Victoria’s eyes fluttered open, but felt there was resistance with every motion. Her senses were numbed, as though she were under constant pressure. For a moment, her mind conjured the image of being cocooned in bundles of warm and thick blankets. While the thought was nice, she quickly dismissed the idea as being far too hopeful.
“If only life were that simple,” Victoria thought.
Her mind quickly focused on the complete absence of light, which corrupted that thought until she imagined herself being buried alive. Victoria wondered if that explained the humidity clinging to her skin, but that analogy did not align either. Her experience was more akin to being immersed.
“Hello?” Victoria tried to ask, but no sound came out.
Victoria sat up as fast as she could, and learned how this viscous liquid also hindered her rate of motion. Since there was nothing to see, she swept her arms all around, but came up empty. Although, she did find out that the floor had the consistency of sand, but wondered how that tidbit of information would prove useful.
“Why are my lungs not burning?” Victoria thought.
That idea opened a crack in her mind, enough for a panic to seep in, she hyperventilated which in turn filled her lungs with more fluid. Wait! What? How? Her mind struggled to come to terms with this new reality. Whatever the gravity of her situation, breathing was no longer a concern for her, or at least for now.
With renewed conviction, she got onto her knees and confirmed there was clearance before standing upright. When another search came up empty, she ventured up ahead.
Eventually, she encountered a flat surface, so her hands ran over the rough texture, to find gaps between the quarried stones. Victoria followed the surface, and realised this wall formed a circle, one filled with something thicker than water. It did not take much after that to hazard a guess. So that meant she was at the bottom of that well?
If that’s where she was, then that scene with Evelyn had been nothing more than a dream. Either way, that insight did nothing to explain her predicament.
“Unless—,” Victoria attempted to say once again, but to no avail.
The viscosity of the fluid made it impossible for her vocal cords to resonate. Hence the silence, which left her to wonder what would happen to her if she remained down here in absolute solitude.
To confirm her whereabouts, Victoria looked up. Sure enough, there was a faint source of light, and from this vantage point, it looked like a single red star lighting up the dim sky. Again, how would this help her get out of this mess.
“How long—How do I—Can I climb—” Victoria’s chaotic mind wondered.
Such questions were cycling through her mind so fast, that it prevented her from focusing on a single task. Once again panic took hold, and invaded every corner of her being, until it consumed her.
Victoria screamed, her noiseless act of defiance somehow created a protective barrier that kept the conflicting voices in her mind at bay. As she let out all of that frustration, fear and doubt melted away, until all that remained, was raw untapped determination.
She poked and prodded the walls of her cell, and found the spaces were wide enough to get a good grip. It may not have been enough to climb a steep cliff, but when supported by a liquid that imbued her with some additional buoyancy, the conditions for an ascent were suddenly favourable.
Her first attempt caused her fingers to radiate in pain. Victoria had forgotten how her failed attempt to arrest that descent had torn off her fingernails.
It was ultimately that maelstrom of thoughts and emotions that permitted her pain to return, which in turn caused her to tumble down. The slow descent into the soft sand may have left her no worse for wear, but in her mind, the pain brought on was on par with running into a wall. With a silent grunt she got off her rump and attempted another ascent.
With every attempt, the damage to her fingers grew worse, until it blinded all other stimulus. The pain served to focus her, to drive her, but she was also motivated by fear of losing her sanity, if she stayed down here for long. How could anyone keep it together, when under the exclusive company of their thoughts?
Writers were normally content to be left alone. Free to find inspiration in mundane occurrences, like a sunrise, moments that the bulk of humanity took for granted. But to remain alone in the dark, summarily deprived of the bulk of her senses? There were limits to creativity, times when the wellspring of inspiration would run dry, and left behind a world bereft of ideas.
Condemned to suffer like that for all of eternity, Victoria could think of only one word that fit, “Hell.”
After countless attempts and hours wasted, Victoria’s hand pierced the pool’s surface. The cool air made her skin tingle, the first positive sensation she experienced since her awakening.
Excitement welled inside her, and that grew in intensity once she dragged her tired body out from the pool. While there were no mirrors in this perverted chapel, Victoria imagined herself looking very much like Carrie did during her graduation ceremony.
It took all of her strength to lift her remaining leg from out of the pool. Victoria had the strangest feeling that the pool was holding her. So much so, that she needed to expend what was left of her sheer force of will to tear herself from it.
“Well—,” Victoria tried to say, but only managed to spew out fluid from her lungs.
Victoria got on her hands and knees just in time to convulse. Every muscle in her core contracted and relaxed at a fantastical rate. With every wave, a stream of fluid was evacuated until she was able to take her first deep breath.
She looked up towards the stunning fresco that covered the ceiling as tears streamed down her cheeks from all that pain and exertion. For a second, she saw a crescent moon overlooking the crucified body of Christ. Her mind, instead focused on the stale humid air filled with death instead, despite the poor air quality, the pleasure of breathing air once more was nothing short of rapturous.
Alas, with her first deep breath came a coughing fit, all in an effort to clear out any remaining pockets of fluid. These coughs were so violent, that her vision was marred by streaks, and every fit sapped her strength until she was no longer able to move.
In tears, and beyond the point of exhaustion her body gave up. Before her vision blurred, and faded to black, she caught sight of a passage etched at the edges of the ceiling.
“Fides dominaretur super oram chlamydis Saul,” Victoria whispered.
The words meant nothing to her, but once unconscious, her lips moved to the following phrase, “Faith shall dominate the usurper.”
Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!