This story uses the prompt “Cave” and was written for the October “blog battle” at rachaelritchey.com, https://blogbattlers.wordpress.com/2018/10/09/stories-cave/
Short Story by Sha’Tara
It began as a deliberate entry into a gaping opening in the side of a low mountain. I could hear water dripping from wet walls and feel the clinging cold dampness of the place. The question I had to face was whether to proceed into this cave. Of course I could not know the end of it without the experience of it, so I decided to enter.
There was a kind of track sloping down, made of natural crushed shale and slippery under my hiking shoes. After finding my balance, down I went, surrounded by a growing opaque darkness. I had no fire or flashlight, just my senses to guide me and my unquenchable curiosity to push me onward.
As I walked deeper into the cave, it became pitch black and I had to give up trying to use my eyes. Without any light to define the surrounding darkness, there was nothing to see. But wait, that’s when I “saw” a new kind of light, surreal, somewhat as depicted in Kirlian photographs. I could see without seeing! I could now step forward and down with greater confidence. The water still dripped from the black walls and I could see it glistening on the ceiling.
There was a warm dankness about the place and I smelled an unpleasant odor. At this point the eerie lighting showed me a small tunnel branching off on the right. I walked to its entrance and saw a dry surface leading upward. It had an easy walking surface, no loose rocks or shale, just flat grey rock.
Choice. Should I take this inviting tunnel, or keep on the downward journey of the other one? Something within me reasoned this drier tunnel would be a dead end, or take me back up and out the other side of the mountain. I chose to continue down the original cave, ever deeper under the mountain. That’s when I realized I had passed my first test.
I continued to question the purpose of this weird quest and who had carved these tunnels, and why? Where was the King under the Mountain? Where was the sound of hammers as Dwarves carved out the hard black rock to find their precious stones, their silver and gold?
“What will I find in the tunnel?” asks Luke Skywalker of Yoda. “Fear” he replied. “Your greatest fear. Do not take your weapons down there, they will only contribute to your downfall.” But the young, the rash, the foolish seldom listen to the voice of experience and wisdom. He went fully armed into the tunnel to be confronted by his arch-enemy, Darth Vader. They fought. Luke won and cut Vader’s head off. When he looked into the terrible mask, his own face stared back at him. Fear gives birth to anger, anger to hate and hate to death. There is no escape. The undisciplined, un-empowered overconfident self is always our own worst enemy.
My fear of what lay ahead became palpable. I sensed a ‘Something’ not alive as we understand the concept and I knew it was lurking further down. It had eyes that could see the minutest details in the dark; that could see into the heart and find every weakness, every frailty, every shadow, every dark, hidden corner where residues of resentment, shame and guilt are stored. That is what it wanted to feast upon. It was starving for an orgy on human sin.
I knew then it would never let me leave this place, even if I turned and tried to run back up the way I’d come. This was its world or perhaps better put, an underworld. There were hidden passages I sensed as flow of air coming from the sides of the cave. It used these as shortcuts to waylay any creature that wandered this far.
If we intend to walk the darkness of the underworld we must not carry darkness within our mind-heart. Only the pure of heart can pass unmolested to enter the sacred place of sacrifice. Yes, that’s what had drawn me down this corridor of non-time. I remembered what came at the end of this place: sacrifice and redemption. I understood fully why the beast or beasts, for I now sensed many, waylaid me. If I passed, I would have a clear conscience and they would be defeated, left starving. Thus I would be permitted to offer myself as a sacrifice upon the altar of fire at the end of this journey and in doing so I could call upon the great forces of spirit to grant my one wish. If I passed.
They knew. And they came upon me to find my darkness; to feed on my fear, for fear is darkness. I am so close to being devoured here. I have no weapon with which to ward these starving demons. I have no protection. There is no place to turn, not even against a wall – they are all around me, salivating, snarling, growling. “Give in to your fear… give in and hate me with all the passion that is within you. Anticipate the pain you are going to endure when my poisoned fangs sink into your flesh, and scream your rage!”
This is when I found some of my power. “Peace!” I said to myself, I came to this place, to confront my fear and not to give in to it. To test my resolve since that day long ago when I had made a decision and chosen my own name. Shalom Tara! I closed my eyes and slowly sank upon the rough floor. Beings of light completed this vision then, approaching and taking my hands, helping me to stand and leading me through the rest of the way.
So did I pass my second test. The third has yet to come.