Underworld

By E. Martin Pedersen

I don’t know how I got here, and it doesn’t matter – I’m here, in the caves. At first, I tried not to get lost, to remember where I’d been, study the configuration, but that proved pointless since I can’t see (no flashlight or torch). I go forward, left, right, a bit up, a bit down; I come to forks and choose, always feeling my way along the walls. Actually, I feel less anxious now that I’ve given up ‘direction’ in favor of ‘movement’. I’m not less anxious, however, about what’s after me. I don’t know who or what is chasing me—I imagine all sorts of killers and monsters—but I do know that my only option is to outrun it/him/whatever.

The chalky caves seem to be designed by chance, random corridors inside the earth. I sometimes find water that I drink or something (animal or vegetable?) that I can eat to keep going. When I’m shivering cold, I come into an opening that is several degrees warmer and vice versa. There are forces inside the earth.

I don’t know if this is a maze or a labyrinth, a sort of test or puzzle, or just random cave tunnels leading nowhere or somewhere towards a treasure, however, I can’t find. It would be great to turn a corner and see some light, to get out and breathe fresh air, but to focus on what I don’t have is a poor way to live. I can barely remember light and fresh air. I do go through hot flashes of hope or desperation; I cry and scream a lot. “Come and get me, you son of a bitch!”: that sort of thing.

But nothing happens, and I keep groping my way forward. I do hear sounds, back there. Sometimes I want to give up and roll into a ball. Then I don’t. I suppose bad luck or good luck brought me here instead of somewhere else. Better, worse, I don’t know that. Am I learning any lessons?

I’m lost. I’m afraid. I wish I were home, but I can’t remember home anymore either. I just know that it was a bit more comfortable. There I could usually see the passages and navigate the roads to get to my destination.

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E. Martin Pedersen, originally from San Francisco, has lived for many years in eastern Sicily where he teaches English at the local university. His fiction has appeared in Hinchas de Poesia, Here Comes Everyone, CURA Magazine, Literary Orphans, Hunger Journal and others.

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