Coming of Age Urban Fantasy Adventure

โ€œNever go out without someone who knows the way.โ€ That was the rule.ย 

I always thought that rule was rubbish.ย 

โ€œYou can go and explore if someone who knows the way goes with you, Carli. You just need to ask, and someone will.โ€ย 

I said inside my head that it was not exploring if someone was showing me the way. But even if someone had been there before, I decided it was exploring if I was discovering something for myself.ย 

โ€œThis place is safe.โ€ย 

Safe from what? I never asked aloud.ย 

โ€œThere is danger you donโ€™t understand out there. Someone who knows the way also knows how to stay safe.โ€ย 

What danger was there? No one told me, but they didnโ€™t know I wanted to know. I told myself, Iโ€™m not stupid, so it canโ€™t be that bad if they donโ€™t think the danger is worth explaining to me.

The decision to go out was a long time coming. The desire kept building and building. And one day, like a cup of water filled too full or a pot boiling over, I decided it was just too much to hold, and I went.ย 

The door wasnโ€™t guarded. That was a surprise. I thought someone would be there to stop me, or anyone else who didnโ€™t know the way, from going out. But there wasnโ€™t, so I unlocked the door and marched out, shutting it behind me.ย 

The building I grew up in is gigantic. Lots of people never leave it, and if you do, youโ€™ll just see more enormous buildings lining long streets, with the sky in the crack up above. Iโ€™d been told a regular person couldn't just find their way around inside the building. Only someone who knew the ways could do that without getting lost or running into the danger which I seriously questioned the existence of.ย 

I remember that things didnโ€™t look bad outside the places Iโ€™d always known, just different. At least, thatโ€™s what I told myself. Dirtier in some places, and darker where bulbs had burned out. Those got replaced quickly at home, so I absentmindedly figured someone was probably on the way to fix those already.ย 

At first, the biggest difference during my exploration was that I hadnโ€™t seen any windows. It had been daytime when I left home, but there were so many burned out bulbs in the hallway, it was hard to see in the gloom.ย 

โ€œWho are you?โ€ย 

The voice was close to a hiss, but it was also raspy, like someone who was sick. I remember I jumped, then turned in a circle, but I couldnโ€™t see anyone. I chalked it up to the hallway being so dark.ย 

Again the voice demanded to know who I was.ย 


โ€œWhere are you from?โ€

โ€œThe rooms back there.โ€ I pointed behind myself.ย 

โ€œDo you know the way?โ€

I remember thinking, Again with knowing the way? Maybe someone caught me after all. โ€œThe way to where?โ€ I thought I was being so clever.ย 

โ€œYou donโ€™t.โ€ย 

The voice didnโ€™t sound happy, but satisfied. A hand grabbed my arm. It was cold, cold like the glass of the windows in the winter. The only thought I had at the time was, Itโ€™s a dead hand.ย 

I was wrong. It was alive. And it wanted to pull me somewhere. But the voice stopped talking and just hissed, and let go, and I ran. I think it was because at that point, I still had some light in me, even though I didnโ€™t understand.

There are a lot of other things in the building that are alive. And some of them donโ€™t like us. For a lot of them, itโ€™s because of the light, but not because they hate the light or they want to eat it or they want to kill it or anything like that. Itโ€™s because the dark things just canโ€™t come in contact with the light things. Itโ€™s painful for both sides. Which one changes just depends on which one is stronger and wants it more.ย 

The first one that grabbed me was weak, but the brief touch still changed me. I got cooler. I didnโ€™t feel so warm. But I just knew I wanted to get away.ย 

I found the end of the hallway, and the stairwell, and went down. I tripped over little things in the dark, and they complained about me being too hot and too bright.ย 

I got lost. I wandered the building and I ran from everything that touched me or spoke to me. When I found quiet stairwells I went up, but Iโ€™d always encounter something unpleasant and start running down again.ย 

Sometimes I would see a door that had a bit of light coming out from under it. I would stop and pound on these, but when they opened, so much light and heat came out that I thought I would be burned to death, so I turned and ran again. Things were always grabbing at me in the dark, and every time they touched me I got weaker and colder and more tired.ย 

Iโ€™d stopped knocking on doors with light under them because I was afraid of the burning that came when they opened. But then a whole gang of the cold things in the dark came after me. I could hear their pounding feet and raspy breathing, and I could feel the cold cloud that came with them.ย 

And then I saw light coming from the stairwell ahead, the stairwell I had only known was there by the echoes I could hear. The light was getting brighter and brighter, and I was certain it was a fire coming for me.ย 

I saw a door that had only a little bit of light coming out from under it, and I thought, Thereโ€™s not enough light there to hurt me, and the door will be enough to keep the fire and the cold out. So I stopped running and tried to open the door.ย 

It was locked. I beat on it with one fist while I rattled the unmoving knob with the other. โ€œSomeone help me!โ€ย 

There was shuffling behind the door.ย 

โ€œPLEASE!โ€ I screamed.ย 

โ€œBe still.โ€ย 

Warmth like sunlight through the windows Iโ€™d lost poured over me, and I turned to see who had answered me, but all the light hurt my eyes, so I squeezed them shut. A hand took mine, and the hold was gentle, but it was so hot it burned. I yelped and pulled away. โ€œYouโ€™re hurting me!โ€

โ€œYou called for help. If you want it, you must take my hand. Your eyes cannot see in this light.โ€ย 

The hand was torrefying, but I held on through the pain. I didnโ€™t know the way. I told myself I wasnโ€™t so stupid anymore and that even if it hurt, I would get home and everything would be fine.ย 

I wasnโ€™t fine. I was cold. The hand of the one who knew the way burned me. It took a long time to heal. But finally I got warm again, and more than that, I got hot and bright. I didnโ€™t know if that was possible when I came back, but I told myself I was done with making decisions all on my own and thinking I was the best judge of things.ย 

I also said I was no longer interested in going out, and that I was content not knowing the ways.ย 

Yet here I am, and I know the ways, and I found you, you cold little wanderer. Itโ€™s okay to cry. The tears might be like ice, but your cold heart is melting. Iโ€™m taking you back to the light. I hope youโ€™ve had enough exploring. And I hope you follow the rule from now on: Never go out without someone who knows the way.ย 

April 26, 2024 05:35

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Darvico Ulmeli
07:41 Apr 26, 2024

We are all scared of darkness. Exploring is fun but it can be perilous. The most difficult is exploring ourselves. The tension is good and the description is magical. Loved.


Thank you so much for reading, and especially for your comment, Darvico! Darkness and light are such an interesting topic, and I thought they would pair well with exploration. Thereโ€™s a line from a song I like that goes โ€œI was a lonely wretched soul that lost in the dark cried out your nameโ€ (Sarah Sparks, Eustace Scrubb). [The tension is good and the description is magical.] Wow, what a compliment! Again, thank you so much!


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