Born of Circumstance
by R.T. Allenson
Echoes fade and recede into the shadows of the halls – the numbing sensation when the cold seeps in and the feel of it as I touch the even colder metal surfaces that line the grand corridor behooves me, but I know I must descend further. There’s no turning back; the door behind me is now closed. There’s no other way but I know, to press onward might spell my doom.
Glinting. Reflecting. The light from the outside seeps in from the small crevices of the walls and of the vaulted door, tempting me and reminding me of life outside – empty promises, cruel intentions. All these fade into the ever-increasing darkness which, despite its morbidity, gives me clarity beyond my knowing. It is soundless and all but my own weary footfalls wake me from the overpowering sense of daydreaming that permeates these dead halls. I hold the rifle close to me, clutching it tighter as I descend even deeper into the hallway. The rifle is the only anchor I have to the outside world and each time I step forward, the temptation to turn back grows.
But I know, the moment I turn around and attempt to vault towards the door, to abandon my vigil..the moment my nerves fail on me is the moment I die. For I will know clarity beyond the veil of death and that, that clarity, is what I fear the most.
So I press onwards, taking care that each step I take does not make my own senses drop beyond cowardice. The rifle I hold was my father’s and like me, his responsibility was to one day descend into the cold halls with nary a thing save his rifle and his failing senses. The memory of his departing unbecomes me, rattles my view. I hear a sound echo from beyond my view – metallic and the soft, unmistakable padding of feet unto the cool floor. I pause, taking aim with my rifle towards the ever-darkening passageway.
Nothing. The echoes fade and recede deeper into the darkness. I press onwards.
I descend down the fabled spiral staircase. The light is fading and the darkness is a near totality. I fumble about in the darkness with my free hand till I finally find the railings of the staircase and begin the long descent downwards where my trial will come to a close. Each step is slow and careful yet even the subtlest of footsteps still manage to bear a metallic echo that resonates all throughout the hall. I care little for the consequences now even as the sound of distant footsteps from beneath the hall ring loudly in my ear.
‘This was never your fate, you are all born of circumstances. The light is a false thing, a fickle master that takes away everything – I provide. Never listen to its voice as it is the voice of the dead. But fear not, I AM the font where all things become. I never spite, I never bear grudges.’
‘I only wish for you to return.’
ORAB BETH SOBATHAL
I knew this, of course. Even before my descent, I knew of the harrowed calls and repetitions of the truth I never wished to know.
From beyond the curtain of darkness I saw at the end of the downwards, spiraling hall where a faint light feebly held its own in the shadows. For a moment, I assumed this was merely an illusion but as I descended and felt its subtle warmth, I knew this was real.
My footsteps clamored for respite from the fear – echoing and resonating. The darkness, though it seemed so far now, it held on to me like a thick fog as I scampered about narrow passageways past carved-cold walls and into the promise of light. The dead hall…it was over..and then.
I fall downwards as the light fully bathed me and I saw the hall as it was. Clean. Pristine. Painted with life. I awakened from the darkness yet..the walls seemed colder. I knew then, I was dying. My eyes fell downwards, anticipating the feel of cold floor. Instead I saw the endless expanse of nothingness beneath me – cavernous and lined with the ancient spoils of countless yesteryears, like the maw of a great beast awaiting its prey. I panic and my rifle falls from my hands, downwards and consumed by the abyss. My fall, though silent, shatters my ears as I speed downwards into the eternal void. Yet, defiance fills my body and mind. Using the force of my descent, I hurl myself westwards as time slowed. The silence then, shattered by the memory of a lullaby now lost to me in time.
My hands find a metal bar and the touch is so cold it snaps me from my reverie. Gravity, time, they fall back in place and I scramble to the ledge above me. What greets my vision shatters my sense of safety.
The walls – painted by marks of water long-dried and the unmistakable tinges of blood. Gashes on the walls which I could only surmise as claw marks and the floor, littered with human remains. Beyond me, the hallway stretched forwards into darkness.
I turn back and think for a moment of how fitting it would be had I resigned myself to an endless descent. My vision of what could have been fills my mind and…I had turned my back from the darkness…
I shudder, my hands trembling with no rifle to soothe my senses. I turn around and see the unmistakable form of a human being, covered softly by the darkness, shamble out from the corner of the hall and lumber towards me, striding menacingly. The footsteps are familiar…almost as if it were my own. I am powerless to do anything, paralyzed by fear. My eyes transfixed, locked in eternal vision towards the coming terror.
I stand paralyzed as the light slowly paints the image of the man limping towards me and by my own accord, I began to scream.