Sudden was his consciousness in the darkness. The void was so empty it was difficult to understand how it pressed down on him so devastatingly. His eyes would not open, his mind a fog, but he considered how he was laying on something soft, almost supple. Strange what comes to mind first.
Gingerly he tried to raise a hand to his face, but found no hand to move. Nothing moved, but his nostrils which flared in and out with each panicking breath he took. Again, his hand, he must have a hand, that thing he had had all his life. So dear a part of his body that had built so many things, and destroyed so many things. A small toy for his son, an empire for his Father. His hand, his hand.
Perhaps to move his hand was too much. While he dare not open his eyes more than a crack, nor move his head to view his surroundings, as if he could in such darkness,he pushed all of his focus and being into finding his hand, and more so, into finding his fingers. Just a finger, his index finger, the one that had fired so many a rifle, writ so many a letter. Find his finger and wiggle it. Perhaps from there he could find another finger, and once found they could move his hand, and that would press whatever was holding him down away, such darkness.
No fingers came to him.
One long deep breath brought a stench to his nose. He knew it was a bad smell, a maddening smell, and once he had solved the crisis of his fingers, hand, possibly whole arm, he would have to face the smell that came with that deep breath.
Strange how memories come back to us. Perhaps it was a slip into a dream, or something his taxed mind sought in its strain. An old memory came back to the man in the moment he pushed the smell away from his mind, and had not yet refocused on his hands. In the void in his mind came a memory to fill the space.
Decorations painted his chest. He was in full officer dress, and the room was well lit, well lit and had such an ample amount of robust smells and flavors in the air. Crystals hung illuminated in a domed ceiling. He descended a grand stair case to the room below where fellow officers stood, glasses in hand, purple flowing between their teeth. The memory flickered forward a little, and a dance. A dance with a woman in a white dress that spun around her ankles as they turned in their waltz. Her perfect blonde hair moved in motion with her dress so smoothly. A smile, mixed with concern, but the man could only smile back in his memory. He knew more now that would come after his memory, other memories, shouts, concrete, smoke, darkness, but he clung to the memory of her concerned smile as they danced and her dress flowed inches from the floor. Indeed, her feet seemed to float inches from the floor as they danced; her blue eyes moist. He liked this memory.
That smell. Putrid. A decay that filled him.
His fingers came. They only came because pain came, and with the flash of pain from his arm to his mind the memory vanished. Winked out, more like. The memory gone like a fly on the surface of a pond, and only a ripple as it is engulfed by a small fish, so did his memory pass.
His fingers were there, undoubtedly, but to move them meant more pain, from shoulder to fingertip.
The man lay still. He felt everything now, from the pain in his arm to the cramp in his booted foot. The memory was more than gone now, he'd forgotten he had even been remembering a memory, so enthralled in the present pain and darkness was he. While he was very much in his body, his short term memory was scattered, like an empty radio wave, just noise. He was very much here, here, where? Why did his arm hurt so much, why was he laying on some soft moist ground?
Small, he had to start small. He was a man of great logic. He tried to calm himself through the panic rising from his stomach to his chest, wanting to escape in a torrent, like a flood from a levy, gushing from his mouth. He had to contain the screaming, the fright deep inside him. The logical section of his mind was beginning to work, awaken, work through the pain and confusion. His mind could not, or perhaps would not, take him to how he had gotten here, but was focused on making sense of his current situation. Logic had to be applied and to scream into the black made little sense and got less done.
A hurt arm, possibly broken, if anything dislocated. Pain throughout, he felt like he had fallen some great distance and landed on his back. Fallen and fallen,through darkness, a great black void. That did not make much sense though, had he fallen as far as his subconscious told him he had, he probably would not have lived.
An outrageous thought came to him then; the darkness had broken his fall. A dangerous thought. It was not scientifically sound, especially for a man on the forefront of high reason and understanding. But he felt as though he had fallen through darkness so thick and dense he had not really been falling at all, but rather he drifted downward, end over end much like a fallen feather. Through the thick blackness from something important above had he come. Now here in some putrid smelling pitch black, room? Cave?
His left arm moved. He could move his left arm a little. It was stiff, and cramped, and the elbow did not want to bend as if it were a rusted over axle. Slowly he bent his arm and lifted it to his chest where he let it rest. The muscles in his arm throbbed and contracted randomly. He lay for a time. How long he couldn't say. In such a darkness he could not much tell if his eyes were open or shut. Time passed, however much or little he was unsure, but time passed. He let his eyes shut. He understood his mind was under great pressure. Things such as this need to be taken with care.
