Drowned in Darkness

Every time sand slipped through the cracks in the ceiling, my companions shuddered, thinking the structure was about to cave in on them. I’ve been to hundreds of ruins like this and I was confident in my ability to tell if it was about to collapse. This one would still stand in a hundred years, I found. It was built with longevity in mind. Much more so than any other place I’ve been to. From the architectural style, I assumed this structure to have been built prior to the times of Christ but... I struggled to place it inside an exact era.

We entered a large open room, deep underground. My followers were elated to finally leave the stairs behind them. We lit up some flares to light up the room and increase our comfort. As we did, I studied the walls. The culture responsible for this place did not elect to document the purpose visually. Instead, the walls were covered in texts of an unknown language. We were left with no clue as to the purpose of this subterranean chamber. That’s why I personally preferred cave paintings, specifically because you could usually tell what it is that is being depicted at least, even if a lot of detail is lost. However, I brought my trusted friend and language expert for this reason. I glanced at her but she had already begun deciphering the language on her own. I knew this would take her a while, so I left one from our team with her and proceeded towards the next chamber with the rest.

Opposite from the stairs, a hallway extended, its end shrouded in darkness. My team groaned in disappointment when the hallway descended into stairs again. It took us a good ten minutes to reach their end, though that includes one of us falling a few steps and taking a moment to recover. At the bottom, we entered another large room. It’s hard to say with the thick darkness within, but I’d expect it to be at least four times larger as the previous room.

What irritated us was the noise. We heard it on the stairs but could not yet see its origin. Only when we entered the room. What I expected to find was rocks falling off the ceiling and hitting the ground, yet the frequency of this sound was concerning. There was barely a moment of silence between them. My instincts told me to be very careful. My team was more driven by the desire to find out what was making that sound and stop it. I told them to be careful when they lit up flares and wandered out into the dark that consumed this chamber like thick fog.

I was taken by surprise when the light of the flares was swallowed by the dark. It was impossible, I should still be able to see their glint event from the other end of the room. It’s not like they suddenly went out or became obstructed by something. They gently faded out the deeper my team went. My sense of danger spiked. I yelled for my team to return but I only heard the sound of rocks slamming into the ground in return.

At this point I had two options and I was not about to simply turn back and leave without even knowing what became of my team. I lit up a flare and chucked it in front of me. I cleared a path through the shadows this way but I found no traps, just an empty room. I could tell I was getting closer to the sound of rocks. Not long after, I found out what made them.

I found one of my guys. He knelt on the floor. I called him and grabbed his shoulder. He turned to face me. He was shaking and sweating with fear. He said these words, but it was more like he repeated something he heard.
“This shall do.”
The darkness dissipated. The light of the flares of my team lit back up by their bodies. And next to them knelt other bodies. Older. Their movement was mechanical, as if moved by tight puppet strings rather than their decayed muscles. They hung over slouched with their left arm rising and then smashing a rock into the floor. By the progress of decay and the dent hammered into the floor below them, I could tell these bodies all originated from different points in time. I listened to the knocking, wandering between them as they did their work. The rocks hit the floor in perfect unison. The echo filled the chamber.

My mind was empty, like in a dream, just taking in the morbid concert, until I made out a second noise. Faint, so I had to concentrate. Wet. I saw a liquid spatter on the floor from the mouth of a team mate. it was black as oil. He gasped for air and a sweet smell arose from his throat. More oil spilled out and soon a hard object followed. I shuddered when it hit the floor like the stones in the hands of the dead. I stared at it but what it was, it couldn’t be. It started to move. Convulsed. It was his heart. Black as the oil and fossilized, although it still beat like a regular heart. He took it into his hand and hammered it into the floor. I looked up and saw the rest of my team doing the same. I shook my head and grabbed his arm as he reached back for another swing. He ignored me as I attempted to pull him back to the stairs, only waiting for me to release his arm so he could continue his work.

I screamed in horror when I felt a touch on my back. I let go of the arm and turned to see our decipherer. Her eyes wide. I heard my teammate smash his heart against the ground again. When I reached out to stop him, she pulled me back. Her eyes begged me to listen carefully. She shook her head without breaking eye contact then said:
“Let the bodies hit the floor.”