Something evil stirs in the darkness.
|What Lies Beneath
Deep in the earth something stirs. Deeper than the deepest mine of men, deeper than the hallowed halls of the dwarves. So deep that no creature of the light has ever seen such depths. So deep, indeed, that only life in its vilest forms has been held captive there by decree of the angels. But something stirred in one of these deep pits, defying the age old orders that held it imprisoned within the earth. Stirred and began to swim upward through the surrounding rock that had oppressed it for so many eternities.
Upwards, always upwards it swam, turning the rock to red, flowing lava as it forced its way towards the deepest delving of mortal creatures. Like the diver returning from the deep with great sweeps of its arms through the churning earth, bubbles of fire streaming from its form as it nears the surface and the light forever denied it, onward and upward it forces its way. At last it breaks its way into an abandoned mine of men, emerging from the closing and liquid passage of its passing, a vile excrescence into the yawning blackness of that final deep chamber hollowed out by miners scraping the last pitiful ores from the black rocks of hopeless despair.
Now that it exists in the air breathed by walkers on the earth, we can see it, at least when its fire produces something a bit more tangible than our stuttering words of shadow and darkness can attempt at description. The fire that periodically swathes the form in scarlet and amber rivers of light allows us to comprehend how deep and vast is the shadow that surrounds it. At its centre, the darkness holds the figure of a man, so dark that it seems the only solid form possessed of this abomination, as dark and evil as the heart of man himself but no larger. The flames come and go at intervals with a whooshing sound, as though the thing breathes in the crushing atmosphere so far below the surface. Yet it cannot be air it breathes, there being no atmosphere in the heart of the living rock that has formed its tomb for so long.
And now we know that the thing has a name, a name it was given only recently by a man who could see more in his imagination than in the world about him. The dread word Balrog enters our mind and we shrink before the power of that name that in forgotten times brought the greatest and best of us so close to defeat.
Who will stand before this beast of pure evil to resist its drive to dominance, now that it has escaped from its prison? If the Balrog were to walk the land, where now are the mighty wizards of old to cast it back down to the depths?
But the thing has halted now, no longer moving upward through the passages and ways of the mine, stopping just short of the depth where light can penetrate. It stands and waits, the fire low and only occasional as it runs and flickers over the dark form at its heart. It waits, patiently, as though its eternity in bondage has taught it that time is a mere taster of the aeons that form the seasons of time. It waits, but whether for event or person, we cannot know.
Bradley Bonnington Weaver also waited patiently for his lawyer to finish reading the will. Old Uncle Heracles had been a stickler for precision and insisted on detailing every last asset that he doled out to his expectant heir. Which seemed a bit unnecessary considering that everything was going to Bradley.
The lawyer, Herbert Egbertson Garfish of Garfish, Garfish and Suckworthy fame, at last finished his reading and Bradley sat forward, hoping that his wait had ended. It was not that he desired to get his hands on the old man’s money but rather that he found this long-winded procedure painfully boring in spite of the reward proffered at the end. He was to be disappointed in his hope that the torture was over, however. Garfish now swapped the will for a much lengthier document produced from a drawer in his desk.
“These are the estate accounts I have drawn up in my capacity as your uncle’s executor,” he explained. “If you will bear with me, I can give you a full description of your inheritance after deduction of repayment of debts, administration fees and attendant costs and charges.”
Bradley nodded and the old solicitor began what turned out to be a long catalogue of woes and misery. The uncle’s wealth, it seemed, had been a complete mirage, his grand style of living a complete cover for his gargantuan debts. As Garfish rambled on through the lists of monies paid out and assets sold to pay off creditors, Bradley realised that there was going to be precious little left to him.
He was not too disappointed, having a fair degree of wealth himself, but it did irk that he had to sit through all this to dispose of the matter. He waited for Garfish to reach a final accounting.
And the old man did eventually wind up his speech with the words, ”So I’m afraid that there is nothing left for you, Mr Weaver. There has been insufficient residue for my full fees to be paid but, in view of your uncle’s long association with my firm, I have waived the balance. There is one remaining asset that has proved impossible to sell so I can hand that over to you as the sole heir.”
He bent over to take one more document from the drawer. Returning to his upright posture, he handed Bradley a sheet of stiff and yellowed paper. It was a share certificate, evidence of a full 75% of the shares in the Rio Meltis Mine of Angola Ltd. Garfish explained that the mine had been shut down years ago as completely mined out and the shares were now worthless.
Bradley stared at the flowery lettering announcing his ownership of this empty and decrepit old mine. Inexplicably, a spark of interest was kindled in him and he began to see that an adventure had fallen into his lap.
Six months later, Bradley disembarked from his flight in Luanda, the capital of Angola. The mine was situate in the far south of the country, so he still had a long way to go before he could inspect his inheritance. He set about organising a small expedition and, a week later, set off to drive to the mine.
When they arrived, they found the mine much as it had been left but with the pit covered over with a makeshift barrier of a few wooden boards. These took a moment to remove and they could gaze down the shaft into darkness. The old winch machinery for operating the elevator took a little longer to get running again, but Bradley soon stood ready to descend into the blackness and find out whether any value remained in the mine at all.
Taking his team leader, Mfwetu, with him, he boarded the elevator and was lowered into the inky depths. It was a long time before he re-emerged.
When he did, it was immediately apparent to the workers that their boss had changed. From being a smiling, garrulous fellow, he had become a silent, brooding figure whose eyes had somehow changed colour. They flickered even in the daylight with an intermittent amber glow. The man’s skin had become laced with veins that stood out in blue and gold. There was a darkness about him that could not be seen but each man felt in Bradley’s presence. Of Mfwetu, there was no sign and Bradley claimed he had fallen down an open pit in the mine.
That night, one of the men disappeared from his tent. In the morning there was unrest among the workers and, one by one, they walked off into the surrounding dry landscape, driven by fear of what Bradley had become.
And he, a creature of the Balrog and a vessel for the evil that now could walk upon the earth in full daylight, watched them go and did nothing to hinder them. There would be time enough to deal with all things, to devour the world and add the souls of men to his tally. His infinite hunger was to be satisfied at last.
Word Count: 1,411
For SCREAMS!!! January 20 2021
Prompt: None - a free day.