“Where are you going?” Molly asked. She acted as if she did not already know. It was an insult to both of us. It was obvious that I was packing up my tiny university bedroom.
“I am leaving and I’m never coming back,” I replied.
“I am surprised at you, Caleb,” She said. Her disapproving look gave me a moment’s hesitation but I pressed on. She had that effect on me.
“Frankly, I am surprised at you, Molly. Those things we saw were horrible. They were almost beyond belief. I have to leave. I cannot understand why you are staying,” I said. I closed another suitcase full of my possessions.
“Caleb, we saw things few have ever laid their eyes on. I agree that they were terrible but the next find could be fantastic. There is still so much we can learn,” She said.
“Or it could be worse. I cannot take that chance, Molly. We should not take that chance. Nobody should take that chance. Maybe the past is meant to stay buried,” I said. I knew it could be considered an insult to the field of archaeology but it was how I felt.
“We were a team, Caleb. We promised to be there for each other,” She said.
“I remember. That promise was genuine. I still feel the same as I did then but I simply cannot continue. I will not continue, Molly,” I replied.
“I cannot make you stay here. That is still not within my power to do that.” She paused as we both took in what she meant.
“I know. But I still must go. And soon.”
“I guess so.”
* * *
I had expected the stone door to shut behind me but it remained open. I am not sure if I liked that idea worse or better than the thought of those things from town following me inside. There was a torch already lit near the door which immediately felt welcoming. I am sure this was not meant to terrify me but it did. How had anyone known that I would get in the door soon enough that the torch would not go out? How long had it hung on the wall while lit? It raised too many questions that I did not know the answers to.
I walked down a winding path in a tunnel carved out of the rock of the hill. The air was still horrible but I had slowly adapted to it. I hoped I was not breathing in anything dangerous. The tunnel went on forever or close to it but I kept walking. I had already walked for miles during the morning and now my feet began to throb with pain. But still, Molly Price must be just ahead and in need of rescue. I carried on.
What felt like miles later, I looked at the walls of the tunnel and I had to stop for a moment. There were those alien symbols again and they were glowing, reflecting the torchlight as if they were wet. My hand itched, wanting to reach out and touch the symbols but I stopped and pulled back at the last moment. I did not need to know. I needed to carry on.
The tunnel suddenly opened up into a larger chamber. I say suddenly because it had looked like the tunnel would extend another couple of miles. I noticed that there was no sound in the chamber except the sound of my breathing. The air was still and the chamber was far too quiet. Then there was a sort scuttling noise from the ceiling to my right and then to my left and then ahead and behind. I had heard nothing like it before in my life.
“Hello?” I called out. “Is anybody here?”
There was no answer but the scuttling sounds stopped as if they were waiting. I walked further into the chamber and the torch lit up more of it but not the high ceilings. I tore my eyes from that direction and tried to look around. There was a large throne made of what looked like marble with blood red veins in it. There was a female sitting very still on the throne and I hurried forward. It was her but strangely she was still heavily in shadow no matter how close I brought the torch. Her eyes suddenly opened.
“Caleb Newsom, it has been a long time. Ages, I think.” She said.
“If ages are years,” I said. “I missed you. Are you alright? I got your journal, I was afraid something happened to you.” There was urgency in my voice and I realized there was none in hers.
“I have discovered a lot, Caleb. So much I wanted to show you,” Molly said. Except for her eyes and mouth, no part of her had moved yet.
“Molly, something is wrong. You have to tell me,” I said.
Molly turned her head to look at me. The shadows still clung to her as if they were physical attributes. She stood ever so slowly and stepped toward me, I stepped backward. I was nervous. The shadows fell away from her as if she had decided to let the light touch her. I gasped. Parts of her face and her body had been replaced with something I cannot begin to describe. It was monstrous, yet beautiful.
“I was a fool back in school. I thought I could only have a career. Now I realize I can have both the knowledge of the ancients and a man I love.” Her eyelids flicked closed and open again like a scarab’s wings.
“That’s not what I want anymore. Definitely not like this, Molly,” I said. I tried to back away but I heard the scuttling again very close behind me. They were closing in.
“I have so many things to show you,” She said. She smiled and kept advancing.
I hope that nobody ever finds this journal or Molly’s journal. I hope the lilies grow and grow and cover the entrance to this place. I hold out hope for the world.