I am participating in the Age of Pandora fitness program from darebee.com. These posts are a fictional representation of the workouts that I do each day. I list my actual workout in parentheses at relevant points.
Previously in this story...
(Or start from the beginning.)
Day Six, Part Two
While the cave wasn't far from the mines, the terrain was rocky and rugged; the sun had already passed its zenith and was on the way down when I finally found the cave. (50 jumping jacks) If the shadows hadn't been at the angles they were, I might've missed it altogether; the entrance was small and nearly overgrown with vines, and I had to crouch down to enter.
After a yard or so, the cave widened and the ceiling rose enough that I could stand upright, though just barely. Though some light did make it in from the outside, it was meager; searching around the junk littering the floor, I found the stub of a candle stuck to a flat, smooth stone. I used one of the precious matches from my pack, which I set on the ground, to light it and held it aloft, shielding the flickering flame with my hand from the breeze that wafted in from the entrance.
The fluttering orange light illuminated the dry walls, revealing a cacophony of mad charcoal scribbling all over the stone. Much of it was mathematical equations, using esoteric symbols and letters - whether the math involved was beyond my knowledge or whether it was just gibberish, I couldn't tell. Interspersed amongst the frantic algebra were words and phrases: EVOLVE, NEW WORLD, HARVEST. My heart sank. No answers here - only more questions.
I heard a scuffling step behind me and, startled, turned to find its source - only have stars explode before my eyes as I was cracked upside the head. Dazed, I dropped the candle, which extinguished and plunged the cave into shadow once more. Another heavy blow - with a club of some kind - sent me staggering, and I fell to my knees, my arms raised in feeble defense. My mysterious attacker pushed my chest to the cave floor and grabbed my wrists, tying them behind me with a stout rope.
"...The fuck...?" was all I could manage, my head still reeling. I craned my neck in an attempt to see who was my opponent; silhouetted as they were by the light from the entrance, I couldn't make out any distinguishing features, except that they were wearing a hooded cowl of some kind. Once my wrists were firmly bound, they pulled me up to a sitting position. Blood from a cut somewhere on my scalp dripped into my eye, and I futilely tried to blink it away. "My pack's over there," I said. "Take whatever you want."
"I am no common thief or looter," said my attacker, insulted. From the voice I surmised they were probably male, but I wasn't sure.
"Then what do you want?"
"You were looking for the sacred scripts, but you are not worthy. It is my duty to stop you."
"Sacred...? Are you a priest or something?"
"I serve the Creator. It is my duty to protect the knowledge here from unworthy eyes."
"Fucking -" I shook my head with frustration. Another thing Hella neglected to tell me! Or perhaps she didn't know about this mad monk. "So are you going to kill me then?"
"No, of course not." The priest sounded genuinely shocked at the suggestion. "We Dreamers merely observe, and endure. You will be tried by the Creator's hand. He will decide whether you are worthy of Awakening or damned to eternal dreaming." The priest retrieved a small wooden box tied to their belt and unbuckled the straps that kept it closed. Gingerly opening the lid, the priest tilted the box until a handful of scorpions, obsidian-colored and about as long as my middle finger, tumbled onto the dust of the floor.
"Hey wait - WAIT!" I shouted as the priest gave a strange little bow and scuttled out of the cave. I turned my attention to my new companions. The scorpions seemed disoriented by their recent journey, and wandered in small circles on the floor. However, as the seconds passed their movements became more purposeful, if not any slower. No doubt they were pissed at being dumped in a strange cave. I didn't want to give them the opportunity to take out their anger on me.
I scooted backwards until my back was pressed against the wall of the cave; using that for leverage, I managed to get my feet beneath me and stand upright. One of the scorpions wandered especially close, and I jumped to the side to stay out of range of its tail. My pack was still sitting near the opposite wall, half-shrouded in shadow. Staying on my tiptoes, I gingerly picked my way across the cave, performing a mincing dance as I avoided coming too close to the scorpions. When I got to my pack, I squatted down so I'd be able to grab it with my hands still tied behind my back. Then, still mincing and prancing around the arachnids, I hurried out of the cave and into the afternoon light. (4 sets of: 10 combos of 4 calf raises-4 split lunges-10 side leg raises-10 butt kickers)
There was no sign of the mad priest outside. I sat down, tucked up my legs, and managed to bring my arms to the front so I could undo the knot with my teeth. Once my hands were finally free, I wiped the half-clotted blood from my face and gingerly touched the cut on my scalp; the hair around it was matted and sticky with blood, and a large welt was starting to grow there. My mind was still fuzzy, although that was mostly cleared by the adrenaline of escaping the scorpions. I shook my head again. Was everyone here insane because the world went to shit, or did the world go to shit because everyone was fucking insane?
I'd have to solve this chicken-and-egg question later; I didn't want to hang around here for too long in case the mad monk came back. Shouldering my pack, I headed back west, in the direction of my camp. If I never met another human again, it would be too soon.