I awaken from a dream I can not recall, gasping to fill my lungs with air. Beautiful images from my dreamscape flash in my head. They tell me things I can not comprehend. For a second I am bewildered and confused. It takes me a minute to come back to reality. I feel the soft, damp soil between my toes. The darkness and shivering cold comfort me. I am home. It reassures me to feel the cold steel clasped around my neck. To see the fuzzy purple and green blotches crawl across the darkness. For this is all I have ever known and it makes me feel secure.
There it is again. The smell of burnt hair and boiling rubber wafts into my nostrils offending the delicate hairs that live there. But this time the smell brings a sound with it. A subtle slithering sound accompanies the pungent burning aroma. This slight change in the reality I have always known, brings me great anxiety. I have never heard this sound before. It comes closer, until I feel the smooth scaly skin brush against my bare flesh. I let out a scream to which the response is a drawn out hush. I can not help but fear these unknown sounds and sensations, yet I fall silent. With two clicks and a quick clang, the steel band around my neck thuds on the soft soil. For a minute I sit there pondering my next move. This situation is unfamiliar to me. I attempt to stand, only to have my muscles fail underneath me. One more time. My knees pop and crack under the pressure of my body.
This cave seems to go only one way, up. At the top of the incline, a blue light pours down. When I get to the top, there is a long corridor. The source of light comes from giant glowing toadstools. There are so many different species of fungi living in this corridor. The dominant species in this cave is a golden, phallic shaped mushroom twisting out from clusters. There are complex markings on the wall. Ancient symbols holding great knowledge unknown to me. Beautiful landscapes of geometric art. Black ash taints the soil and as I venture deeper into the corridor, it begins to pile up around a set of tall wooden doors. The doors have been so carefully crafted with tiny, divine designs, which I can only make out once my nose is touching the door. There it is again. The scent of burnt hair and boiling rubber stains the doors as if they were boiled in rubber itself.
I slowly push open the doors, fearing what may lurk on the other side. I catch a glimpse of flame before it quickly extinguishes itself. I hear a long exhale and a cloud of black smoke emits from the darkness. I breathe in the black smoke which stains my nasal cavity with its vile aroma. It is too much. I purge. As I peer into the darkness a pair of yellow eyes peer back. Next, a smaller set of eyes pop up to the right of the yellow eyes. Pair after pair create a halo around the original set of eyes. There must be twenty or so of them now. A set of small eyes come into the light to reveal a gray snake which hisses and flicks its tongue at me. One by one the snakes reveal themselves. Finally, an old man brings his face into the light so that I may see it. I first notice the dark, heavy bags that hang from that pair of yellow eyes. I see his entire head now. An old man with snakes where his gray hair should be. Most of the snakes are alive and they slither across his wrinkled scalp. The remaining few have either been decapitated with a blade or crushed with a blunt weapon. They hang from his head drained of blood and limp. His nose is twisted. He breathes through a notch in his lower lip without opening his mouth. He comes further into the light exposing a lean body loosely wrapped in tough skin. Skin that has seen years of abuse. What I initially think are the same complex geometric patterns as the ones in the corridor were actually hundreds of scars all over his body. The cuts must have been deep because his muscles remain deformed where the scars lie. Where there should be legs and hips is just a thick scaly tail that tapers down to the end. He grins, revealing his brown stained teeth. He fills a wooden pipe with brittle, brown bark that snaps like tiny bones under the pressure of his finger as he presses it into the hollowed chamber. He brings the pipe to his mouth, strikes a match against his scaly lower body and lights his pipe. He draws in the smoke for what seems to be an eternity then exhales a cloud of thick, obsidian smoke. I’ve found the source of that scent. I cover my nose and gag at the thought of the pungent smell, yet it comforts me. It reminds me of home.
He does not speak but offers me a steamy cup of thick liquid. I know it is meant for me to drink. It is slimy and bitter but I do not want to offend him so I force it down. We come to an opening in the cave. I step through this portal and into another dimension. The soft green hairs tickle my bare feet. When I bring my eyes up, I see structures protruding from the ground. All of them look the same, yet at the same time all being different from one another. Exhibiting colors I have never fathomed. Some come up to my knees while others stretch way above my head. When I look up at them I notice glimmering lights in a stygian sea, a sea where you can never touch the bottom. These lights shimmer like jewels. The beauty becomes overwhelming. My eyes swell with tears of shock and awe. This is what he wanted to show me. This beautiful gift. He smokes again and exhales a cloud sparkling with every color imaginable until it seems like one perfect color. I no longer recognize the smell, as it now smells sweet and delicate like freshly baked chocolate souffle. These new sensations propel me in a state of bliss. I want to smell it forever. He blows it on me, blessing my body with the perfect aroma. I breathe in, appreciating the smell. The smoke fills my lungs with a satisfying sensation. It freezes in my lungs, I freeze. I can not move, the smoke has me shackled to the ground. I can not breathe. My instincts kick in and my body floods with adrenaline. My efforts to breathe are fruitless. I am staring up at diamonds in the onyx sea, amazed at such beauty. I forget about breathing, the monster, and myself. All I see is the overwhelming, cosmic perfection and I know. I am ready. I am going home.