A short piece written as a Halloween writing exercise.

It was dark, cold and dank. Water pooled on every step, rough crags on either side. Within each alcove, a shadow, some still, others stirred, rattling their chains. One struggled to speak, but only managed a weak hiss. Through it all his hand urged her onward, past piles of bones, and cavernous teeth.

Up ahead a faint glow filled the corridor, spilling out of a side chamber. Inside hung a dried husk; wreathed in thick snarls and parchment skin. From within it a glow began to blossom, filling her flesh, warming her eyes, and for a moment they could see the woman she had once been. Then it was gone. Her hollow skull stared at them.

“Why have you come?” Her voice surrounded them, the rasping breath of the dying. Anna stepped forward. This was her task, but the words would not come.

“We seek a cure for this girl’s affliction.”

The skull turned at Gerrard’s words, the light returning to fill her face, and for a moment Anna looked into her eyes, her cold, harsh eyes. “Let her speak,” it hissed, turning its hollow holes back at Anna, and she stared back. Part of her yearned to run, order Gerrard and the others to seal it away, burn every page that might lead to its discovery. But she could not. She needed it.

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2 thoughts on “Underlying

  1. I can see a larger story in this. I love those initial paragraphs that you described the cave with, the prose had a lot of movement and clarity to it. This would also make an interesting first chapter.

    • Thank you. I’m glad you like it.
      It’s funny, at the time I wrote this as a simple writing exercise centered around danger, but in the evening I typed it up and realized this would fit very nicely in a feature length story idea that’s been rolling around in the back of my head for years. Offhand I feel like this would be somewhere around chapter 4-6, after the status quo has been established and disrupted.
      I really like the idea of a young character finding out that someone kind, benevolent, and definitively “good”, has also secretly been using something so abominable.
      In many ways this piece turned into another source of inspiration. I started jotting down notes for what this place is, how it’s used, and the rules that govern this “thing”.
      Just a great reminder of how good writing can feel when it works.
      But for now I must be off, got a block of stone to chip away at.

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