The continuation of What Lies Within by Teri Karl, Illustrated by Christopher Walker
Evelyn was surprised to see a faint glow coming from below. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she was even more astounded that a set of steep steps were now visible, swirling downward into the abyss. She closed her eyes for a moment, took a few deep, and slowly began the descent. It appeared the journey had just begun.
Though Evelyn was fairly athletic, with good balance, she wasn’t thrilled to be walking down a damp stone stairway with limited vision. Soon she began to lose track of the number of steps she had taken and began to grow impatient with the time it was taking. She paused as a momentary bout of panic swept her body. She took in the darkness and felt the humidity hanging heavily on her skin. “Am I claustrophobic?” she suddenly wondered as her eyes blurred and the cave seemed to contract, tightening around her like a large earthen black casket. She quickly closed her eyes again and took some deep breaths. “No, you’ve never been claustrophobic,” she reminded herself. She squinted at the light ahead of her; it didn’t seem any closer than when she’d started. “Nevermind,” she told herself, “We’re finishing what we started today.” Re-centered, she continued on.
She focused on her breathing. The steady flow in and out comforted her, and she began to hum to herself. She chuckled at the songs that popped into her head, old melodies her mother used to sing to her when she was a baby, a jingle from one of her first baby toys, the tune from her first jewelry box. Some songs were sweet and old. She had no idea where they’d come from. Soon she was lost in a musical reverie, but this was disrupted by the sound of a whisper near her ear.
Where are you going?
She froze. Though it was dark, she could clearly see enough to know there was nothing but steps behind and in front of her. Had she misheard? She continue onward, but the voice returned:
Where are you going?
“This is crazy,” she thought, “Should I answer back to nobody? Or am I speaking with the cave?”
“Leave me alone!” she shouted. And she found the will to move a little faster.
Though she continued to hear the whisper, she didn’t falter, now more determined than ever to reach the bottom. She could feel the quiet fury of whoever or whatever was speaking to her as she quickly moved down the stairs. She felt the rush of wind, as though someone was shoving past her; she thought she caught a flare of green and purple.
And then, just like that, the stairs ended.
Her feet met flat ground, but the momentum propelled her forward, sending her flailing into a door.
A door? In a cave?
Light was streaming out from the cracks of the door frame. Evelyn reached for the doorknob and then hesitated. She turned back to face where she’d come from, gazing up toward the many, many flights of stairs. “I’ll never make it back,” she thought. Shaking her head, she resolutely turned back to face the door. “I can’t think about that now.”
She swung the door open and entered the room. She gasped in surprise at the faces staring back at her.
She was in a room of hanging mirrors. There were thousands of them, facing many different directions. But instead of seeing her own reflection gazing back at her, Evelyn saw thousands upon thousands of other faces. Evelyn began moving through the room, pushing through the mirrors and looking for an exit on the other side. She was disturbed to notice that the faces mimicked her every expression and movement. She abruptly stopped her forward motion and spun in a circle, studying the faces around her. There were faces of every sex, age, race, and nationality. Some were familiar, but most were unknown. She recognized her parents, cousins, friends and coworkers. Some faces were kind, others full of joy and laughter. Some were serious, and others . . . cruel. Many were completely foreign, but there were those who felt incredibly familiar, like she’d really loved them once. And others felt like they were her.
That was all she could take. She started again, running blindly through the maze of mirrors, aiming for the nearest wall and hoping to find another door. Finally, she reached one of the walls — and a door! This door was a gleaming white that radiated with a blinding intensity. She could tell there was an immense and powerful source behind it. She eagerly tried the doorknob, but it was locked. There was a keyhole, but she had no key. She jiggled the door handle in frustration, and as she did so, her skin began to prickle. Someone was watching her, one of the faces in the mirrors.
She steeled herself and ever-so-slowly turned around, then screamed in terror at the face staring back at her. It was her face. But the face was a corrupted, monstrous version of her own.
Part III continued next week.
Much love, many blessings! ❤