Waiting

January, 2018

The corridor is narrow, nearly scraping the sides of your hunched shoulders, and the heaving breath of cold air that slips between the cracks drifts southward like a dream and settles upon the loose stones of the floor. The torch clenched tightly in your fist offers no heat here, no halo of comfort nor compassion, only a feeble glow, a fragile flicker. Your shadow has gone ahead of you, miles and miles into the deep and dank and dark, you wonder—not for the first time—if it will ever return.

 

A shuffling slipper slides against a patch of pebbles in the gloom and you stumble, palms slick and sweating against the frigid stone. There is a flash of pain, a seething streak of red behind your eyes, and a sharp sucking of breath. Your torch claps and clatters and closes its eyes.

 

The walls rumble with her laughter and the rush of cold that climbs and clambers along the walls of the tunnel knocks you to your knees.

 

Come child

 

Do not keep

 

An old woman

 

Waiting

 

You crawl beneath the weight of her words in your mind, inching fingertips forward and dragging your useless body across the gravel. Above you, the ceiling shifts and dust trickles across your back like rain. How long until the bones in your fingers break? How long until the blood on your fists runs dry?

 

Come child

 

Let me show you

 

The end of eternity

 

Futile flailing at the edge of the chasm before you realize that the journey is at an end, that the path has vanished into a well of bottomless black. You feel her restless breathing, her relentless beating beyond the border, the blossom of pain and power and perfection...

 

Come child

 

She tugs at you, her fingers prod and prick beneath your skin, wipes the red streams of joy staining your cheeks. How could you have thought to leave her, even for a moment.

 

Come child

 

The air surges with your screams as she pulls you over the edge.

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