This time he did not awake suddenly, but drifted back into consciousness, his right arm aflame with pain. The pain came directly from his right elbow and with each pulse, spread, pumping like hot liquid through his arm, up to his shoulder and down into his fingers. His left hand lay on his chest where he had left it before drifting away... drifting into the blackness... He threw his eyes open, focused, thinking, thinking. A broken elbow. He must have fallen, and must have landed badly on that elbow. While everything else hurt, none like his elbow. He assumed it safe to say, his elbow was all that was broken. Time mends bones, muscles heal, but if he lay there time would be his death.
With new resolution, he reached with his left hand, and took hold of his right wrist. The pain shot fresh through his arm, up his neck and across his chest. The officer brought his right wrist to his chest, cradling his arm there. Something broken in the elbow, to be sure. Facts. Solutions came from facts. He blinked, though he could not tell it except for feeling his eyelids flutter. Such darkness.
A fear came. The fear of blindness. He looked hard to the left, then the right. No pain came from the strain of moving his eyes, and heavy as his hand felt, a soft touch to his eyes did not impart any indication of an injury. He felt it somewhat safe to say that he was only in a place where light did not, and quite possibly never had, shown before; not a malfunction of his vision.
With great apprehension and courage, he rolled to his side and slowly, ever so slowly, so gingerly, using his good arm, pushed himself up to a sitting position. His head reeled and he gripped his wrist tightly, painfully, flooding pain from his elbow up to his head,clearing it, stabilizing him. Time was the enemy; to pass out again could mean death.
Such darkness, open or shut his eyes made no difference, so they remained shut. It was more soothing to be in such darkness believing it was because your eyes were shut. The truth was gingerly placed somewhere else, behind the front of his thoughts where his fine logic preside. With his broken arm cradled in his lap, he felt his face softly with his left hand. Sore, but everything in place. Perhaps a little numb from shock he was sure. He was able to wiggle his toes, and quickly realized one boot was missing. He sat with one boot and one…soggy sock. He was somewhere undoubtedly damp, even moist. Like a swamp, though no nature could be so dark, no moon, no stars, nor even clouds to reflect the light of the earth.
The man placed his hand on the ground, feeling it more intently this time. No foliage, only moist, supple ground. More facts. Facts that could save his life. The ground felt as if he lay on a mattress, soaked through. He raised his hand to his face and gagged. It was with great self control the officer did not retch into his own lap. The revolting stench came to him from his hand that had been pressed to the ground. From the back of his mind, where he had placed his concern of the smell, came rushing the realization he was somewhere of filth. He had had time now to rationalize, to seize himself, and was now able to cope with this fact.
Besides wanting to be off of the refuse, he needed to move, to get mobile. He ran his hand down the front of his body, feeling the tight buttons and undid one high up on his chest. He then slid his broken arm in, allowing the uniform to act as a sling. With some remorse he replaced his left hand on the foul ground and pivoted to his knees. A wave of dizziness washed over him. It was not the fear of painfully landing on his broken arm, but the fear of falling face first into the vile ground that kept him from collapse. This dedication to remain unsoiled brought strength to his arm. Once his vision, or rather the concept of it, had stabled, he pulled his booted foot under him and blindly reaching out coming up on his leg.
His hand came into hard contact with a wall and he was able to come to both feet. Again he clung to the wall with his body and arm. He felt his head spin from the rise. He had no way of knowing how long he had lain and been immobile, or how he had come to this place. He had cut his finger it felt like, reaching into the rough wall so hard because of his blindness. He nearly raised that finger to his mouth, but quickly pushed it away and gripped the wall with it. The last thing he wanted was for that finger, having touched the ground, to go into his mouth.
He rest his shoulder against the wall and with a grimace repositioned his arm into his uniform more securely. His left hand then went back to the wall, feeling it with his fingertips. It was like a cave, jagged rock, some parts rough, others smoother. Hesitantly placed one booted foot forward, his hand on the wall, then one socked foot forward. He had to move, he had to find how he had come here, or how he was to escape. Time was the danger, and he was an officer, he had an obligation to his nation to survive and continue the effort.
His fingers scraped and rubbed against the jagged wall as guidance in the dark. Careful though he was with each step, for fear of an object, or worse, a drop, he soon moved at what felt a comfortable pace, with never a change in wall or vision. He lowered his mouth and nose into his uniform, to try and breathe in his own body odor rather than his surroundings and step after step, his thoughts began to wander.
