's 2020 Horror Write-off:

The Catacombs

Submitted by Signal Shut

His vision wavered when he came to. Dim shapes flickered before his eyes.

"Liz, where are you?"

He blinked and the shapes solidified, rearranging into a twisted mass of metal. The half-light of the car's headlamps cast a weak glow onto the wreckage. And to his side was Liz, her head a morass of sludge, dark liquid streaming from her body. Her blood.

The sight nauseated him. Liz was his angel, his first and only love, and she had crashed because of him. It was all his fault. He was a murderer, and he should have died instead of her. Instead of the one who was too perfect for this world, too perfect for him.

Would an act of martyrdom bring her back? He would sacrifice anything for her. But no, no, that was stupid and melodramatic. He was stupid and melodramatic. Like she always said, an idiot. Irresponsible. Incapable of thinking ahead. Maybe Liz was still alive. Maybe she could be fixed. The doctors had miraculous technologies beyond his comprehension. They could stitch her brains back together and force them into her shattered skull. They could save her. He just had to get them both out.

"Get out. We have to get out." Was that her whispering to him, was she still alive? No, just his own voice, echoing in the hollow darkness.

Right. It was imperative. Something bad would happen if they stayed here. How did he know? Instinct? Cars exploded or caught on fire after an accident. It could happen here. Maybe that was it, some distant memory. Danger lurked here. They had to leave. "We need to leave."

Metal pinned down down his left leg, but his arms were free. He tore his eyes away from Liz's grotesque limbs, splayed out at strange angles. Imagined her smiling face. Her love. He grabbed her body. He tried to ignore the squelch of moist flesh and clothes sodden with blood. But he had her arm. He could get her out. He could get help for both of them.

The light ahead of him showed a narrow passage up through the wreckage. That must be the front of the car. There he would find a cracked windshield, the outside world, and help for Liz. There he could redeem himself. He flailed his limbs and fought to escape. Inch by inch, he pulled free.

The metal cut into him with every movement. Gaping wounds opened, but he persevered. He persisted. For Liz. He wriggled blindly through the wreckage, towards that flickering light. The headlamps would be outside. Outside.

In front of him was freedom. Behind him was groaning metal. Sharp rubble and debris. And Liz's body. Don't think about what the debris is doing to it. Don't picture the curved edge of the metal stripping skin from flesh as her body drags on the twisted ground. Her bright sundress torn to shreds. Not Liz. Not her. "No, no, no." But he could do it. He could save her. Redeem himself.

How long had he been crawling? Every breath was agony here. Every second was Liz's life, draining away. But he knew he couldn't be outside. He could feel no fresh air or wind, only stagnant rot. He must still be in the car. And the passage closed in on him, grew narrower and steeper. Around him was only wreckage. He was crawling uphill on a bed of spikes, hands and knees bleeding. Liz's body behind him. "I love you, Liz." His blood would flow downhill to her. Would it revive her? She would wake up and smile at him in the dark, though spikes gouged her body.

How large was this car? Where were the headlights? He wanted to turn around. Check the dark passage he was following. But the sides were narrow and lined with sharp objects. Everywhere they threatened to dig into him. He had to keep his head down, keep moving. Get away from the car, because it would explode. Get away.

He wondered if he might be lost. But he always knew where he was going, didn't he? Forward. And as he crawled, other things crawled with him. Roaches and silverfish skittering up and down his skin. Bloating themselves on his oozing wounds. Rats biting into him. But Liz was fine. Liz would be fine. He couldn't even see her body anymore. Couldn't turn his head. Passage was too narrow. But she was there. She had to be there. He could feel her.

The light went out. Total darkness.

Liz, I love you.