Thirteen – Going Deeper Underground
The walk along the claustrophobic corridor from my bedchamber to an as yet unknown destination seemed to take forever. The ghostly clamour from the unbeknown gathering some way off and out of sight in the distance, came at us in waves, voices from a different time all wrapped up in cacophonous whirlwinds that berated our advance, the exit’s rectangle of light eventually growing larger as at last we seemed to be making headway. For all I knew, this was a trudge to the executioner’s blade, but Perveen had shown me too much already to truly believe that was so.
The closer we got to the vibrant light – I could not wait to get out of this dingy place, more like an underground tunnel than a castle corridor – I could feel tension depart my shoulders like a heavy velvet cape slowly slipping to the floor. Billy’s hooded henchmen still paced directly at my rear, one at each shoulder. There was a mutual mistrust between us, yet one of the duo seemed somehow familiar.
True, I’d seen their hooded forms at my sister’s mock execution, the test of nerve Billy had set as part of the trial to assess my worthiness. A rite I believed I had attained simply to be accepted into the vampire world. However, events had taken turns that led me to start thinking that my place on this side of life was not to be a simple slave of the night.
And I had seen them yet again, ushering my brother’s unconscious, convulsing body from the bedroom on the light side of the grave before Billy bestowed upon me the tertiary stage of my transformation from human to supernatural being. Although their faces were impossibly shaded by some vortex as black as night beneath the hoods, the form, the mannerisms, the way that the one of them walked seemed off-kilter, as if I knew it from a distant life but it did not fit here.
It was perhaps all a part of this feeling of universal tilt, a state that I’d sensed and that had not passed since my awakening here and my mind had grown accustomed to these superficial surroundings. That’s exactly how it seemed, that everything had purveyed since my passing over: although all was taken down to the bare brick, it was somehow nothing more than a theatrical backdrop, hiding something a lot less substantial beyond the thin cloth of its fragile reality.
As if transported on some magical conveyor belt, we were in an instant on the threshold of the light – it had been distant, and now we were there, with no sense of acceleration on our part. It was as if the very world had sensed my doubting in its substance and come to greet us to throw my mind of track. It worked.
Stepping into the light, I was momentarily blinded, so bright was the source’s countenance. What I saw wiped all previous thoughts from my mind and left me dumbfounded as we stood at the head of an impossibly steep spiralling staircase. Its banister the colour and texture of polished ivory swirled down before us into some sort a cloud-like mist, above which hung this blistering ball of light.
The cavernous ceiling stretched so, so far above us, but the light, about which we were gathered slightly above (how it hung there must have been down to some sorcery I was yet to learn, if ever) was bright enough to determine that we were indeed underground. Rugged grey rock took over where the ornate ceiling decoration stopped. From the bottom of this staircase, beneath this ethereal source of light, that oversight would have been out of sight, further enhancing my conviction that all was not as it seemed.
The vampires had created their own sun, one that would not shrivel their skin like parchment, boil their borrowed blood to steam nor blaze their bones to ash, were they to bask in its glory as the real one would have done. The mists parted as if for my sole (soul?) benefit, so as to offer me a view of the source of the excitement that had blasted us in chattering chitter as we’d trudged the corridor’s never-ending length. I gauged approximately 150 feet below, it could have been more or less in the light’s bright distortion, a whole community was darting to and fro about an ancient Grecian courtyard, suddenly bathed in light as the mists parted. The shadows raced from the scene, banished by the makeshift sun’s rays.
They halted as one, pale faces all looking up towards their ‘sky’ in unison. I guessed that was my cue; if I needed confirmation, a hefty shove on the back of each shoulder by the henchmen left me in no doubt we were going down the ivory staircase and even deeper underground.