The easiest way to enter is with sorrow. The moment I allow sorry to settled in my brain, a boulder rolls away from the back of the cavern and a shadowed, light-eating passageway awaits me. There are certainly other ways to access the Cavern, some are more pleasant while others only serve to terrify. Each entrance leads to a different section of the Caverns. Thickly flowered walls can wrap you in peach while seemingly endless pits of darkness can swallow you in fear. Each entrance to a different room but none quite as useful as sorrow. Standing in front of it, facing the gaping archway and listening to the wind whistling from it, it is impossible not t feel fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of whats to come, it fills me and off in the distance a crack sounds as another doorway opens. Icy cold tendrils of fear race across the forest floor and I force myself into the cavern lest the tendrils claim me for their own.
Damp and cold are the only two things that await me. Even light is taken away as the boulder rolls back over the entrance. It will open again once I finish what needs to be done. Eventually, my eyes adjust to the light and the familiar room comes into focus. It all happens the same until this point. It is at this point that during my last visit, just like ever visit, everything changed. The room stayed the same, save one new addition everything, but my actions always were just the slightest bit different. Mist drifted across the long, rock hallway, obscuring the crouched figures from view. Fear, sorrow, remorse, anger and sadness wove together to form a mossy carpet that blanketed the floor and walls. The thin soles of my shoes thretened to slip out from under me as I urged myself forward. The stone room seemed endless, stretching out to an unknown and sightless end. The more steps I took, the clearer it became that the shadowed figures were actually men, sitting on the ground. I know exactly who the figures are but I held my breath all the same.
The mist pulled back like a curtain to reveal the first figure: me. I sat cross legged on the ground, looking straight ahead. The mossy ground had grown up to cling to the bottoms of my legs, anchoring me to the ground. Wearing no shirt, a pulsing, red and purple scar cut my flesh deep, just above my right thigh. A pair of track spikes, long forgotten, laid in the ground next to me. I leaned down to peer into my doppelganger’s eyes as I had hundreds of times before. The only thing I found was an empty, glazed over stare. The figures looked like me but they weren’t me. What waited in front of me was hundreds of empty husks of myself, shells I had fought to escape. I continued forward, planting one foot in front of the other. With each new parting of the mist, a new empty shell sat staring into empty space.
The hallway of moss and stone was longer than I remembered but it always seemed that way. This time, however, there seemed to be more copies of myself than there normally were. Each copy was posed in a different position, each one was paused in a different instance of my life. The figure were more than just empty husks, they were frozen memories. Each one was different and each one was a fresh pinch of salt to a semi-healed wound. One figure depicted me surrounded by wrinkled chocolate wrappers while another depicts me sitting with a back brace wrapped around my midsection. Each of the figures were covered in various amounts of moss. Some of them only had the smallest bit wrapped around his legs while others were coated in moss up through the midsection. It took a long walk but eventually I made it to the worst one.
I noticed the skid marks first. Thick, charcoal black tire tracks smeared across the moss ground, spiraling in circles around my figure. The moss had completely taken over my clone, encasing my entire body in a thick, green coat. The moss crawled up my chest and back and clung to my shoulders. It had worked its way through my hair and stopped at the edge of my face, framing it perfectly. The skid marks traveled up the moss cocoon and across my face, smashing and shattering my features. I could only pause a second in front of the figure and could only spare it one glance. The moment I made eye contact with myself I felt the hook sink in. It latched onto a mental ring in my gut, holding tight before drawing me a step towards the figure. The invisible line hanging from the end of the hook was taut, dragging at me from behind the figure’s forehead. I tore my gaze away from the figure and the hook was gone as quickly as it had appeared. I turned back to my original task, making my way to the new figure that awaited me. It wouldn’t be far now.
I felt the new figure before I saw it. A pulse hummed through the air, a wave of vibrations that cut through my skin to the very bone. I hesitated a step but another pulse washed over my body. Twenty more steps and seven more pulse passed before I saw the new figure. The figure of me looked just like the rest except for this one had no moss holding it to the ground. The hook extended from the figure’s forehead so quickly and with such force that I could practically see the beam of mental energy as it attached to my gut. I didn’t fight against it. As the hook dragged me closer and closer to the figure, I took a good long look at it. The figure’s face was completely clean and unmarked but the same couldn’t be said for the rest of it. Bullet wounds riddled the figure’s chest, piercing holes in the shirt and flesh. Bright red blood ran from the wounds, soaking the white shirt red and dripping softly onto Cavern floor. The moss around the figure was scorched and burned, as if someone had taken a blowtorch to it. The burns continued up the figure’s body, searing the fabric and flesh. A split second before the figure drew me in, I looked into its eyes. The eyes looked exactly like the others, lifeless eyes with no soul behind them. The difference was that at the very back of each pupil sat a small, red hot ember. The ember burned bright, rolling over in bright orange flames. The hook pulled me right up to the figure and I laid my hands on its shoulders. My flesh ran with the figures flesh and the world turned upside-down. The Cavern spun around, spiraling away into darkness. The darkness cleared and I was staring out of the figure’s eyes, looking down the rows of figures I had just passed. As always, I strained to move my arms and legs and as always, the figure didn’t budge. I let my eyes fall closed, knowing that the embers still burned bright, and felt the remorse and anger I had coated the floor with creep up to pull at my legs. Here I stay until the embers burn away. Here I stay until I leave the figure an empty husk or become trapped in the Cavern forever.