Updated: Mar 20, 2021
I awaken, enveloped by darkness and I feel a chill in the air. It caresses my skin like a soft gentle breath. I shudder as goosebumps take shape across my skin. I kneel, the dirt beneath my bare feet shifting, my fingers brushing against the stone barely breaking through its thin silted surface.
How did I get here? Then the more important question arises in my mind. How do I get out?
I feel through the dirt, touching the cold stone underneath.
A cave perhaps?
Cautiously I crawl forward, the stone jabbing at my knees as I feel around. I don’t how long I wandered, it was impossible to tell, but from within the darkness I hear something stir.
“Who’s there?” A voice calls out. I can hear in their tone. Their voice betrays them, showing fear. “Where did you come from?”
“I don’t know,” I reply. “I awoke and found myself here.”
“You aren’t the first,” he replies. “There were others before you. “They are still here, somewhere in this emptiness.”
“What is this place?” I ask.
“I don’t know, but as I have said there are many here,” he answers.
“Why?” I ask. “Why are they here?”
“Again, I do not know, but this seems to be a place for the lost.”
“I thought you said you didn’t know what this place was…” I reply
“I can only guess. If I were to judge by the long beard I feel on my face, I have been in this place for most of my life.”
Most of his life! Somehow, as if the darkness could sense my apprehension, the cold began to bite with such ferocity I could feel in my bones. “Are there others like you?”
“I’ve never seen another’s face before, so I have no way of knowing.”
The tone in his voice never changed, the fear, the distrust and the uncertainty. They were ever constant. Most of all I could tell he was afraid of me. It was also then I realized, I was equally afraid of him.
I hear him shift and before long, it fades until nothing is left but silence. It was then I knew I was alone. There was a terror about it, like the cold it seeping into me, piercing soul and spirit. I had no words for it, it simply was. Soon after, the darkness began to feel heavy as if it were closing in.
Panic gripped me and I ran, the stone jabbing my feet. The darkness was never ending and the cold covered me like a cloak. I could hear others, some weeping, some wailing in panic and fear. Others were just running as if pursued. Each was desperate to find their way, to find a direction and end the nightmare of this place.
There has to be a way! There just has to be!
Eventually, I collapse, cold sweat pouring down my face. It seemed so hopeless, so endless, but I knew there had to be an escape. I feel around, my fingers fumbling across something. The texture was grainy and very dry. In length, it was as long as my arm.
I feel out for more, finding some bits of stone and something that feels like tattered cloth. I wrap the cloth around the wood, take the stones and strike them together. There’s a spark, a brief flash of illumination so bright and sudden that it startles me and I drop stones.
But, in that moment, when the darkness was banished, I faintly hear… “Keep going.” It was a whisper, so soft and gentle. There was comfort and assurance of which was a paltry description for what I felt resonating inside.
With renewed fury I struck the stones together, again and again, the whisper growing louder until it become a shout. Suddenly a flame bursts forth. It consumes the cloth and wood, banishing the darkness and the cold.
Taking my torch in hand I see my surroundings for the first time. To my horror, I see bones and tattered bits of cloth. My torch had been one of those bones. I then begin to remember, how I got here.
I hear a cry from the edge of the light. It pierces my ears like a lament.
“What is this you have wrought!”
It was the man whom I had first met. I move closer toward the sound of his voice and he shuffles further into the darkness. It was cloaking him, perhaps even acting as his shield.
“Keep that from me!” he screams.
“But why?” I ask, “I know myself, now. I know who I was.”
He hisses in disgust.
“I can share this with you, if you but step forward, I can return the flame to you.”
“Keep your fire, keep your warmth,” he screams. “I have no need of its deceit!”
I move closer still, quickening my pace, the darkness receding in defeat. The man, however, kept pace never leaving the shadows.
“Will you not leave with me and abandon this wretched place?” I ask.
“I cannot all that I have ever known!” he shrieks.
I could only stand in silence, his words piercing my heart. I understood then, he would never leave. Nothing I could do would change that.
I, like him, I had lost my way; lost my flame. So I turn, my flame renewed, but heart heavy. The choice was made. So my search began, my purpose rekindled, and my direction sure in hopes that I can light the way for others.