A long dark hallway stretched before her. Once upon a time the dark would scare her, threatening an unknown something that pierced her to her very core. As the shadows clung ever tighter, seeping through her body like a virus, she grew to accept the darkness. The whispers, the fear, it all blurred together into a haze of something resembling a morbid euphoria. If this was all she was to know, then this is what she must come to master. She must become one with the darkness and pain, and through such suffering, forge a heart of steel that no force on Earth could shatter.
Opening her eyes, she peeked out from the tattered curtains piled in the corner of a disheveled room full of old furniture and cobwebs. In the distance shone a dim, hollow light, reminiscent of a specter’s spindly fingers stretching out into the black void of the nothingness of an afterlife not quite attained. Rats scurried across the hall now and then, searching for anything to sustain their emaciated frames.
Taking a deep breath, the girl braced herself for another attempt to reach the light. Three times before, she had tried, and each time had failed. A mysterious force smothering her out of consciousness before she could reach it. Her guide had warned her of such a force, stating that to make it though the other-worldly gauntlet, she would have to use what would only come to the surface in her time of greatest need, a time which he could not elucidate further, except only to offer the dubious reassurance of, “When it is time, you will know.” So much for guides.
Each time she lost consciousness, she would then find herself back in the room she started in, under the same tattered curtains, watching the same rats wandering by, with the only difference being the layout of the hall and adjoining rooms. Each time, something was different, out of place. Hidden pitfalls abound and she had to be careful where she stepped, what she grabbed for support. One moment she could be leaning against an old bookshelf, and the next find that bookshelf was replaced with a gaping maw of broken teeth, ready to make her a meal. No matter what the injuries she sustained, the next time she awoke, she would be whole again, not a scratch to be found upon her slender frame. Prometheus kept coming to mind every time she awoke. As if she was being punished for something she could hardly recall. Like waking up from a bad dream only to be cast into a deeper nightmare.
Sitting up, she braced her feet against the wall behind her. Taking one more deep breath, she eyed her target intently. The light danced and glittered provocatively, as if daring her to make a move.
Half a heartbeat later she burst forward towards the light. As soon as she made it past the threshold of the first room, she felt a cold tingling sensation throughout her body. The hairs on her neck stood on end. The air around her seemed to begin to thicken in places, and she smoothly dodged the solidifying areas without ever taking her eyes off her objective. Bounding forward, she passed the next series of rooms leading off from the hall. Crackles and flashes of light emanated from the depths of the chambers, accompanied by the smell of burning flesh. She could feel the energy cutting into her body but she continued onward, her goal growing ever closer.
At last the end of the hall was clearly in sight. In her excitement she did not notice the final barrier in her way, and by the time she heard the snick of a metal spring being released, it was too late, the trap had been set in motion. Time seemed to slow at this point, and she could see the teeth of the device closing in around her, then darkness once more.
Well, there’s always tomorrow, she thought grimly….
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