The following is a short story I wrote in the summer of 2009. It was the first bit of writing i actually took seriously and tried to edit. It’s around a thousand words. I think it will be interesting to see how others find it.
The Valley of the Shadow of Death.
Drowning in darkness, I dragged my aching feet through the unclear depths of fog, where the stench of death lingered around me. My unsteady breathing broke the eerie silence, but not the fear inside my body and mind, as I knew that no one escaped that place, that it eats your soul from the inside until you beg for death. Even knowing this I stubbornly waded through the sludge beneath, taking each step cautiously, as I knew that corpses haunted that so-called hell. I knew that the bodies were there, as I could hear their eternal screaming of pain and misery. I didn’t think about their pain, my only thought was of the single childish dare among friends that made me go into the cave and I knew that I wasn’t leaving. They say no one has ever reached the end. If that didn’t stop me, then the screeching of the dead definitely wouldn’t. I continued walking, allowing the thought to pass with many others. Misplacing my left foot I fell slightly nearly touching the sludge with my hands. I did not bother making a noise, as I knew no one would hear. After regaining my balance, I continued walking.
I could hear them talking about me. People in the unplaced shadows were watching me, judging me, discussing me. I couldn’t prove they were there but I knew. Only a few words entered my ears: “He won’t make it” One snorts, as others chuckled down their noses. “They will not stop me.” I thought over and over. I could feel them getting closer. Thick clammy beads dribble down my face. I felt a sharp breeze as a creature whipped his cold harsh tentacle against my leg, but I did not feel pain. Was I already dead?
It didn’t take me long to grasp how the other people died. The temptation to sit down, lie down, and let fear take over overwhelmed me entirely, body and mind. I began to think of all the people who have entered hell. I know none of them, but does anyone else? I had always seen a light to the right, but just thought of it as the untouchable light at the end, but then the light began flickering, and as my eyes darted to the source, the sound of a sole child singing a hymn amplified in my ear. A wooden table entered my sight, on top of which was a single candle. A boy knelt next to the table he seemed to be begging. I cautiously approached him. I could see he is praying. I could hear him talking, everything in an unknown dialect. I stopped in mid-step, as I heard my name echo from deep within his mouth. I focused so much on what he was saying that when he turned to face me, I didn’t notice until our eyes met. I could see the power behind his eyes. He scanned me, my soul, looking for any reason for what I call an existence. My soul was unprotected from the mesmerizing eyes. They could control me, but in a blink, he was gone.
Standing there for moment after moment, I realised that no-one can escape the horror. That cave is just over a mile in length and yet the creatures within will make it last eternity. Was it hell? Is there a light at the end? Why couldn’t I see it? I wanted to sit down, or even lie down. I could sense my own impending doom. Knowing there was nothing left in existence if I gave in, I began walking. Nothingness suffocated me. I refused to let the creatures stop me, letting the only thought to travel through my mind be “one-step at a time”. With every step a beckoning feeling told me to stop, lie down and die. Every step also brought me closer to escape, but every second brought me closer to death. The ground beneath me felt different, and I tripped on an unknown surface.
Pain overcame me. My head pulsating under enormous amounts of pressure, as heat beat down upon my revealed neck. I groaned and tried to move, but the task of moving was a hard one. I only managed to roll onto my back, allowing light to fill my eyes. Closing them did not help, the lids were easily penetrated. I noticed a warm liquid cushioning my head. Moments of idleness passed and as they did, sight slowly returned. I pushed my heavy body off the ground enough to sit up. There was nothing above to stop me. Opening my eyes I gazed down at my cushion; blood covered the floor around where my head lay. The blood had also seeped into the surrounding stones. I wish I had said no, the moment the dare was pushed to me; sometimes I loathe my own stubbornness. Looking around I saw a bird land on a tree. The trees cast a shadow. This shadow was free from the light and heat from the sun. Turning still, I saw the entrance to the cave. Something clicked in my mind. I imagined myself in the cave with only my mind for company. Deep inside the cave is the light at the other end. A story came to mind, of a child, a choir boy who killed himself in that cave, and the haunting that has followed. It is was than that it dawned on me.