I tell you this because you are cursed. This curse will find you, as it did him, and her, and me. I tell you this now so that you may be ready.
In the deep of the Peruvian jungle, there is a cave that runs through a mountain. It has the appearing of a gaping mouth, spurred with broken teeth. It is the howl of the mountain. It is the hungry darkness.
He went in there. He was a hunter, and he had gone out to those murky, exotic reaches to kill things. He carried a stout black rifle slung over his shoulder, and a fat silver handgun at his hip. He killed things to take them home where he would preserve them as trophies, and make them part of his home, and his family legacy. Organic pieces of animal matter, trinkets that spoke of the strength and command of a long-dead patriarch that housewives would blithely rub with feather dusters and that children's tremulous little fingertips would make upon soft sticky touches.
The air of the jungle was sharp and cool that season, kept moist by the winds that came in from the Atlantic. But the cave seemed to emanate a curious warmth. The dark interior was made soft by air thickened with traces of suspended moisture. He disliked the wet, clammy welcome of the air, but it pricked his curiousity. What lay within? Geothermal heat, hidden hot springs. The silent breathing of beasts and hidden predators. The promise of danger made him smile a little, grimly. He could not resist the unspoken challenge of the creatures that his imagination painted, or the secrets that tried to conceal them from him. He went in.
He lit his small gas lantern, hanging it by a hook on the base of his rifle. Not the best place to carry a light, and it risked hindering his aim, but it could work well enough for lamping animals to be shot. He travelled prepared. He went in, eyes flickering from the rough walls made smooth and slick by condensation and the greenish slimes of fungus-like things that were living. The floor was padded with a thin carpet of soft grey ash and leafmould.
He wanted to see what lay within. He dreamt of discovering secret cave paintings, artefacts, simple secret little things, the tracks and spoor of animals, the bones chewed by the predator that would match the mystery promised by this cavern.
It opened up before him long and dark and warm and wide, and he found nothing.
Nothing but that soft caress of air that became a sticky, sweltering, grasp. Nothing but the soft pad of mould becoming the gluey tread of decay and liquid. Nothing but the bland smell of wet rock and steamy water.
He went in further than he should have. He went in.
He found the end of the tunnel. It was a sheer face of slick rock. He put out a hand and touched it, drifting his fingertips through a layer of scum. It was oddly warm, like a living thing. He should have left it at that. One man, making his mark upon a hidden place, leaving nothing but melting fingerprints behind.
But as he began to turn, his gaze falling from the brown, rather boring, truthfully, wall, he saw the folded scrap at the base of the wall.
He knelt, and put his fingers on the soft greyish scrap. It was as soft as a piece of animal hide, but when he rubbed it gently he realised it was a folded piece of paper. It was damp with the moisture of the tunnel, and through the softened sides he felt the hard little lines underneath.
Paper, here. So he was not the first human to explore the long tunnel.
It pleased him to find this little morsel of treasure. A mystery. He decided to carry it out of the tunnel, and open it in the daylight, so he put his fingers around it, and stood. He walked out of the tunnel and towards the tiny point of light.
There had been nothing living inside, not even bats. Still, the pistol at his hip, the small rifle slung over his back... suddenly he was very aware of them. Very glad of them. And he denied the reasons why he did it... but he turned around and looked behind him.
The dangling light of the lantern showed the end of the cave, with nothing between that face of rock and himself. He turned away, telling himself it had been as he had expected. A formality, really, merely marking the place in his memory for one last time. He had never been afraid of the dark, ever. He had always been exceptionally brave.
His feet made no sound upon the ashy floor. It was no longer than two steps before he wanted to turn again. He took two more steps. Hesitated. Told himself it was because his foot was secured, briefly, by the sticky floor. Tried to pull it out for another step. Threw a quick glance over his shoulder.
Nothing there. Dim gloom of the interior, beginning to be edged in sooty puddles of shadow as the lamplight drew further away. He turned and walked quickly.
The mouth of the tunnel was growing into a brilliant white circle ahead, and he had to distract himself. He investigated his find. The paper was thick and strangely made. He pushed his fingertip in and opened it up.
Inside, the fine silver lines of a wire pentacle glinted brightly. Its slender lines tapered to fine needle points. It looked as though it had been freshly polished.
Well. Valuable? Perhaps. He wondered who had taken it down the tunnel, and put it there. A trinket that some explorer had probably forgotten, a treasure that a native had hidden. Still- at least now he had some treasure to take away with him. He weighed it in his hand, enjoying the thought that this bit of shaped wire connected him to some long-gone explorer. He admired how the dully reaching swathe of daylight made it glitter bright cold gleams.
There was the softest of noises behind him. Something re-settling, gently.
With a rush of gladness at the excuse to do so, he turned and brought up his rifle.
How sharp the divide now was between the darkness and the light. It was strange how blackened and opaque the interior of the tunnel looked, and how the pale light grey-yellow of the walls abrupted switched into the painted black. And how one tendril of that black gave a crafty flicker, low down on the floor. It moved, resettled. Paused.
The hunter's hands gripped his gun tightly. Held it before him, ram-rod straight, keeping the lantern frozen still.
The shadows breathed softly. They moved, a gentle shuffle of readiness. The eyeless black watched him.
There was an unpleasant twist of adrenaline in him that he refused to recognise as fear. His lip curled. Was he a child? He could taste the odd flavour of the cavern- warm, musty, and repellent. Old. Wet bones. He sucked a mouthful of bitter acidic saliva and clasped the edges of the trigger, that familiar loved feeling, the only metal ring he cared to wear. He pulled his index finger back until the gun was poised to shout.
Nothing moved. Nothing. And yet, the hunter knew that the darkness was alive, and watching him.
He would not shoot until the creature moved forwards. Because, of course - there is nothing really there. How stupid that would be. To waste a bullet on a foolish trick of the light.
That would be wrong.
And the darkness now looks like lifeless shadow.
HIs tension becomes disappointment. His finger eases its pressure on the trigger.
The hunter turns and walks towards the entrance once more. After a few steps, he turns again. His retreat is an invitation. He wants the beast to be unafraid.
But there is nothing there. The darkness seems to have filled in the long cavernous passage perfectly to match his stride. The distance between himself and the apparent end of the tunnel seems unchanged. It's like a dream, where you can walk for ages, but hardly cover any distance.
Somehow, however, he doesn't want to walk back. He turns with difficulty, expecting at any moment to hear the sudden scuffle of feet as the creature rushes him. It really is like a dream, after all.
He thinks, I will count five steps and turn.
Now there are glassy eyes in the blackness.
Not quite a blog, but things that I have written.