She started climbing down the side of the rocky cavern. The air was dark, heavy and dead. Obviously, there hasn’t been any airflow for some years now. How come a tunnel that ran deep into the earth like this has never been uncovered before? Cindy finally made it to the sandy bottom where she let out a harsh grunt. It’s been a while since she’s had to free climb in a long time without gear. She turned from the wall and looked out into the newly entered room of the tunnel. It was completely pitch black. Cindy turned on the light from her headband, squinting from the sudden brightness that enveloped the entirety of the room. It was a spacious gap that spread out into a circular almost smooth dome. The floor was a sandy spiral of speckled colors and small stones, reflecting the light coming from her headband. It gave a beautiful eyry glow.
Cindy stepped out into the open space, no echo bounced back as she took each step. It took her by surprise the silence from her boots as she expected the sound to vibrate off the walls. The room emitted a strange peace where everything seemed to be locked away in a different spectrum of time. She scanned the walls to see if any other tunnels lead further in, but found that this was a dead end. She reached the center of the cavern and inspected the middle. Shockingly there was a plaque with strange symbols discreetly placed just under the sand. She hardly noticed it as it purposely blended with the surroundings, bouncing off the same eyry glow the rest of the stones and sand did. With one slower glance around the room, Cindy knelt down to get a closer look at the plaque. She had studied different symbols from the past as well as dead cultures that left a very subtle hint of existence but had not encountered anything like this before. She reached out to touch the carved symbols but stopped just hovering over them. Instinctively she felt a sense of foreboding and withdrew her hand. She stood up and pulled her walky-talky out of her pocket. Still looking at the plaque she radioed her assistant.
With a damped bloop, she spoke into the mic, “Joe, I found what looks to be a meditation ring.” As she let go of the button another damp bloop sounded, signifying she was done talking.
A split second later a returning bloop rang and a male voice crackled through, “Anything cool looking? I don’t want to go home empty-handed this time.”
It ended with another bloop. Cindy frowned and shook her head. Did he think that all the explorations had to end with some big treasure? This was a quest for knowledge, not gold and silver. Her voice was laced with irritation as she replied, “Just get your ass down here.”
With the last bloop, she shoved with talky back into her pocket. He was going to take a while as he wasn’t very good at rock climbing. Cindy vindictively envisioned him falling on his attractive looking face as he came down. Why she chose him to be her assistant was beyond her comprehension. He was mediocre with any history or culture, greedy and very sly. A part of her wanted to release him from the position she gave him, but she had this nagging feeling he would be handy someday for her. She let him stay on her gut feelings. Cindy could never quite understand how she could understand these feelings, but they drew her to places no one else knew or discovered. This made her very successful with being the first person to uncover these hidden civilizations that people thought to have never existed. Although she firmly believed Atlanta didn’t exist, people urged her to go and find it because of her gift. Thankfully she proved herself right thus far.
While she was deep in thought she walked towards the walls and ran her finger along the almost perfectly smooth walls. It was as if the walls were somehow shaped naturally from water, like how broken glass would be smoothed down on the beach from the tide. Of course, that couldn’t have happened as they found the original cave so far inland from any major bodies of water. To top it off all the rest of the tunnels leading to this room were sharp and jagged, proving to be difficult to climb and hike through. As Cindy walked the outskirts of the room still running her hands on the stone, she felt like there was a reason she was brought here. This was no small coincidence that she happened upon the entrance and bullied Joe to follow along. She found herself smiling as he remembered his bitching and complaining the whole way through as she found slight pleasure in torturing him. He was a pretty city boy who struggled to the outback. It did come in handy though as he was amazing with technology where she was awful with computers.
Cindy shook her head as she realized she zoned out on thoughts again. As she forced herself back into the present she realized she was stopped at a particular part of the room facing the wall. Her hand stopped right on top of some very subtle markings left on the wall. It was the same style of symbols that was on the plaque. She hardly even noticed them as she moved her hand off the markings. She astonished herself on her inept ability to just stumble across things. She sighed and whispered aloud, “Now if I could only obtain the ability to communicate with people the same way I can discover things, I think I would be a pro.”
As she finished whispering, Joe fell off the remainder of the wall and landed flat on his face with a damp thud sound. She jumped as it broke her train of thought and she looked over at him. The room had an incredible ability to dampen noise that it was terrifying. She sighed as she realized it was just Joe and put her hands on her hips. “Are you wearing those boots I got you with the grip?”
Joe stood up with a grunt and he brushed off the sand caught in his stubbly face. He looked rough with the week look of growth and drenched with sweat. He said with absolute confidence once he was brushed off, “No. I am not.”
Joe turned on his headband and looked quickly around the room and drooped with disappointment. Cindy scowled but turned around back to the wall.
“It’s just an empty stupid room.” Joe whinnied, “What use is this to us? “Let’s go off the hard beaten path,” she says, “let’s go into this sketchy cave!” she says. “Hey, I brought us to a dead end with no profit,” she says!”
