At first there is only darkness and the sound of someone sobbing.
I open my eyes and have a difficult time focusing. Everything is blurry and distorted. There is a flickering blue light just in front of me that seems extremely bright at first. I try to rub my eyes and quickly discover that I am sitting on a chair of some sort and I can’t move any of my limbs.
My eyes adjust and the scene before me comes into focus.
I am inside of a small cave. Low ceiling and rough, rocky walls on all sides.
I glance down and discover [To my horror] that I am sitting on a chair that is made out of bones– My wrists and ankles are strapped down with thick strands of what appears to be leather.
The flickering light is coming from a small blue fire burning in a round pit near the center of the cave, about fifteen feet from where I am sitting. It is unlike any fire I have ever seen- Only blue flames are licking up, no smoke, and no warmth coming from it.
The next thing I notice is the source of the sobbing. An old woman with white hair is sitting in a rocking-chair across the fire from me. She has a tattered old American flag draped across her legs. Her eyes are closed and she is sobbing quietly while tears pour down her cheeks and the chair rocks slowly, back and forth.
Next to where she is rocking there is an enormous mirror propped up against the cave wall. At a glance I estimate the dimensions of the mirror to be somewhere around ten feet tall and at least six feet wide.
She does not respond, just continues rocking and crying.
“Where are we?” I call out.
The old woman’s eyes open slowly and she peers across the fire at me.
“Who are you?” She croaks out, her voice raspy.
“Doesn’t matter. Do you know where we are?”
“They tricked my husband. They tricked us all.” She says. Another round of sobbing as she hunches over in the chair and grips onto the flag with gnarled, arthritic hands.
“Who? What do you mean?”
Her head snaps up and she looks at me with sheer terror in her eyes.
“They’ll be back soon. You’ll see.” She says.
As if on cue the blue flames grow taller and more intense between us. I notice that the surface of the mirror is now shimmering and moving. It reminds me of ripples spreading out across a lake. Then I see the reflection of a tall, dark figure growing larger within the ripples.
The figure steps out of the mirror and into the cave. But it isn’t exactly human- From the neck down it appears to be a tall, muscular man wearing a toga, but the head is that of a goat and the neck is impossibly long. It walks up to the fire and the goat head swivels to the side to stare at me.
I am unable to make direct eye contact with the creature. It is just standing there staring at me when I notice more movement coming from the mirror. Another figure steps out and into the cave. This time it is a naked woman wearing only a necklace festooned with many jewels around her neck and a metal crown upon her head. The crown resembles the one on the statue of liberty, but it’s different. She walks over toward the fire and stands next to the man with the goat head. As they stand side by side staring down at me I realize that the woman’s eyes are glowing red.
“You shouldn’t have come here.” She says. Her voice reminds me of a hissing snake and the words don’t quite match up with her mouth. It is like watching an old dubbed Kung Fu movie that has been dubbed.
“I don’t even know where I am!”
The goat-man leans toward her ear and whispers something. I’m too far away and cannot make out what is said.
The naked woman walks over to where I am trapped. She leans down to look directly into my eyes and, in the process, one of the spikes of her crown brushes against my forehead.
“We have so many mysteries to show you.” She says. Some would say that she was beautiful, but in her eyes I saw only hatred and violence. Her breath smelled like death.
“I have no interest in your mysteries! Away from me, vile creature!” I look her directly in the face.
She backs up and rejoins the goat-man next to the fire. It leans toward her and whispers something in her ear again. The two of them turn and walk back toward the mirror. The goat-man steps through first, walking directly into the mirror as if it was an open doorway. The naked woman steps through next, but she pauses just as she’s passing through to turn back and look at me. From my viewpoint the angle is just right to where for a moment it looks like there are two of her, joined at the wrist.
And then she’s gone. The cave is quiet. The old woman has stopped crying. She is just sitting there in the rocking chair and staring at the ground with a vague expression.
“You shouldn’t have said that. They’ll torture you the next time they come back.” She says.
“Hey, can you come over here and untie me from this chair?”
She shakes her head. “No, I’m sorry. I can’t do that.”
“She told me that my legs don’t work anymore.”
“What’s wrong with your legs?”
“I– I don’t know…” Her brow furrows with confusion. “I’ve been in this chair for so long… And…”
“Well, I’m telling you that your legs do work. Now quit your sobbing, rise up out of that chair and free me from my bondage!”
She slowly lifts the old flag up off of her lap and, leaning forward, drapes it over her shoulder. She places both hands on either armrest of the chair and rises slowly, shakily to her feet.
“See, you can still stand on your own two feet!”
“It- It feels really good.” A hint of a smile on her face.
“Did you make that flag?”
“Yes, I did. But that was so very long ago.”
“Doesn’t matter. We have to get out of this cave.”
Suddenly the blue fire winks out and everything returns to darkness.
A moment later I open my eyes and I’m laying in bed. My wife is still sleeping next to me and I can hear birds chirping outside.
* * * * * * *
Original writing / photography / artwork by J. E. Lattimer
© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved