Mysterious Echoes ~ Title, genre, premise by ediz12
It was an odd feeling, the Earth didn’t really shake, but everything seemed to shift. The ancient city called Yanki was up in arms, and the local open air bazaar was buzzing with gossip. There was one small place that seemed immune to the chatter and screams; a small hole in the wall that served tea and snacks was quiet, the patrons chatting away peacefully. A few were quietly speculating as to what they felt, but mostly they were putting things back to rights and moving on from there. The peace and harmony was shattered when a veiled woman burst through the small curtained alcove into the dimly lit room.
“There’s a cave,” she shouted. “Erupted up from nothing, a gaping maw in the city.”
The owner looked up from his game with one of his friends, Johnathan and stared at the woman. The spectator of the game, pulled himself to his feet and walked over to her with an easy smile.
“Pease good woman, come, sit and have some tea and tell us what you saw,” Aidan spoke quietly while guiding the veiled woman to a cushion. When she was settled he brought her a cup and filled it carefully. Ediz, the owner, and Johnathan his absentminded friend moved to sit around the small table with Aidan and the woman.
“The children, my nieces, and I were out hanging the wash on the rooftop. My sister had gone to the south market for some extra spices and to look in one of the new shops,” she rambled, her hands reached out for the cup and they trembled visibly. “Then… Something happened. I didn’t feel a shaking or anything, just like I was on a table that someone lifted up one end on. When I got to my feet, down near the south market was this… I guess you’d have to call it a cave. Like you’d see in a mountain, large open hole surrounded by rock, but there is no mountain here for the cave to come from.”
Aidan rested his hand on hers for a moment then looked at his friends.
“Let’s go check this out,” Ediz said. Johnathan nodded and Aidan broke into a wide grin. “We will find your sister and send her home, and then we will look into this cave.”
Ediz stood and went behind the small counter of his shop, picking up a large satchel and began filling it with items. Johnathan picked up the cups and put them away, and Aidan went to find the person who usually filled in for Ediz when he needed to take a break.
After about fifteen minutes the three of them were ready to go. They waved to their friends in the shop, spoke quiet reassuring words to the frantic woman, and headed out the curtained alcove onto the hot and sunny street. The men moved through the bustle and commotion with ease, and before long they were in the south market. The wayward sister was easily found and she went running off to collect her sister, then to fetch the children from the neighbor. As she disappeared into the crowd, the men looked at the strange and towering stone almost-arch. The tip of it was higher than most of the taller temples on this side of town. The gaping cave mouth stood open to the top, and it looked as if there should have been more stone around it, like somehow the cave was ripped from a mountain side, or even stranger, that the mountain it was from was just invisible behind the large cave. The men approached it with a little caution, and saw that the local police were already taping the place off and setting a guard to keep people out. Ediz walked up to a taller man whose dark beard was peppered with grey. They chatted for a bit and Ediz gestured to his friends who stood back but still apart from the crowd. The man scowled but after a few words from Ediz he was laughing and he waved them through the barricade.
“What did you say to him,” Johnathan asked as they moved past the tape.
“I told him that you were renowned explorers and I was your guide,” Ediz replied with a smirk playing on his lips.
“Oh really, “Aidan replied, almost laughing himself, shifting the bag and pulling a large flashlight out.
“No,” Ediz said simply, but the one word was weighted with much amusement. “He owes me a favor. I reminded him of the time his son ended up in my shop after picking a fight with some of the local thugs. I told him you were coming with me and he was unhappy but he knows he can count on my shop being the quiet place in town, a refuge for those who need it.”
“Makes sense,” Johnathan said while nodding. He looked around the large opening that they were standing in and he pointed. “Is that some kind of marking?”
“Look at him, right to work,” Aidan laughed, smacking Johnathan on the shoulder and heading over to look at what he saw.
The wall was covered in scratched writing, numerous languages, all scrawled over each other. The graffiti was a jumble of phrases and letters, only a few words could be discerned but without context they meant nothing. Aidan turned and looked down into the darker back of the cave, and he pulled his flashlight up. Even though they were still standing in the sun, the back part of the cave was dark and shadowed and the bright beam cut into the dark. Something glittered, but then as if pulled back or running away the glitter disappeared with a quiet clatter. Ediz pulled out his camera and snapped a few pictures of the wall, trying to capture the fact that the words went as high as his eyes could see, and even extended some onto the floor. Once he was pleased with what he got, the three of them moved back farther into the cave.
“Is it just me, or is the sound of the city completely gone,” Aidan asked while turning to face the bustle of people not a hundred feet away. The look on his face was mildly confused.
“You’re right, it’s like I’m watching a silent movie,” Johnathan replied.
Ediz turned around and looked out at the throngs pushing against the police barrier. He cocked his head to the side as he tried to listen for the amplified voice on the bullhorn as the bearded man who let them in spoke to the crowd. He shrugged and looked at his friends. “Maybe it’s just the way the place is acoustically, the sound doesn’t bounce in to us properly or something,” he said, still watching the scene beyond the mouth unfold. “Let’s head deeper in.”
