A small collection of thoughts and ideas that might be stuck in my mind at the time being.
The steady drip of water echoes about the large room. Great puddles of the dark liquid are pooled on the metal floor and shiver with our every footsteps; rivulets cascade across the black surface in delicate ripples. The air is thick, and stale, and damp. It smells of mildew, of sickness, and of disease. The stench is bad. Yes, it is unpleasing to our noses, but it also bad in another way differently. We cannot describe it. There is barely enough light to see by, and what little there is reflects off the water-covered floor to be thrown across the walls in dizzying shimmers. The ceiling above us bows toward the floor in many areas; our heads lightly brush against the pockmarked steel where it has long-since collapsed under the strengths of the outside.
We have been to the outside-beyond-the-walls before. It is dark there, much darker than the inside-walls-of-home where which we now tread amongst water, and death, and despair. To like is forbidden, but to say that we like the outside-beyond-the-walls-of-home would be in error. To think of the walls-of-home as being other than glorious would be wrong.
There are many amiss things both here and out there, but to think of them as so is also incorrect, we are told.
It is hard to see. We can barely distinguish where the walls end and where the ceiling and the floor begin. We wish there was more light to see by, but we must make without it, we know. That rule is one applied to many things here: “If you are not given anything, learn to adapt without anything or risk losing to that which comes on wings more silent than anything.” So far as we have been aware, this has held true; though we do not understand it, admittedly, we are not about to judge things that have so readily showed themselves to us for so long.
It is a rule that applies to all, we are told.
A body floats face-down in a nearby pool of water. We wade into the dampness, sloshing waves across the floor with our big, clumsy steps. The sounds run rampant about our ears. We stop quickly and listen for those-that-follow-and-hunt, but we hear of nothing, so we continue about our business. We stoop, awkwardly at first (we still are uncomfortable with balance), and gently prod the body with thick fingers. We must have prodded too harshly though, for the body turns over in the water, and a thin face stares back at us. The full lips are parted slightly and are grey; the large eyes are clouded over and are grey; the fair skin is pulled tightly over high cheek bones and is ashen grey. We shy away from the sight, but a force stronger than fear and revulsion compels us to move closer once more.
The job is the most and only important thing to accomplish, we are told.
A sparkle catches our eyes, and we lean nearer, squinting against the lack of the ever-longed-for-light. A treasure! We crow in delight and greedily grab at the gleam-of-wanted-items with haste and eagerness. We rip the sparkle from the dead thing. Another cry of joy escapes our cracked, parched lips of its own accord before we can stop it. We are horrified and swiftly cover our mouths with both hands, dropping the wanted-treasure-of-the-master as we do so; it slips below the surface of the water with the merest of splashes. What if a thing-that-waits-in-the-shadows hears us? We would not last long should a monster-of-darkness-and-silence find us here. We should never make a sound louder than is for our own good.
Every noise we make is too loud for our own good, we are told.
Realization soon seeps into our minds, turning our thoughts as frigid as the water we are crouched in. Now we have lost the gleam-that-was-once-ours! We frantically search the water below for the treasure, desperately patting our hands along the bottom of the floor and hoping to feel the object beneath our fingertips. There is nothing to find; the glisten-of-precious-discoveries is now lost to us and we begin to weep. Salty tears mar clean tracks across our faces, and our breaths escape our lips in great, ragged gasps, breathing life into iridescent wisps on the stinging air. The mentor-who-leads will not be pleased with us! We have lost the objective, and we have no other objective to substitute that which we have just lost.
Never return without the objects in favor, we are told.
We stand on our weak legs. We tremble, and we feel as though we will fall back into the clutches of the cold water, but we don’t. We continue to stand, knee-deep in the frigidness. We sniff and wipe the remaining tears from our faces. We so dearly wish to go back to the home-which-precedes-all, but without our objective, we do not know how we will ever go back. It has been so long since we last departed from the safety-to-which-all-return. We are told that we must always go home, but we are also told to never come home until we have found something to the liking of the mentor-leader-who-tells-all. Always come home, but never come home also.
The mentors speak in riddles that tangle our minds to knots and snarls. We do not understand, but we are told that what reaches our ears is always truth. We do not agree, but we are told to never question what words may pass from the mentor’s lips. We are scared, but we are told to walk as if the light were never absent from our backs. We do not like this place, but we are told to love all there is to offer here in the walls-of-home, including the death, and the sickness, and the disease. We are taught to be that which the mentor does not want to be.
And because we are always told, we must always obey.
“Go, my little Collector! Bring me the gems, the valuables, the treasures, the jewels that you may find. Bring them to me here, in your home-of-always-homes, and I shall reward you for your troubles. What will be your reward, you ask? Oh, but you mustn’t ever ask that, my little one! It will weigh much too heavily on your mind. And what is worse than a mind so easily corrupted with the longing—no!—the greed for such petty things as rewards? Very little, my small one. That is what! This is a wondrous place of opportunity, and you shall not think of it as anything but such, for it is nothing but such. You must take what you can get from this place and make do with what you are not given. Without this place, you have no duty, no purpose, and no use. Without this place, you are nothing. So go, little Collector, and do not return ‘till riches spill from your pockets and thoughts of rewards cloud your ever-so-anxious mind! Go forth and be my gatherer, my silent wanderer of the labyrinths and hallways! Bring to me the wealth of this long-forgotten and forsaken haven of lost promises!”