I discovered this picture I took looking out of the Kinda Old, Corvin Castle, and remembered the question that haunted me, what story do these old stones tell?
‘Follow the main tunnel,’ he’d said, ‘the widest one. Do not set foot into any of the side shafts,’ and he’d let the trap door fall. Blindness shrouding them.
She smelled wet earth, almost agricultural, the freezing temperatures blocking any other foul odors. Her stomach recoiled, a physical sign that her hippocampus, the primitive region of her brain and mother-nature’s GPS system, the same one that helped Homo sapiens navigate and orientate in space by collecting data and building a cognitive map, was protesting. She remembered reading about it, about the human brain’s natural fear of being lost, of losing all receptive signals from the sun, the moon, the stars, even from one’s shadow or the wind. Period. Of not being able to tell ahead from behind, up from down. No horizon. Only gravity to rely on.
She knew her body was telling her she was neurologically ill-equipped to be here. In an underground tunnel. Without a map to navigate by. Without cellphone reception. Only eerie silence. And darkness beyond the flashlight’s shaft. Her field of view blinkered, never reaching beyond the next twist or kink. Down here there was no way to tell time and she did not want to check her wrist watch and discover that time stood still.
No one could tell exactly what these tunnels had been used for. Nor did anyone know for sure how many such tunnels were, scattered underfoot the town. And those who did know, were long reduced to bone. Meanwhile, for centuries the tunnels had been buried. Their gaping mouths filled in after locals complained of smell, their caverns used as underground landfills. But before human junk touched them, no one knew what they’ve been used for. Oh, artifacts had been found and there were plenty of legends too. Legends told by ghosts.
The next step she took, darkness sealed her in. She shook the flashlight, hit it against the rocky wall, yet no light came through. Thoughts accelerated inside her head. She tried to slow them down, but they wouldn’t listen, racing for a way out. The tension in her neck spread to her face and she heard a wheezing noise not realizing it was her shallow breath coming in short, rapid puffs. Her limbs felt heavy to move, although her heart was racing. Like a rabbit running for its skin. Racing to find a way out. Through the dark tunnel, as far as possible, as fast as possible, till it found the exit.
She remembered a moth caught inside her bathroom, at night. Banging against the white walls when she had switched on the light. In an attempt to escape, giving into the primal surge to flee. Till it moved no more, in a corner of the bathroom wall. Dead, yet freed in its own mind, freed from the confined space.
She felt her mind spinning, like an athlete sprinting during a marathon, using all the energy his body could muster, leaving none for later. Life mattered now.
Forward was a black passage and so was backwards, but who knew if forward wasn’t backwards and back wasn’t front?
She let her legs gave way in an attempt to slow down her mind, she felt her body drop to the ground like an inanimate object.
She felt herself coming apart at the seams.
Silently, in the musty tunnel, with rocks as hard as ice. Underneath the big, busy city.
The above passage is an extract from my WIP. All rights reserved © Patricia Furstenberg, who is looking for a Literary Agent.
Kinda Old, Corvin Castle and a Story, is a contribution to Becky’s incredible October Squares #KindaSquare blog feature.