The dungeon waited for me, thick with refuse. The shadows that filled it—shadows of things that had to be more horrible than the freakish mystery of the shadows themselves—hung about in every direction ominously. The air was heavy with stagnation. Nothing could support life in such a place, and there looked to be nothing living in it. At least not anymore.
Somewhere there was the distant noise of normal life. I thought it might be coming from a small window that was obscured by mounds of mystery objects. Only a shred of light trickled in through it, and not enough for the innate goodness of light to banish the innate evilness of darkness. Somewhere out there life went on. And what a strange idea it was. To think, that beyond everything that I comprehend inside my own mind, life just keeps on trucking, ignorant of what torment I might be suffering.
There was the sound of a squirrel skittering on the outside walls, unaware of how much freedom it had in those little claws that cling to any surface, offering it infinite options for escape. And somewhere out there was a distant car sound, because somewhere out there someone was inhaling the fresh, cool air of December. Someone was soaking in the crisp blue spread wide above their heads. Someone was drinking in the moment, the way moments are supposed to be drank, rather than letting them slip through the fingers like I had.
I wondered if that shred of light would allow me to tell the passage of time. Would it be quite obvious when it was bright mid-day, or the dregs of evening? Would a sliver of moonlight fall through, and allow me to know the phases of the moon and the way the months flicker away from us?
It didn’t matter. There was no sense in wondering such things. We all must live in the moment, whatever that moment might be. And so I took in my first deep breath of diseased air. I would not be a coward. I would not shriek and skitter away from it like a small creature seeking out a hole to burrow in. I was better than that.
My feet touched the cold, dirty floor. Something like the mixture of dirt and fragments of cloth brushed my toes. I did not care to imagine what the fragments of cloth might have once been. Something sharp snagged my foot, clinging momentarily there, before being knocked back again into the abyss. Surely that was something inanimate, or so I hoped.
I thought then that in the dim light my strained eyes saw a shadow flicker against the wall. A long, fat shadow with an ominous movement forward. Naturally, dungeons aren’t places where a lone person is kept. Other outcasts dwell there, awaiting their freedom, or awaiting something to amuse them in the meantime.
I turned the other direction. There was no sense in meeting this beast head-on. What good would that possible do me, nearly blinded as I was? I moved quicker than I ought to as someone feeling their way without even the aid of a stick to hold outward. I stumbled into something and it nearly knocked me down, but instead it made the enormous clatter of metal objects crashing onto stone. The noise was so loud my entire body seemed to feel the sound waves as though they stuck into me like splinters.
Of course, there was no denying my location then. The whole of the place knew my whereabouts. And they also knew everything else too. The could slide forward through the thick of it with ease, like a silent snake slithering closer and closer to its prey, at any moment preparing to strike.
I waited for that moment. I waited for the claws or the fangs or the cut of something unknown to slash into my skin. Or maybe it would be the grip of soiled fingers that dig into flesh; a steely grip that pulls. I strained my ears in the silence, as then even the outside world seemed to have stopped in sympathy of my suspense. I waited, until I felt the frustration of the moment rising inside me, bubbling up into my throat. Enough was enough.
I charged backward, my flat hand reaching for whatever might be in my path until I hit my intended target—the wall. I felt along then, until I found the magic button, and I slammed the heel of my hand into it.
And just like that the garage door opened, bright mid-day light vanquished the evil, and there sat stacks of boxes, a pile of paint cans, and various poorly organized tools like metallic statues of monsters. I stamped my foot firmly on the ground as I shouted for anyone that might be listening.
“You, dungeon, are at my mercy now. And you will be cleaned!”