Aidan with his flashlight take the lead, and instead of walking down the center, they stay near the wall of the cave. The ceiling begins to drop lower and lower, and at the same time, the floor begins to slope ever so slightly. They stop for a moment at the spot they think they saw the glittering thing on the floor, but when nothing is there and there are no signs of anything being there, they move on. The tunnel closes around them, leaving them enough room, but compared to the entrance it feels cramped, and after a little over five minutes of walking, the sun and the mouth of the cave are out of sight. Johnathan pulls out some chalk from his pocket and marks the wall as they walk, while Ediz fishes out a large lantern and gets it glowing around them.
The only sound to be heard is their footsteps , echoing off of cold dark stone. Their shoulders hunch and they begin looking around for something other than each other, something to make the place feel less alone. The air is oppressive and after a bit, Johnathan stops walking and looks at Ediz and Aidan.
“Something’s terribly wrong here,” he says while running his fingers over the odd remnants of words etched into the stone. “This strange graffiti is everywhere, even the ceiling, and it feels like we’re being watched, without feeling like someone is here but us.”
Aidan nods, Ediz frowns, and they both look around the small area they’re standing in. After a few dozen heartbeats they hear a sound in the distance, but with the echo it’s hard to tell if it’s behind or in front of them.
“Sounds like some kind of snake,” Ediz states finally.
“No, some pad-footed animal with claws,” Johnathan says. “You can hear the claws tick on the stone.”
“Sounds like shoes to me,” Aidan replies with a shrug. “Let’s keep going.”
The quiet walk keeps on, but soon the rough walls with strange words fades into almost palatial stonework. Sweeping columns hold up a fantastically domed ceiling, and the remnants of intricately carved arches, some leading to niches where statuary stands. Other arches hold what could be new tunnels branching off and away from the central room they found. The stone reflects some of the lantern light, making the whole room dimly lit, just a little darker than what Ediz’s shop is kept normally. The air is cool, and a small breeze, wafts past them. Johnathan quickly moves and marks the door and the floor where they entered to make sure they can see how to get out while Aidan starts inspecting the stonework. Ediz marvels at the ceiling, the design lines that are reminiscent of the work in the larger Temples, Mosques, and Churches in the city. As they’re standing quietly, the strange sound is heard again, this time closer, but when they look, nothing is to be seen. Once again, a short disagreement is had as to the origin of the sound, each man has changed his mind and the location of the sound is more mixed than before. After the argument is finished, they agree to look around in the alcoves and niches to see if there’s anything that might indicate who made the place. Ediz snaps a few pictures of the ceiling and some of the stone work while Johnathan numbers each of the branches that come off the room. Aidan looks at the statues and other objects on pedestals, and half way around the circle, he calls the other two over.
“Look,” he points at a large gem in the hands of what might be a Buddha. “This is the fourth time I’ve seen something holding a gem like this.”
“I’ve seen a gem like that on the ceiling, right there,” Ediz replies, pointing at the center of the ceiling.
“I wonder,” Johnathan says, pulling a small penlight from his pocket and shining it into the gem. The light split out the back a little, but mostly it bounced right back. “Let me borrow that Aidan, and both of you sit on the floor.” Johnathan took the larger flashlight, stood off to the side and shined the light into the stone. The light broke apart, making a few of the other gems light up around the room. Johnathan sighed and shrugged.
After a moment, Aidan took the flashlight and stood below the large gem in the center and shined the light into that gem. Light shattered into rainbows and soon all the gems were shining brightly. Each alcove lit up, showing brilliant images in light around their statues. It was a breathtaking sight and all three men were silent as they admired the sight. Aidan balanced the flashlight on the floor and walked over to look at the first statuette he saw.
“Ediz, come take pictures of this,” Aidan called, waving his hand over. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it, and I’d love to be able to do something with the images after we get out of here.”
Ediz nods to Aidan and steps back, making sure to get the whole alcove in his shot, and he hopes that the small details are visible in the end image. The men chat a bit as the move around, looking at each different statue, getting a good picture of the niches, and finally, they end with a picture of the three of them by the largest of the statues in the room. They were in high spirits and had just sat down to eat when they heard the noise even closer than before, and instead of arguing, they went silent, each looking for where it came from.
“I don’t think I’ve seen this room lit like this for more than a century,” a soft female voice purred from the dark corridor marked with a large chalk 8. “Maybe even a few centuries, time passes differently in here.”
“Come join us and enjoy the room then,” Ediz said while looking toward the archway and squinting into the darkness.
“I need not move into the light to remember the history of this place,” she replied. “Thank you for the offer. However, it is getting time you started moving again. Things are going to catch up with you soon.”
“Oh? What tunnel do you recommend then,” Aidan called out, a smirk playing on his lips.
“Any but the one you came in,” she replied, her voice echoing off the walls as if she was already moving away from the light.
“What do you think she means by that,” Johnathan asked, while picking up the pieces of his meal and repacking the bag he was carrying.
“Dunno,” Aidan said with a shrug, also packing his bag. “You numbered all the doorways, right? How about we just roll a dice to see what number we get and head down that one?”
“Sounds fine to me,” replied Ediz. “I think I have an app for that on my cell phone.” He pulled out his phone and messed around with it for a moment. “Ah, here it is,” the phone made a small noise, then Ediz’s face broke into a large smile. “Twelve, my lucky number, seems like a good sign, come on and let’s go then.”
After everything was gathered and they were moving back off into a hallway, the one labeled with a large chalk 12, they heard a sound behind them. Johnathan looked back into the large room, and he thought he saw a darker shadow coming from the tunnel they came from.
(End of installment 1… More coming later.)