Godry faces the darkness, and something more.
Dark: Godry. Wake up.
Godry: Wh-who’s there?
Dark: I wouldn’t bother with the lantern, Godry. You won’t see me. The best you’ll do is quiet me down.
Godry: Who are you? What do you want?
Dark: I’m the darkness, Godry. The darkness all around you.
Godry: That’s absurd.
Dark: Says the man journeying through the Underworld.
Godry: Stay back.
Dark: I can’t move. Not in the traditional sense, anyway.
Godry: I’m armed.
Dark: You’re not.
Godry: I will fight.
Dark: I believe that. But you can’t fight me. Can you please relax?
Godry: What do you want?
Dark: I don’t want anything, Godry. That’s not in my nature.
Godry: Why are you here? You have to want something!
Dark: I’m here to talk, Godry. What you’re doing here, it’s a mistake. You shouldn’t be here. You should go back. You know you won’t survive.
Godry: I will. I have to.
Dark: Don’t be silly, Godry. You won’t survive. And, do you know what, Godry? I think that’s why you’re here.
Godry: I’m here for knowledge. I’m here for power. You should understand that, Monster.
Dark: Monster? No. There are monsters. That is certain. Some closer than you might think. But that’s not me. I am… more complicated than that. And you, Godry, came down here to die.
Godry: Don’t be ridiculous.
Dark: A man like you? So proud? Everyone told you you would be amazing. The best they had ever seen. And how did you end up? Weak. Blocked. And the pain, Godry? No one told you to expect the pain.
Godry: We all have our struggles. I don’t remember asking your opinion.
Dark: So confrontational. How do you know I won’t just choke the life out of you for your insolence.
Dark: But I don’t care to see another traveller dead on this path.
Godry: (coughing eases) Just tell me what you want.
Dark: There’s that tone again, Godry. Where do you think you are? What power do you think you have here?
Dark: That’s correct. You are here because I permit you. You still have time. You still have supplies. Turn back.
Godry: I can’t. And if you really don’t want anything, then what does it matter to you what I do?
Dark: Just because I don’t want anything does not mean that I do not have a purpose.
Godry: Leave me be.
Godry: Let me do what I have to.
Dark: You don’t have to do this, Godry. You want to do it out of some death wish. Or maybe just a desire to be punished for some imaginary transgressions.
Godry: I have to do this.
Dark: This is the gentlest of hints you will be given, Godry. You will not succeed in your mission.
Godry: Others have succeeded.
Dark: You’ve heard tales have you?
Godry: A few.
Dark: Tell me, what have you heard?
Dark: Slumber! That was over a thousand years ago! You can’t seriously believe that story has survived unaltered.
Dark: Owusu! Are you telling me you believe that story? You are in for a surprise.
Godry: I think you’re lying to me.
Dark: Very well, you can believe what you want. Even if you want to believe a man can make it all the way to the city of the dead with nothing but a basket of flowers and a song in his heart. Oh, and two pairs of shoes.
Godry: You’ve made your point.
Dark: I’ll be here, Godry. When you’re ready to give up. When your head is heavy. When your limbs ache. When your mind is gone. I’ll be here. And I’ll watch you close your eyes for the last time.
Godry: Leave me alone.
Dark: I can’t, Godry. I’m all around you. I’m inside of you.
Godry: Then just stop talking!
(Some sort of transition sound)
I had to put some distance between me and that voice. I slept for maybe three hours. More than I expected. I don’t think Gideon heard that voice. The Dark. In these caverns, the darkness is so thick it has become sentient. Or perhaps there is something in the air that is affecting me.
I’ve found another camp site. Deeper in the caves, the carvings become much simpler and there are more openings off to the sides. The path has straightened out, so I’ve taken to following the right wall again. I found a small cave near a destroyed wagon and I’ve used some of the debris to hide myself and Gideon. I can’t trust him not to make noise, but it is the most protection I can arrange.
I can only think of one passage in any of the texts that dealt with anyone on this journey actually speaking to the darkness. It’s a bad translation of an ancient language, so when Targ Visson mentions Slumber shouting at the darkness itself in Underworld, I had assumed it was metaphorical.
Or perhaps the same struggles I had at the University have now fully bloomed, and I am now a lunatic, hearing voices that aren’t there.
