Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Torch Light (part 4)

(Source of pic, Leonid Mamchenkov)

Continued from Parts 1, 2 and 3...

I awoke from my history, my dreams and picked myself up gingerly. "Why gingerly?" you may ask. It is not easy getting up from a lying position in complete darkness. Nor would you want to try getting up whilst holding one of your index fingers completely upright (recall that for purely lighting purposes, I only have Finger Flame to fall on). My fingers have to remain upright, obviously to prevent the idiocy of burning myself.

Anyway, it was "time" to move on.

Part of my normal preparations before carrying on with the next part of my journey is to get a sip out of the local drinking hole. It is always wise to pre-empt any thirst that may surface along the way.

As I squatted down for my drink, I cannot help but notice that this sanctuary was particularly well lit, so bright that I could see myself quite clearly in the mirror of sparkling drinking water. I noticed my crew cut (designed specially by a fellow apprentice for the purpose of this trip), unsightly stubble (I have not shaved for like two days now), broad nose and slightly sloed pair of eyes. I have not taken a good look at myself for quite a while and could not resist the chance to give myself a naughty wink and grin before getting on my way.

There were quite a number of tunnels leading out from this particular sanctuary, many more than the prior few. I was spoilt for choice. Looking around each entrance, I was attracted by one particularly brightly-lit tunnel which shine took on several shades of dazzling colour. Given the otherwise overwhelming "randomness" I faced with my choice, I opted for this inviting tunnel.

As soon as I stepped into the tunnel, I found out the source of the diffusing shades of colourful light. My chosen tunnel was lined with weapons. All sorts of them. Swords, battleaxes, shields, armour (for both man and stead)… You name it, they are all there. All well polished and neatly placed or stacked along the sides of this spacious tunnel.

The light from a small number of torches was enough to keep the whole tunnel well-lit as the steady streams of light were being bounced rudely from piece to piece of metal with no escape from the tunnel. It actually edged on becoming glaring to me, for alas, their newfound escape route was now into the aching pupils of my eyes.

"This is going to be one tunnel my index fingers do not have to ache," I muttered half jokingly. Squinting a little, blinking often, I started looking at the walls for any carved treasures left on the walls by Katherine. I was to find out after a while, that there was none. What an utter disappointment! All that this tunnel had to offer were rows and rows of weaponry. They reeked of violence, were cold to touch and held no particular attraction to me. I cursed a little of making such a poorly calculated choice of tunnel. Unfortunately, the entrance has been sealed shut and forward was the only direction to go. "So be it," I thought, "Maybe there will be something to see as I move along further down this tunnel."

As I moved on for around an hour, there was still none. My pace increased proportionately with the stinging pain attacking my eyes. The tentacles of my impatience broadened their reach. I failed for once to question myself why Katherine would bother to construct THIS particular tunnel, in the same way that I have done for all of the previous tunnels I have been in. The gnawing displeasure and discomfort was getting the better of me. Before long, I was just aiming to be out of this ill-chosen tunnel in the shortest possible time.

By now, I was trudging along without bothering to scour the walls for any writings, or to inspect the repetitive array of artifacts lying by my path. My focus has shifted its entirety to the distant darkness, to the eventual exit I hope will come much sooner rather than later. So focused I was that I failed to heed the suddenly doubled echoes of my footsteps.

That was until my quickened pace took its toll on my limited stamina and I elected to take a short breather. It was at exactly the moment when I stopped that I thought I heard some distant echo of a footstep stop dead in its tracks too. Was my tired mind hallucinating? I tried the same sequence again, to the same effect.

My immediate reaction was mixed. Uncertainty and fear started seeping into my already overflowing impatience, creating a more potent poison called panic. In a bid to calm myself down, I looked back and forth to make some sense of things. I saw nothing that pointed to the source of the echo although I was still sure I had heard something, which is "supposed" to be illogical.

The next logical question to ask myself was what I should do. There was no way I am going to retreat, knowing that the entrance has been sealed. Forward is the only way to go. Fear, though now omnipresent in my mind, has to be swept aside. The realisation of that, coupled with my ever-homosapien curiosity, got me back on my feet and moving again. If whatever I fear is going to happen, I might as well let it take place sooner rather than later. I would kill those irritating pangs of curiosity at the same time.

Sure enough, those echoes continued and got progressively nearer. So my mind was not making it up after all. I half-consoled myself of my sanity still intact. Beads of perspiration poured down my semi-dehydrated body as I pushed forward. The increasing intensity of the echoes chewed further into my fear and it threatened to overwhelm me. Still, my own momentum carried me forward.

Then, I saw him.

At least "it" looked like a him and not a her or an it. "He" was wearing a brown hooded monk-like dress. "He" had his hood hanging over his head, hiding his face. As such, I could not make out his facial features. His body mass and size was not unlike mine. "He" was bare-footed. In his right hand, "he" held a broadsword. At this first instance of contact, "he" looked overtly threatening to me.

My immediate reaction was to be ready to defend myself. I picked up another broadsword lying nearby with my feeble, trembling hands and tried asking in my most demanding and fearless tone (No doubt that I failed badly),"Who are you? What are you?"

Akan Datang: Happiness vs contentment

80 days to go.

P.S. Here's wishing to all muslims "eid mubarak" for the Haji holiday, especially Z and my ex-colleague from Egypt.


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