Cindy rolled her eyes and she hardly heard him kick something and caught him saying “ow” under his breath. Ignoring Joe, she pulled out some paper and lead to place over the top of the symbols. She thankfully imprinted the symbols onto the paper and studied the page intensely.
“I wonder what this means..” she thought out loud then trailed into thought.
Joe limped over behind her and looked over her shoulder at the page. Puzzled he asked, “How did you even see that? Do you think there is a hidden pathway that would open up from here?”
He gently reached for the paper out of her hand, brushing hers as he did so. Cindy blushed at the contact and let him take it.
Stammering she replied,” Oh.. uh… I kinda just… Found it. Like how I usually just “find” things.” She nervously chuckled as crossed her arms. She hesitated to say anything further as she always thought he would never believe her. Joe turned and walked towards the center of the room, studying the paper just as intensely as Cindy was. She watched him still with her arms crossed.
As he was walking she remembered the plaque on the ground and yelled, “ Stop! Don’t stand on the…” He kept walking and stepped on the plaque which shot a blinding light up and out of the ground. He was caught in the pillar of light jerked outwards as he shot his head up and silently screamed, pain wrenched through his face. Cindy was quickly dazed by the light and felt a harsh energy blow right through her. Voices of a different language blurred into her mind as she recovered her sight to see Joe trapped in the pillar of light. Confusion slammed her as the voices yelled loudly as she tried to take a step towards Joe. Cindy yelled out but nothing came out. As quickly as the light had burst out from the middle, a thunderous wind blew out and slammed Cindy to the wall. The deafening voices stopped and the light disappeared. Everything went black.
Cindy woke up. Her head throbbed violently as she tried to sit up. She must have hit the wall hard enough to knock her out. It took her a good while to recollect herself and try to make sense of where she was. It was still pitch black and she reached for her headband to feel it was missing. She rolled to her hands and knees and felt along the sandy ground to attempt to find the light, still in a daze. Suddenly she remembered Joe and the pillar of light and in a panic screamed his name. There was no reply and no echo in return. Oddly enough in her panic, she felt a strange calm. She tried to scream his name again but found her voice was quieter than she intended. She crawled still feeling the sand under her hand, the throb in her head still pounding. She couldn’t tell where she was in the room if they were still in the room, but she felt herself stop her hand in midair. Instinct hit her again as she knew she had reached the plaque. Where was Joe?
She felt the ground around the area and felt the fabric of a headband. Cindy fumbled as she gripped the band tightly and felt for the light switch on the light. Light burst forth from the bulb as she shakily tried to put the band around her head. She sat on her bottom, closed her eyes, and took slow deep breaths. Now that she could see, she needed to calm down. No use being unreasonable while trying to figure out what had happened. She allowed the strange peace to envelop her as she took her firm and steady breaths. On the last exhale she opened her eyes, ready for the worst. She scanned the room to find that she was indeed in the middle of the room and the plaque was right in front of her. The room was as if nothing had happened. There also was no Joe.
“Ok. Rationally, there is no way he could have disappeared.” Talking to herself helped her feel like she was still sane. “Maybe he got up and tried to leave.”
She leaned back onto her knees to look for footprints. As she surveyed the area she realized that there were no markings anywhere. The sand moved under her hands but left no indents as she shuffled on the ground. The sand purposely leveled out as if there was a brush flattening it as she moved around.
She leaned back on her legs and sat there. He was gone with no trace. She realized he had the paper that she traced the markings on. She looked around again and realized not only was there any signs of tracks. There was no sign of anything at all, including the paper. Sadness hit her just as hard as the wind did.
“What is happening…?” She felt like crying but the peace the room emitted would not allow for it. Cindy got up and walked to the wall where the symbols were. Maybe she could get some clues from the writings but as she approached they too, where missing. She stared into nothingness for a moment, then glanced at the plaque. The only way she is going to know what happened is to do the same thing. She crawled over to the plaque and took a deep breath. She slammed her hand down on the stone and closed her eyes while she did so. Still keeping her eyes close she waited. Nothing happened. She waited a moment longer then slowly let go of her breath and opened her eyes. She looked at the plaque and realized that something was different about it. She blinked, and slowly the realization started to sink in.
An angry, annoyed eye stared up from the stone, her hand over the other one. She blinked again. “Oh, God. I must still be dreaming. Or… or I hit my head really badly.”
A voice spoke into her head. ‘Please remove your hand from my eye. That really hurt.’
She ripped her hand from the plaque and yelped. She stared at the plaque and shook her head slowly. “No. This is impossible.”
The plaque no longer had any markings or symbols, just the eyes now staring back up at her. The look was now concerned and desperate. Cindy felt a sharp pain within her chest. She felt around the plaque and felt loose sand around it. She dug along the edges of the stone in the ground as desperation hit her hard despite the peace she felt from the room. She began to uncover the edges and was able to pull the plaque out of the ground. She lifted up the piece and slowly sank back into the ground, holding it shakily. Her mouth was dry as she was panting, and managed to finally force out the words.