She staggered through the darkness, the chanting, echoing drone of the wind and the feel of the rough-sided walls her only companions. Well, the wind and the walls and the feeling of black, black eternity. The walls seemed to close in around her, claustrophobic.
She kept turning left – that’s what you’re ‘supposed to do’ in a maze, keep turning left, and eventually you’ll find the exit. She kept finding dead ends. Still, she followed the walls, followed the walls. Down an alleyway, to dead end after dead end. She kept her left hand scraping against the rough stone. Eventually she would find her way out. She lost track of time – darkness has a way of perpetuating itself, of folding time around itself.
She walked until sleep overcame her, and, when she awoke, she walked again. Always in darkness. She drank the water that dribbled down the walls and pooled in the depressions in the tunnel’s floor. She ate fluttering insects and bundles of fur, invisible but fighting back. She shat in the dead ends, so she wouldn’t tread in it on her return journey – if there was a return journey.
She could see herself, bedraggled, gaunt, stumbling, left hand still on the stone wall. She imagined herself passing by in the darkness. She didn’t call out. What could she say to herself, passing in the eternal blackness? Don’t eat me. Please, I know you’re hungry. Please don’t eat me. When she heard footsteps she pressed herself against the wall, silent, and waited for them to pass. They never passed. It always took so long – even though time was uncountable here – so long for her to realise it was her heartbeat.
Or maybe she just convinced herself it was her heart. She always pressed on, sticking to the left.
Until today – this morning? this afternoon? – there was light ahead, weak and yellow, but light, light, up ahead. She took her hand from the wall. She ran. She ran. Tripping and spitting out curses, scraping raw her right knee when she fell. Her voice sounded strange in the blackness. She passed into the light.
A cavern opened up around her, the walls soft brick, unclimbable, opening onto the grey sky.
A feeble touch of sunlight.
It kissed her skin.
A tunnel open on the far side, a black mouth.
She stuck to the left wall, and worked her way around to it.
Back into the dark.