Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Unfathomable Depths

The author mines directly overhead. Never, ever do this.
It seems I am not much for learning from my own mistakes. I have commented on the quality peculiar to humans, that they are highly resistant to learning from others. It strikes me there are those who pursued this folly or that boondoggle, ran afoul of Fortuna, suffered for it, and saw fit to record their misadventures to better prepare future generations, only to be met by a resentful and indifferent audience. That was amusing, thinks the reader to himself, but it's clear where he went wrong, how his thoughts were poorly composed. I am not prone to such carelessness. At that point, it's a race to see which human will repeat which part of history first, with a secondary competition to register the greatest amazement that no one had the facility to warn them from experience or at least offer sage counsel.

Who said I'm a misanthrope? Go put your face in the corner, dunce.

And so it is that I, who judges the foibles of others, went back down into the caverns and the mines and promptly got lost once more. I found my way back, of course, or I could not be writing these words so quickly, but for a period of time I questioned whether I should give up scrabbling my way to the surface or just surrender to my all-too-human stupidity, do the world a favor and just lie down on the granite some thirty yards below sea level and starve to death, release my body's precious nitrates back into the ecosystem. That is the best contribution some folk have to offer the world, this I know.

But the fact was that I have a very good sword badly in need of repair, and the nature of fixing or enchanting objects (did I mention that magic seems to be real here, to a certain extent?) is that it costs one the grandness of their experiences. No, you don't lose memories when you repair an item through mystical means, but a larger fellow, seasoned by his adventures and weathered by time, may appear reduced and slightly greener, reminiscent of a sapling before a mighty oak, after this process. Every time I perish, I lose all of this seasoning, let's call it, and begin anew. And I hadn't enough seasoning for the attempted repair of this magical claymore, and one way this seasoning may be accrued is by the hunting and slaying of sundry maleficent beasts in the bleakest recesses of caverns and mines.

Thoreau's vision is muddied with the witch's potion.
In searching for these, and in the course of getting profoundly disoriented, I found another person.

Another person! Do you hear?

It seemed to be a woman. She stood stashed in shadows but appeared to be wearing a long purple robe and a peaked black hat. What was she doing here, this far below the earth, with so much danger about? "Ahoy!" I yelled, scarcely able to control my voice. When was the last time I'd spoke to another person, indeed at all? But my cry only attracted three A.C.M.s, who poured out of the crevices and came moaning at me. I pegged two with my bow and chopped the third with reasonable facility, then scrambled down my rocky ledge and up to her location.

"Please do not be alarmed," I cried. "I wasn't expecting to see anyone here at all!" I went off on a rambling streak about how long I may have been on my two islands (yes, I call them mine without reservation now), plus a rough summary of my adventures. I was in the process of apologizing for babbling so self-indulgently, when she slowly turned around and hurled a glass bottle at me. I had barely time to register what it was, and no time to dodge. The glass shattered, its contents splashed all over my person, and immediately I was overwhelmed with nausea and physical pain. My heart pounded in my ears as I staggered back, reeling.

The woman in the robe only advanced upon me, staring at my face intently, never once venturing to speak. When she pulled another glowing potion from beneath her garment, my arm leapt of its own accord and my blade bit deep into her shoulder. She seemed unaffected; I slid my sword out and cut into her side, yet still she advanced upon me, step after slow and steady step. Quite horrified, my arms and legs losing strength with each passing second, I let out an unmanly yelp and drove my mystical claymore deep into her chest, up to the hilt. Only then did she falter, then collapse to the stone floor of our cavern.

I have to call her a witch, on closer examination, resembling the hag of children's fairy tales. I regret this term, as any "witch" in my acquaintance has been an elderly woman of no little schooling and hard-bought wisdom. But I just am not able to conjure new words to adequately communicate my experiences.

Thunderation! What on God's green earth is this supposed to be?
For instance, here is another strange entity I discovered recently, and God save my soul, I am all-encompassingly beggared to begin to describe it. It only crudely bears a humanoid shape—the corpore from which four limbs sprout and upon which a large head sits—but it is perhaps twice as tall as I am. It is not stout or wide or deep: it is a very long and tall human-like shape. It wears no clothes and its skin is of such a perfect pitch-black that it seems to absorb all light around it. I have encountered three of these nightmares: each time they are preoccupied with their own unknowable agenda, sometimes removing some of my construction materials and carrying them to another location, entirely without any perceptible pattern.

And they speak to themselves, if "speaking" it is: it is a deep, guttural gulping noise, but more than this. I can hardly draw any analogy to it and have absolutely no faith the experience will be recreated in the reader's mind, but very remotely it sounds like a large wolf crushing bones in its jaws from the bottom of a very deep well. That description does it no service, but O my reader, so much of this world defies my best approximation to render it.

When I notice it out of the corner of my eye, no matter the chill that rimes my spine, the elongated ebony menace minds its own business. But if I should look at it directly, it drops whatever it is doing and flies at me to do violence as ruthlessly as possible. There is little defense against this, too, as it vanishes and reappears... not directly behind me, but at assorted points about me. My sword strikes are as efficacious as swinging at the night air. The only serviceable method I've found to come up against this monstrosity is to only glance near it and strike at its legs. It may still lash out at me once or twice, but when I can pin it to a wall, I have some success.

The dancing, flaming spider in its wrought-iron cage.
Lastly, I found this hellish contraption deep in a gangway, in yet another network of mine shafts and railways. And after it, I found three more. This appears to be a small iron cage with a tiny spider dancing inside of it. This alone should be disturbing enough to keep a reasonable person awake at night, as it turns up without signage, without any other indicator except an abundance of tenacious and sticky webbing all up and down the gangway.

The spider dances, and as it dances it begins to generate flame. It dances faster, and the more it dances, the more of a bonfire it conjures. When the flames have reached their peak, abruptly a large cave spider comes into being, which usually surprises the blazes out of me, giving it time to sink its fangs into my flesh and poison me momentarily.

These things, I presume, can be destroyed but I have not yet sought how to do this. A good dozen blows with a pick-ax should do the trick, but by the time I'd found this devilish device, all of my equipment had worn out or broken, and I was wandering the gangways in imperfect circles, seeking out new corridors in which to plant torches, thusly to prevent the generation of further beasts. On this premise, I have staked torches all about the cage, and that seems to effectively prevent the generation of spiders.

I've said it before, and this is not the last time I shall say it: this world is insane.

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