and move slowly toward us through the darkness.
The eyes in the dark.
The thing was at a considerable distance; we could barely see that it was there and that it was moving. It was of an immense size; so large that it appeared as though the very side of the cavern itself had moved noiselessly from its bed in the mountain.
At the same moment I became aware of a penetrating, disagreeable odor, nauseating and horrible. I had risen to my knees and remained so, while Harry and Desiree stood on either side of me.
The thing continued to move toward us, very slowly. There was not a sound. The strength of the odor increased until it was almost suffocating.
Still we did not move. I could not, and Harry and Desiree seemed rooted to the spot with wonder. The thing came closer, and we could see the outlines of its huge form looming up indistinctly against the black background of the cavern.
I saw, or thought I saw, a grotesque and monstrous slimy head stretched toward us from about the middle of its bulk.
That doubt became a certainty when suddenly, as though they had been lit by a fire from within, two luminous, glowing spots appeared about three feet apart. The creature’s eyes—if eyes they were—were turned full on us, growing more brilliant as the thing came closer. It was now less than fifty feet away. The massive form blocked our view of the entire cavern.
I pinched my nostrils to exclude the horrible odor which, like the fumes of some deadly poison, choked and smothered me. It came now in puffs, like a draft of a fetid wind, and I realized that it was the creature’s breath. I could feel it against my body, my neck and face, and knew that if I breathed it full into my lungs I should be overcome.
But still more terrifying were the eyes. There was something compelling, supernaturally compelling, about their steadfast and brilliant gaze. A mysterious power seemed to emanate from them; a power that hypnotized the mind and deadened the senses. I closed my eyes to avoid it, but was unable to keep them closed. They opened despite my extreme effort, and again I met that gaze of fire.
There was a movement at my side. I turned and saw that it came from Desiree. Her hands were raised to her face; she was holding them before her as though in a futile attempt to cover her eyes.