I am not here to die. I’ve come to gather the secrets of the Underworld. I’ve come to retrieve something, anything, that will aid my studies, or aid my companions, or the rest of the world. And I’ve come to create the first recorded journey in over a millennium.
Journeys to the Underworld tells of a path ahead of me that is mysterious and unpleasant. At this point, the myths are as good of a guess as much of what has been written since. The dead are divided into realms, and punishments are handed out at random by the Architects, or at least their machinations. Fire. Ice. Pain. Torment. And above it all, the city. Alan Jovim, in The Metaphysical Promise, has listed several claims of what sets the residents of the city apart from the rest, whether it’s achievement, nobility, or goodness. They are, at best, guesses. If anyone Slumber claims to have seen was present, goodness was likely not a consideration. Warriors. War criminals. Those who experimented on the weak and feeble. There will be some among them from the ancients, those who played with power on a level my contemporaries have never seen. Power that was intentionally forgotten. Slumber met them. I will as well. And perhaps I can answer the question of who and why anyone ends up where they do in this place.
For now, I think it’s time I rest my eyes again. Gideon is asleep. I should follow suit. I think I can sleep. I’ll just lay back and close my eyes. I will practice the breathing at the heart of all of the arts. In. Out. In. Out. In. (a light exhale)
Dark: Sleep well.
(Godry wakes up coughing and gagging. We hear a sturggle)
Dark: Don’t turn on the light.
Godry: There were fingers in my mouth. Something’s touching me.
Dark: Don’t turn on the light.
Godry: Is that you, Darkness?
Dark: No. It’s something that lives here.
Godry: What do I do? It’s feeling my face. What is it?
Dark: Hold still. It’s merely exploring. It will get bored of you in a moment.
Godry: Its fingers are so long. Is this a trick?
Dark: No, Godry. There are things that live in these caves. Some came in long ago, some have always been here. This one found you.
Godry: I’m going to be sick.
Dark: You can be sick when it’s moved on.
Godry: It’s touching me.
Dark: I know. It’s trying to figure out what you are.
Godry: Help me.
Godry: Because I need help. What if it eats me?
Dark: Be still and it will leave you.
Godry: Maybe I stay still and then it eats me.
Dark: If you’re looking for escape I can remove the air from your lungs again.
Godry: No. Oh, gods, it’s in my pockets. It’s in my pants!
Dark: It’s unthinking, Godry. It’s unintentional.
Godry: Is it a person? Was it a person?
Dark: Don’t ask questions you don’t want answered, Godry. Just hold still.
Godry: Can it hear me?
Dark: Oh, its hearing is keen. Its sight not so much. It just doesn’t understand your words.
Godry: Shouldn’t it be afraid of me?
Dark: Fear works differently down here.
Godry: What if I cut its throat. I have a small dagger.
Dark: I wouldn’t recommend that. The others will find it. Smell its blood.
Godry: I’ve never felt so violated, monster.
Dark: Its only motivation is to figure out what you are.
Godry: And then what?
Dark: It will decide that you are alive, and that eating you will be difficult, and it will move on to something else. These caves have plenty to offer scavengers like it. You might find yourself scavenging if you continue moving deeper.
Godry: What a horrible life.
Dark: Almost like no life at all. There, it’s done. And off it goes.
(barefoot steps on stone)
Godry: It took some dried meat from my pockets.
Dark: If you’re hungry, Godry, you should return to the surface. Here, I’ll show you the way.
(a subtle hum)
Godry: You’ve lit the path back. Or made it less dark.
Dark: I’ve retracted my reach. It should be easier to see. Escape.
Godry: You can do that?
Dark: Sometimes. Now, go.
Godry: I can’t.
Dark: I won’t be offering you this kindness again. Not sure I could even if I wanted.
Godry: I will see the City of the Dead.
Dark: Not even all of the dead end up there. Go back.
Godry: If I ask, will you be quiet again?
Dark: Yes. But I cannot leave you.
Godry: Let me have peace.
Credits: The Hollow Below by Conrad Miszuk. The role of the dark is played by Conrad Miszuk. The Role of Godry is played by Conrad Miszuk. The credits are read by Kitt Keller. The Hollow Below is written, produced, directed and edited by Conrad Miszuk. For more, visit hollowbelow.com.