Darkness pushed against Cleo Dalby’s arms and legs as she struggled to make her way through the narrow chamber. Hands outstretched before her, she slid her feet forward, straining to hear something, anything. But every sound, even the skid-slap of her sandals on the stone floor, became lost in the gloom. On Cleo walked slow and tentative. Deeper into the world of corpses.
A sigh, long and weary-filled drifted towards her. A sound so sad that Cleo had to cover her ears with her hands. But it was no use. The moans and low murmurs continued, floating around her like tired moths. She tried to struggle on, but the wails tugged at her legs and she stopped. Intrigued by the muffled chatter, she dropped her hands and listened. Voices low and raspy swirled and scuttled inside her head.
“We, the dead, abide here. Quietly resting, hands on chest, faces tilted up to catch a ray of sunlight.”
“A futile gesture. For this far below the ground, there is only blackness and the weight of stone.”
“We, the dead, lie still, poised in readiness for our resurrection.”
“ Ah, what a wait we’ve had; so many years spent lying in a state of half remembered promises and expectations, grown dull with the passing of each century.”
“We, the dead, no longer know who we are. Memories fade and melt into our hollow skulls.”
“We, the dead, sometimes whisper to each other.”
“Husks of words from dried up lips that stick to the cold walls, waiting for the living to listen.”
Cleo touched the limestone with her fingertips, and thought she heard a murmuring of souls.
“We, the dead, can feel a presence.”
A breath of ancient brushed past her cheek. She shivered and rubbed her naked arms. The chill slapped onto her legs and spread upwards leaving pimples of stiff-hair unease on her sunburnt flesh. She gulped and said into the blackness, “Hello? Is anyone there? My name is Cleo.”
The voices ceased.
She called again, but no answer came. There was a smell of rot so strong that Cleo nearly vomited, but it disappeared and she felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She stood tall, shrugged, and said, “The dark is just an absence of light.” She shook the torch that was gripped in her hand. “Stupid, froggin’ thing. Work.” She patted it against her palm. “Work.” Something touched her shoulder and Cleo jumped.
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