A Gothic Meditative Journey into the Tunnel of Fear
[voice from the Other Side -- Sha'Tara]
It began as a deliberate entry into a gaping opening in the side of a low mountain. I could hear water dripping from wet walls and feel the clinging cold dampness of the place. The question I had to face was whether to proceed into this cavern, and to what end. I could not know the end of it without the experience of it, so I decided to enter.
There was a kind of track made of natural crushed shale under foot. It made a wet crunching sound under my boots. As I went down and deeper I was surrounded by an increasing opaque darkness. I had no fire or flashlight here. Just my senses to guide me and a desire to know.
After a time of walking slowly down a gentle incline my eyes finally gave up. There was no light to define the surrounding darkness. At that point I noticed a new kind of light, surreal, like the light that has been photographed surrounding living things. I could see without seeing. And I could walk with greater assurance as I descended an ever-increasing downward incline. The water still dripped from the black walls of this cave but now I knew this wasn't a cave but a tunnel. It defined itself into a pattern of floor, walls rounded out into the ceiling.
Smells changed. Something I could not define touched my olfactory nerves - unpleasant. The tunnel curved to the left and narrowed. Now I was thoroughly engrossed in the thought of finding a reason for this thing to exist here, under this mountain. The descent angle remained the same, or so it seemed, so I did not have to think about means to regain the surface. I could walk back up the way I had come, and there were no other tunnels branching off to confuse me.
Just then the eerie light did reveal a branching tunnel on the right. Slightly higher than the one I was following and with what appeared to be a slight upward incline. I entered it and felt it. Dry - much drier than the one I had been on. Easy walking - no loose rocks. Choice. Should I change now and take this tunnel, or keep on the downward journey of the other one? Something within me reasoned this drier tunnel would be a dead end, or take me back up and out the other side of the mountain. I chose to continue down the original tunnel, ever deeper under the mountain. So I passed the first test.
My mind continued to question the quest. Who had carved these tunnels, and why? Where was the King under the Mountain? Where was the sound of hammers as dwarves carved out the hard black rock to find their precious stones, their silver and gold?
"What will I find in the tunnel?" asks Luke Skywalker of Yoda. "Fear" he replied. "Your greatest fear. Do not take your weapons down there, they will only contribute to your downfall." But the young, the rash, the foolish seldom listen to the voice of experience and wisdom. He went fully armed into the tunnel to be confronted by his arch-enemy, Darth Vader. They fought. Luke won and cut Vader's head off. When he looked into the terrible mask, his own face stared back at him. Fear gives birth to anger, anger to hate and hate to death. There is no escape. No escape. There is only one tunnel.
Long ago - in the future-now-past, the dwarves also delved deep under the mountains. They found untold riches and built magnificent halls. But their greed drove them to delve too deeply and they awakened the Balrog, the ancient creatures of Morgoth Bauglir, the first dark lord of Middle Earth. The dwarves were decimated and scattered over the land. They dwindled and became afraid, secretive and full of hate for anyone who approached their miserable hoards of poor stones or iron. Take heed, O Man, for your fate rests in your own bloody, greedy hands. Remember the dwarves. Remember the young Jedi's lesson.
A palpable fear is what I began to feel as the air grew dank and warm. Fear of what lay ahead. Something not living -- of what I understood as "alive" -- was lurking deep down this tunnel. I could sense it. It had eyes that could see the minutest details in the dark. That could see into the heart and find every weakness, every frailty, every shadow, every dark, hidden corner where residues of resentment, shame and guilt were stored. That is what it wanted to feast upon. The thing down there was starving for an orgy on human sin.
I knew then it would never let me leave this place, even if I turned now and tried to run up that long incline covered with loose shale. This was its world. Its underworld. It had secret passages I had failed to notice which now I sensed as flow of air coming from the sides of this tunnel - holes in the walls I had taken for simple crenellations. These it used as shortcuts to waylay any creature that wandered this far. It would be behind me now. It could be many, was many.
If we are to walk the darkness we must be certain that we do not carry darkness within our mind-heart. Only the pure of heart can pass unmolested to enter the sacred place of sacrifice. Yes, that's what had drawn me down this corridor of non-time. I remembered what came at the end of this tunnel. The place of sacrifice and redemption. And I knew now why the beasts with the baleful eyes waylaid me. If I passed, I would have a clear conscience. Thus I would know that I could offer myself as a sacrifice upon the altar of fire at the end of this journey. I could freely make that choice, and in doing so, I could call upon the great forces of spirit to grant my one wish. I could not be gainsaid in this. If I passed.
They knew. And they came upon me to find my darkness. To feed on my fear. Fear is darkness. I am so close to being devoured here. I have no weapon with which to ward these starving demons. I have no protection. There is no place to turn, not even against a wall - they are all around me, salivating, snarling, growling. "Give in to your primordial fear... give in and scream! Think of the pain you are going to endure when their poisoned fangs sink into your flesh - scream!"
"Peace!" I said to myself almost silently. This is why I came. And I closed my eyes and slowly sank upon the floor of the tunnel. Beings, as angels, took my hands and led me the rest of the way. So did I pass the second test. The third has yet to come.