Deeper and deeper he delved into the tunnel with no breath of wind to shift the sweat from his body. He was not discomforted by cobwebs or biting bugs; nothing lives in this passageway. The words adorning the entrance some hours behind him assured him of the morbidity of the place, ‘Momento Mori’ …’remember that you will die’. He did not expect to find life here.
He had long since lost track of his direction in terms of a compass, he knew only forward and backward. at times he felt perhaps he was descending, at others that he was walking on a gradual incline, but he could not be sure.
Time passed strangely in the tunnel, the uniform earthen walls leaving him without a sense of his progress. Had his torch dimmed, had the flames began to shrink as his fuel literally burned away. he could not be sure. The mind is liable to play tricks, he had found.
He had not noticed that the walls were widening, in fact, to him it felt like they where tightening on him, as ribs on an anxious heart. But they were widening, in anticipation of a cavern ahead.
While his feet continued to beat the dirt mechanically his mind raced through a myriad of possibilities. Would the tunnel end in nothing, and he be left to question its purpose or would he find a doorway to some unknown kingdom, or might he find another inscription, what could the inscription say, where could the doorway lead. He walked on.
When he reached the cavern his breath caught in his throat. The cavern was of a high ceiling, and so wide that the failing light of his torch could not reach its edge. He walked, slowly now, into this new unknown. If he had been thinking logically he might have stuck close to the edge of the cavern, so as to maintain some sense of direction and attempt some understanding of its size. Unfortunately, he did not do this.
As he continued into the black pool of the cavern, he became aware of the fatigue in his legs, of the thirst and hunger in his body, and at last when the realisation dawned on him that the darkness was dimming his torch, either siphoning its light into the cold black abyss, or dousing his fire with its weight.
Panic began to creep from behind his eyes, and as he looked around, holding his torch above his head to project the light further, he saw nothing, no sign of a bath forwards or backwards, no difference between left or right. His feet, which had carried him so well until now, stopped there procession, his knees hit the ground and he supported his weight with his hands. The torch rolled away from him, causing his shadow to bound and flex, a crouched beast aching for rest or reason, but in the tunnel, they are not found. Only the certainty of death awaited those who explored its depths.
This post was prompted by the Flash Fiction Challenge no.36