There had been a fire fight. Concrete on all walls, the floor, and the ceiling. Shouting. A hard recoil into his right shoulder again, again. English had been storming the bunker. No, Australians. Filthy Sandgropers. They had forced their way into the bunker in Bardia, North Africa. The more he walked the more memory came back to him. Raucous shouts of Australians mixed with his brothers as he fired down the narrow concrete hallway. Shot gun shells flying by his face as mortar strikes shook the world, the lights flickering with every blast that landed. Smoke, powder, chips of concrete from the walls around him stinging his cheek.
“Granate” his brother beside him had screamed with a headfirst lunge.
The man remembered no more than an explosion, and… a fall. Not a mental or psychological fall. His last image was of his comrade convulsing under the explosion, the concrete floor falling away like a broken dinner plate, and such darkness he fell tumbling into.
The man, the soldier, the officer, had come to a stop, leaning heavily against the wall. Vivid details had returned of this last conscious memory. A mixture of fear and anger swelled inside of him. It was because of some Sandgroper he was here and he meant to return to lighted world above. He had little doubt his comrades had beaten back the Australians and were probably fortifying as he stood there in the dark. They would presume their officer was dead, and what glory to see your officer raise again from the dead and take charge into victory. Pride swelled in his chest, enough to momentarily repress the pain in his arm.
He placed his hand against the wall, feeling the smooth, rough, sharp and rough textures of the wall that varied from one to the other with each step he took. The man of science noted quietly to himself that he must be walking along some ancient lava flow. Such a thing would explain the textures of the wall that guided him. He had no knowledge of any volcano existing, or ever having existed, in this area of North Africa. But he was no geologist, and who knew what could have existed thousands of years ago, and remain today. It was a good thought, that a true patriot as himself was probably the first in this modern age to touch something of so old an age. He found it proper they two should meet, even if the conditions were less than favorable for himself.
He was walking at that same comfortable pace, his thoughts moving this way and that. Studying the science against his hand, considering the soft ground beneath him, ignoring the stench permeating through his uniform covering his mouth and nose, to the glory and medals he would be awarded for bravery and grand deeds. So involved in these things was he that it was amazing he did not notice the shifting surface almost directly in front of him. He came to a stop, his breath catching in his throat.
In front of him was a great expanse of still water,. So dimly lit, it was impossible to pin point where the illumination came from that allowed him to see it through the blackness that had been so oppressive on his mind. He slowly took in the breath he had been holding and peered into the water. It was as if something deep beneath was illuminated. Too far away to see what it was, or where it was, but bright enough that the far reaches of its light were capable of reaching the surface.
Though he could see the water, it did not offer any view of his surroundings, or even much the wall his hand touched; only the still surface. A new challenge was before him. How to cross the water to his escape, and he contemplated the risks and necessities when he noticed the luminosity was growing. His eyes darted across the surface, back and forth as more and more water was made apparent by the brightening. No other land or cave or wall was visible as he stepped towards the water watching. Unknowingly, his breath was caught short again in his throat.
Then he saw it, the source of bio-illumination, but he instantly realized it could not be called, "light". It moved towards the surface. Appendages, many of them, smoothly came to the surface of the water, half submerged, then to the shore. The man stood several feet back, unable to move, unable to reason.
Fully beached, driblets of water slid from the creature as if it were oil. The large frontal part of the fine Prussians mind came dislodged. Hysteria so devastating, glazed eyes transfixed on the form approaching. Science was gone, explanation gone with the dislodged part of the, now mad, mans mind. The form moved as if slithering, then to legs, then as if balancing on tentacles. It was humanoid, it was animal, it was demon, it was subphylum of crustacean and man, then indescribable. The illustrious being gave no light.
It gave off a darkness that could be seen.
The man gibbered. He spoke no vowels, he spoke like an infant, noise spilled from his mouth that made no sense at all.
The form took in a breath that cut the mans wind and no more came from the mans mouth for of his terror. Untangled thoughts came, wishing he were blind to this darkness, then rapidly changing that wish to be deaf. Noise came from the now mostly humanoid form in front of him that sent his mind spinning. So many images and thoughts not his crashed through the front of his skull and deep into his mind. All things and knowledge against nature were made present before the man.
In animal instinct, the form of a man turned to flee away into a darkness he didn't understand the creature owned. Such haste, his sock betrayed his escape, slipping to the ground with a heavy fall. So far gone was the man, he never noticed his broken arm, or the many layers of supple rot the side of his face pressed against. All attempts to get up were abandoned as more noise flooded the darkness around him. He clawed at his ears as the words formed,
"FOOL! YOU AND YOURS ARE MINE TO CONSUME!"