What We Know too Well
The creature claws its way up the tunnel, scraping raw skin on unforgiving rocks. Its hide, glowing softly in the dark, glistens with a muddy sheen of dust, sweat, and bioluminescent blood. Claw-tipped hands, scarred from a lifetime of labor, scrabble for each ledge as it drags itself doggedly upward, panting out each breath as though to give itself lift with the sheer power of its determination.
It is not alone; dark and twisted things lurk in the shadows. They chatter exitedly as it slips, as it cries out in pain when a jagged outcropping slashes across an unprotected limb. The creature's defiant hiss echoes weakly, swallowed by the ever-present darkness.
Its quest is folly, but how can the creature give in knowing that the sun, that elusive and fabled beacon of hope, is but a few breaths away?
Light seeps in through cracks, golden slashes through shadows, bleeding grey and brown. The creature’s eyes film with tears. Blood makes its grip tenuous, makes every reach a struggle, yet the creature climbs on. Something with many legs scrabbles above, cackles in defiance at the encroaching light before it scrambles, startled, from the creature’s searching hands.
The ground levels out, but still the creature stumbles on all fours, too weak to stand. Its eyes are blind in the gray light, useless. Its hands paint the rocks with streaks of blood. Concrete and rebar, rusted and broken after centuries of neglect, tear into the creature’s skin. The ghostly, familiar noises of the twisted things fade as the light grows stronger, blazing as the creature crashes into the open.
Only here is it recognizable as what could have once been human: bipedal legs, protuberant ears and enormous eyes, hair matted and covered in dust after a lifetime scavenging in the dark. Its- or rather, her- eyes, pale and glazed with tears, stare blankly at the sky, at the sun that has already blinded her. The sun's burn on her gossamer skin, the wind running whip-thin fingers along her face, is all she can sense. Anything more is unreachable; she cannot see the warped and twisted trees only meters away, cannot hear the rushing of waterfalls down into the valley over the rustle of her own hair against her face. She does not heed the pain that drove her anscestors belowground, the slow but deadly spread of the sun’s influence. She does not care that she is the first; the first to find her way back to humanity’s once-great home, the first sacrifice in the search for a brighter dawn.
She knows that she is free of the stifling dark she knows too well, and that is enough.
So she climbs to her feet. She turns her face towards the sun’s radiation.
She smiles at the sun as her skin cracks, bleeds, withers to dust.
She laughs as she dies.