I see you coming in, carrying that torch high above your head, are you trying not to let the flame blind you as you look around my home? I welcome you, come on in, look around to your heart’s content and be comfortable and welcome here. I agree that the comforts are few, but at least it is dry and warm down here, though I will accept it is dark.
Here I am, looking right into your eyes, and there is a look in them, is it fear? Are you scared to come down here? You must have some courage, to be scared and still come down to my parlour by yourself? Were you too scared to admit your fears to whatever companions you have left up there on the surface? Or are you alone and there was no-one there to hold your hand?
How is it, up there above the ground? Is the sky still blue, do birds still fly? Is it even daytime up there? It has been a long time since I saw the sun, and back then the beauty was wasted on me. I would walk on the grass in the moonlight and feel the chill on my skin, but not once did I stop and enjoy the time I had, and now I am down here in the dark and barely do I see anyone.
Does the sun still shine? Do people live and grow and age and die? I suppose that would never change, people are pernicious and eternal. When one dies there are always a multitude ready to fill the void, doubling every year. Should I be thankful I have the space I do to myself? Do you surround yourself with people? Is solitude a virtue or a punishment, where you come from?
Where do you come from? I do not recognise the clothes, they mean nothing to me, are you from distant lands, or have fashions changed? You wear black, do you wish to hide in the shadows? If you are to be one with the shadows, then why do you carry such a large torch. I would not even need to seek you to know where you are, you shine like a beacon in the darkness, and it has been so very very dark.
Why do you come? Do you seek me, or something else? Are you trailing the one who came before, many days ago? I look in your face and I can see there is a likeness in your features. Your nose reminds me of him, and there is something about your look that is similar. Are you brothers? Cousins? Yes, I see it now, you are family. But not father and son, your age is too similar.
Though you look more serious than him, he looked happy at the time, full of the joys of exploration, he had found somewhere new to roam and roam he would, but now you look just for the search, you are looking for him, are you not.
I cannot deny that I saw him, he did indeed come down to see me, just as you have done. I would even show you which way he went. I would tell you how he came down into my home and talked to me, chattering away as he delved into the darker corners. Many times I wondered what he was looking for, but he seemed not to know himself, everything he found seemed to lighten his eyes equally.
There is no need to worry, he is still here. You will find him eventually. Watch your footing, you nearly fell on those bones. No, those remains have been there for a very long time, your brother tripped over them himself. Would it make you feel closer to him, to know you have that connection?
You rub your elbows. Are your arms tired? Is the torch getting heavier? Or is it something to do with your muscles? It might be the air in here. It’s not something you notice, but the air I breathe isn’t something you should breathe for very long, I wouldn’t worry about it though, you won’t have to worry about it for too long.
Are you tired? Do you grow more weary? Or does your curiosity drive you on? Are you struggling to carry on, but know you cannot stop until you find your sibling? Should I show him to you? We are having such a pleasant time in each others company I don’t want the time to end. I wish you would feel the same, but you still have no idea that I am here, do you?
You think you’re all alone here, don’t you? You’re not even certain that your brother came down here, and you’re worried that you’re searching in the wrong place? I would let you know that you are in the right place, but you still cannot see me, much less hear my voice. I talk right to you and it passes your ears without hearing.
Would it shock you to know you were not alone? To know that I walk with you every step, watching you as you probe in the darkest corners of my home, looking, endlessly looking? Would it surprise you to know that this is my home? My sanctuary, my refuge? That I dwell here and have for many years. So many that I cannot recount the number now, I simply exist and may never leave, only to be visited rarely by you and your like.
Are you near to giving up? Is your search too far gone? Are you ready to leave? Then allow me to show you something. There, there in the corner, something glints in the torchlight. Did you see it? Did it call to you? A small shine of something, a reflection of a glimmer of something. Yes. you saw it.
What is it? Do you recognise it? I took it from around the neck of your brother. Is it something you recognise? A talisman, a charm. Something to look over him. Is that ironic? There is someone looking over him now, and it is me.
Yes, follow the trail. A shadow you had overlooked. Had you looked there before? Do you remember looking there previously? Have the shadows shifted? No, don’t recoil, that’s exactly what you were looking for.
There he lies, though he no longer breathes. I watched over him in his final hours, as his life slipped away. In his final minutes we talked, as the pain overtook him. It is strange that people talk to god in their final hours? Perhaps he was scared of what was to come after he left me. I do not know what he saw me as, as the delirium took him, but I brought him comfort, even as he died.
I imagine he looks different, his flesh was intact when you last saw him. Do not recoil, rejoice, for this is your brother is it not? His clothes must be recognisable are they not? Though his flesh has shifted, and has sloughed onto the floor, you must take heart that you have found your objective.
And now you have made a mess. Did you have to colour my floor with your lunch? Are you that bad a guest that you cannot help but expunge yourself in front og your host? Be thankful I am a gracious host and shall not allow it to influence me, you are my guest and welcome here.
Are you weary? Is that why you sit on the floor? Do you cower in fear or do you need respite? Do you need respite from your own thoughts? Do you cry for your lost brother, or for yourself? Wipe your cheeks, wipe your cheeks and see, are your hands now red? Is it because your eyes are bleeding?
Look to your arms, can you see? Do you see the tiny blood drops emerging from your pores? You bleed, you bleed right from your skin. You feel weary, and now you see what happened to your brother. Your own body has turned against you, and now you start to rot.
Do you know how much longer you have to live? Are you going to give up and sit there for the rest of your life? No? Then you should raise yourself and try and save yourself. The longer you leave it, the harder it will be to raise yourself from the ground.
There. I knew you could do it. Stand up for yourself, wipe the blood from your eyes and stride forth, young warrior, for the day is not yet lost. Take that reel from your pocket and follow it’s miniscule, near invisible thread back to the nail that you fastened at the entrance.
It is good to have a plan. I admire your foresight when entering my labyrinth to have figured out a way out of it. Your ingenuity impresses me. Does it impress you that I cut your thread and wrapped it around a few columns before tying it to itself? Does that make you happy?
It made me happy, for I now can enjoy your company for longer. Now you wander, lost in the caves, do you recognise any of it, or is every passageway the same to you? The more you walk, the more your muscles rot, and the more you bleed.
You bleed freely now, freely enough that I can finally taste it, and how tasty it is. Your fear and your despair taste wonderful to me, and how I feed. I walk with you, in your shadows and match you step for faltering step as you search, hoping and praying for an exit. That which you do not know is that there has not been an exit since you first came into my home. I closed the exit so that you could never leave me, so that we could be together forever.
Has your strength given out? Do you fall to the floor in pain, or in exhaustion? It makes no odds, since I doubt you will move further. This then would be the time to show my form to you, as I draw my shape from a mist of your own blood.
See, how I sit by you as you breathe your last. Fear not, I shall treasure you, just as I treasured your brother, just as I treasure all those who ventured here in the days and the years before you. I shall never know your name, nor you mine, but you will remain in my memory forever.
Rejoice in that thought, even as you expire.
I shall treasure you.