His hunger tainted everything, the world, the sky, the air. I ran from it, ran underground, down, down, as far away from the heat and the hunger as I could, and did not stop until I found the lowest place.
I fell into a corridor behind an old stone wall, a place so hidden only my dust-form gave me access. It went down and down, and suddenly opened into a cavern the size of a stadium.
This was not, in fact, the lowest point. This was the original point, and now it had been abandoned.
Gaping doorways climbed the walls, demonstrating the evolution of habitat as they changed in height and shape according to the tools and skill of their makers. They honeycombed the cavern, smelling faintly of the human lives that once played out in the dark.
The floor was buried hid beneath a pyramidic mass of detritus and bones. The bones almost seemed intentionally placed, pointing like accusing fingers at the thousands of lives that went on unknowing overhead. A clear and constant current of air carried away the rot, leaving behind a taste of stone and clean skies and distant, hidden water.
I did not understand why there was light.
No torches burned. No windows beckoned. Cold gray luminance sharpened every crag and shadow, steadily pouring from no obvious source.
When I looked more closely, I realized the walls crawled with letters that gleamed.
Blue-white light so faint I could barely see it winked in the depths of thread-thin engravings, swirling and complex symbols that covered the surface from floor to arm’s reach above my head. Something flickered there, deep inside, as if each strange letter led to another world.
I ran my fingers over the cuts and found them warm. Why had this been abandoned? It was beautiful.
My nose told me no one had been here in many years. It was forgotten, not even known to children or criminals or the animals they kept.
I could hide down here. Yes, now that I was aware, I could still feel that golden man’s hunger, but I could hide here. It didn’t even matter that I had no idea how I’d come. Walls were no barrier for me.
When at last I ventured back to the underground city above that city, only two reasons brought me back: one, I did not wish to abandon Horse, and two, nothing with blood had dwelt in that place for many years. I needed both to survive and thrive.
Truth be told, I had no interest in ever being alone again, but I wish I had known the depth and heat of this need, and the lengths to which it would drive me. Had I known, I would have taken precautions.
No, my friend, forgive me. That is a lie. Had I known, I would have sought to make family at once. Heaven help me, I would, and likely sparked disaster even sooner.