Amidst two of the golden shards of walls that bejewelled the empyrean chamber, a coil of white smoke lay, woven with pearls of fresh blood.
The residue of the expanse was strewn with fragments of butchered Cranes, staining the gold-plated floors and only breaking off when met with the boundaries of smoke. Inside, a frail book and a glinting mirror were drinking in the heed poured by the smoke as if it was an exotic beverage. It swirled over them with tender drops of blood oozing out in rivulets and curved around the book like a maimed snake. Etching the reflection made by the mirror in its eyes, the smoke flicked the book open and the chamber exploded into shambles.
The cave held a mid-tier darkness which swung between certainty and uncertainty. The girl was wedged between them, as she eyed the fissures on the walls and the shrouded path ahead. She trod slowly, picking her way across the stalagmites, jutting out from the earth like thorns of poison. A detached sense of icy fear coursed through her veins; steady dread creeping up inside her like a vine. A few bats that resided in the cave stirred every now and then, paralysing her body like a predator menacing its prey. But it suited as a camouflage to fade into the deafening silence wreathing the air.
The girl was venturing deeper and deeper into the intricate honeycomb of passages that dissected the cavern. Each opening added salt to her despair until it began burning in a fire of pain, deserting the ashes of hope in its wake. She halted at last, her hands trembling like an earthquake. She heaved a breath and let out a hoarse cry of distress, her voice ripping the barriers of the cave, loud and clear. But as soon as she’d begun, a cry mirroring her’s stole into her ears and ringed through the space, banishing her feelings of unfamiliarity and isolation. Tears streamed down her face and the flash of the black of bats remained only in the corner of her eye. A warm sense of fellowship rose inside her chest as she heard the sound she’d made, coming back to her like a retreating wave.
Deep in the dark, a spirit of white matter had gathered to take a misty form, resembling a cloud of thick smoke. It bore the name of echo and it flowed, escalated and came into being.
The book shut with a loud thud and the chamber slid into vision. Echo turned its spirit to the mirror, which displayed its blood-spattered form.
The chinaberry tree overlooking the wide ranch-style house, had a vulture visiting its branches. The bird was engaged in eyeing the large window which was halfway down the fruit-laden tree. Beyond the frame of the lush mauve curtains was a sitting room highlighting the drabness of the house. Contrastingly, the middle-aged lady seated on an armchair was a mirrorball of pastel colours. Her snow powdered hair was flipping like a coin as she shook her head at someone sitting across from her. A young man, most likely to be her son with eyebrows furrowed in worry. He was speaking, his face veiled in a mask of fret when suddenly the lady put on a wry smile and began cutting in halfway. It was perhaps a word or maybe a sentence that did it. But whatever it was sent a slash of hurt and disbelief etching in the man’s face, like an eternal scar.
The vulture let out a triumphant shriek and took flight into the sky, leaving behind a rain of golden berries brought in by the winds. It flew over the city, painting the picture of a shadow against a clear sky with its thick wings flapping like an unfurled cloak. The bird finally ceased in front of a tall white building, settling itself on a window sill that faced the submerging sun. The base was broad enough for it to rest and the dying streaks of light stabbed through its body as if it was air.
Inside the window was a plain little room, modestly furnished and kept. A thin strip of bed lay at the center with a woman perched on its edge. She had her fingers splayed over her mouth, her stomach heaving strenuously as she retched. The man seated on a chair beside her had a wavering hand on her back and was regarding her as if she were a grenade. The dull glow of the room’s light held them both in its arms, spotlighting her trembling body and the hand patting her awkwardly. The man’s face turned away was fringed with unease and weariness along with a slight trace of disgust.
Darkness dissolved the world. The vulture departed the scene and glided across the silk of the night. Streetlights flared up under its claws as it wafted over the cliffs of animation. After crossing a couple of streets, the vulture chose to fall into a bright alley. It quickly flew down and caught itself a home.
‘Look! He’s crying!’, screamed a voice, brimmed with youth. It was followed by a string of cackling, harsh to the ears.
A little boy sat on the floor, tears streaming down his face as he gazed at his blood-freckled knee. Enveloping him were his friends, laughing at each bead of his tears. They had all been heading home together when this boy had had a little fall. Now pain drummed on him, in and out as he eyed all the flashing teeth through his filmy eyes.
The vulture screeched and climbed up to its road and flew through the night in harmony, feeding on easy food.
The mirror shattered. Long shards tinged red and cubes of glass as small as sugar sprinkled the air like jewels. A bone of a crane had buried itself in the mirror.
Echo swiftly misted its book, pushing it away into an untainted corner as scrapes of mangled cranes began infiltrating its division. Echo watched in horror as they plummeted down to the floor. The entire chamber reeked of hell and its bright gold walls were streaked with evil pink. Spots of blood that were embedded in Echo now began weeping a flood around it. The smoke was soaked in red like a cloud caught in a sunset. Echo gazed at its dissolving body and felt the pull of sleep on a deathbed. When the time finally struck the end of its fate, Echo gave in with the same stance as an unsettled onlooker.