The sunlight above us slowly faded as we made our way down. It’s golden rays were unable to pierce the utter darkness we had willingly plunged into.
Lori was the first to react. While I stood frozen in the suffocating emptiness, yearning to return to the safe, sunny world, she pulled her flashlight out of her back pocket.
The metal cylinder was like a respirator; it’s warm yellow light sent a breath of cool, musty air into my aching lungs.
As we continued our journey downwards, the silence nearly killed me. Our footsteps were soft as we descended the large steps, illuminated by the sweet golden light. We didn’t have any words to say.
The only other sound, ringing loud and clear, was the thunderous pounding of my heart. It burst from my chest and bounced off the walls, echoing down the cold stairway as if it were trying to lead us. My mouth opened, willing my vocal chords to function, to cover up this horrible cacophony.
They didn’t have to. Lori spoke. “These stairs seem like they’re going down forever, don’t they?” She didn’t turn to me, didn’t even seem to be talking to me. The question sounded almost like a statement, like something she was just pointing out to the world.
I answered anyways. “Yeah they do.” I nodded at my lame answer, even though she wouldn’t see it.
Although I was grateful for the brief break in the monotony of our silence, the conversation ended there.
We continued walking at the same, quick pace for what seemed like ages before she suddenly stopped. I had taken two steps down before I noticed the absence of her comforting presence beside me.
Her face was dimly illuminated by the flashlight’s surreal glow. Its feeble light bounced off her white bangs and hid her grey eyes behind dark shadows.
She shifted from one foot to the other before opening her mouth. I had hoped the words coming out of it would be something along the lines of ‘This is taking forever, let’s just go home.”
They weren’t. “I’m tired; can we rest for a couple minutes?” was what she actually asked. My heart sank, resting at the bottom of a gelid ocean deep in my chest. I nodded, walking back up the two steps to stand beside her. It was as I did so that I felt the strong, burning sensation in my thighs. I was tired too.
We simultaneously sat down on the wide step, side by side. Seconds ticked by in silence, crawling past us on the cold stone walls. The burning sensation in my thighs slowly receded, replaced by a pounding ache that matched pace with my hyper heartbeat.
Lori played around with the flashlight, shining it first on her feet, then on mine, and finally on the steps before us. It wasn’t until she shined its yellow beam on the walls that she stopped, petrified.
I glanced at the end of the beam, and froze in the same manner.
Painted in the faded crimson that resembled dried blood were letters clearly spelling out words in what seemed to be Latin. I couldn’t understand any of the words but that didn’t matter. That wasn’t what terrified me.