'This is the terror. To have emerged from nothingness, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression - and with all this yet to die.' -Ernst Becker
Splashdown. We've fallen down the hole into what looks like another cavern, which echoes with the flow of some large body of water. As my eyes adjust to the dark, I see that we are at the banks of an underground river. The river is wide, and the opposite bank is hard to see. Strange lights, like will 'o the wisps, provide some dim illumination, and by this wan light I can see my darker self sprawled on the ground some ways away. I stand up, and the blood rushes away from my head, making me dizzy. The fall has left me bruised and aching, but thankfully, nothiing is broken. I make my way to the lip of the bank, walking slowly to keep my head from spinning, my feet making soft, squishy, *crunching* noises. I can't look down to identify the source of the sounds, because I am riveted by the horrifying sight before me. The river is not water at all, but blood, and as my senses reel, I am suddenly aware of the overpowering stench of rotting flesh that pervades the entire cavern.
Before I can recover, several of the lights materialise in front of me, and rush straight at my head. My legs buckle under me and it feels as if my weight has doubled. There's a buzzing in my ears, and I'm overcome by a sudden sense of vertigo. I black out for a moment and when I come to again, I'm vaguely aware of another presence in my head.
And then I hear the screaming from behind me. I whirl around to find my adversary pitifully scrambling away from the river, only to end up cowering against the curved stone wall of the cavern, the Fear come naked in his terrified screams.
Curiously, I am not afraid. I look down at my feet, and find myself surrounded by human bones, rotting muscle, skin and offal. The 'ground' is not stone or rock, being entirely composed of the skeletal remains of countless bodies. A subterranean golgotha, a thousand times worse than any other place of death imaginable. And the odor of death permeates this place through and through. And still, I feel no fear, while my dark half rants and screams obscenities at me, desperately scrabbling to climb the walls of this place, to no avail.
I am impelled to speak. The voice and intent are mine, but the words seem to come from somewhere else, a part of me that I had no access to except perhaps in dreams. The sensation is not unpleasant, in fact quite the contrary, I feel a refreshing sense of purpose, of wholeness, of finally being in control.
"What's wrong? Isn't this what you wanted?"
"Shut up! You don't know what you've done! This isn't our time!!"
"Why? What are you so afraid of? Death?"
"Don't you be so glib you shit! What do you know of death?"
"I know that death is a fact of life. All that are born must die. I have nothing to fear from death. And neither do you."
"WORDS! More of your damnable words! YOU CAN'T DEFEAT DEATH WITH WORDS! NOBODY CAN!"
And then he breaks down, all the anger going out of him, leaving only the Fear, naked and vulnerable.
"Please. I don't want to die. Just get me out of this place. I promise, I swear, I'll leave you alone."
"You know as well as I do that's not going to happen. You are a part of me. My first reaction to the world."
"Then why are you doing this!!"
"Because you've become lost. I needed to find you again. Stripped of all your posturing, reduced to the basic facts of your being. And here we are."
"Look, this will be the end of us. You don't really want that do you? We will be returned to the void. AND I DON'T WANT TO GO BACK!!"
"Returned to the void?? Death is not a return to nothingness. Who can claim to emerge from nothing? Can you? Where did you get this body from? This form, this shape you hold, this structure holding you, can you presume to claim ownership of any of its component parts? You don't own any of it, not one molecule, not one atom. It belongs to the all, every last speck of your existence, so dont resist it, and dont deny it. Not one of us has emerged from nothing, we owe our existence to the grand infinitude of all creation. So why fear Death? We come from the All, we live and breathe the All, and to the heart of the Universe itself is where we shall go when we die. We are all of us, each one woven into the tapestry of life, there is no place for Fear in this system. Come, take my hand, brother. Let me show you."
We hold out our hand. I can see the Fear holding him back, but I can also see the Will radiating outward from Us into him, and moving along that ephemeral thread, he takes a step forward, and grasps it. The touch is electric. Everything changes. The river doesn't foam with blood anymore, its speed arrested. Time has no meaning. I am whole again, alone no more. And I know exactly what I have to do. I move towards the river, and the blood begins to churn again, lapping at my feet. A terrible black smoke fills the entire cavern, buzzing with the angry noises of a thousand insects, stinging at my eyes and throat, but I can scarcely feel any pain. I wade in to the river of souls, the blood hot, burning away at my flesh, until I am completely submerged. And I close my eyes.