As far back as memory will afford me, I know only two things; the Monolith and that I am compelled to climb it. A tower of cold black obsidian-like night bereft of pale moonlight. Spanning acres, puncturing the grey rain clouds above and emerging from dark, vast waters below. Waters that ebbed and crashed and roared with shocks of white sea spray defining each wave and ever-rising with incessant downpour. The Monolith is both my port in a storm and a prison. My mausoleum.
I do not recall what year it is or how old I am for the days are barely distinguishable from one another. I have no future and no past. I can’t even remember what I look like save for a furrowed brow, a full head of hair, and a thick mane of a beard. My knuckles, my joints all weathered raw and emaciated beyond their time nonetheless still fulfill a necessity.
I sit, huddled in a dark blue cloak, my rifle slung over my right shoulder, in a doorway leading inward. I dare not venture in for fear of becoming lost. I looked in only to see each corridor splintered off into dark, labyrinth-like hallways and I knew if I did go in that I might not return. Each threshold and stairwell is deliberately carved with purpose into the facade of this mighty structure; simplistic and yet almost grandiose in design. I cannot help but admire it with a kind of fearful respect. I look out and see in the distance the peak of a mountain that once stood proudly above the land now eroded and frail, break off and slide into the ocean disappearing from view as the smell of salt water is becoming stronger. Time to move. Every bone and sinew, creak as they may, must serve their function now or surely I will perish in the depths below.
I gingerly press my weight against the wall behind me to get to my feet and I set off for the stairs just left of the doorway. Each step has razor’s edge and is hard underfoot. My ascent is hazardous because there is nothing to hold onto should I fall, so I must maintain a steady pace as not only to assure my safety but conserve energy for the climb ahead as it coils upwards. My legs turn to stone with each step. It feels as though my blood has turned to mercury, stinging, burning as it courses through my veins. My only sustenance has been the insects crawling along the walls and crevices of the monolith.
My muscles cry out for rest and I know I would be it not for my own impending doom. Beads of sweat begin to form and grow across my brow, oblivious of a northerly wind blowing, and run down through lines of worry. I fear my imagination may be getting the better of me or that mad dreams are seeping into my waking moments but I swear I have seen a large, black dog stalking the grounds of the monolith. Its fur is thick and untamed, its ears are pointy and attentive, its eyes shimmer a deep gold never revealing its intent.
These deceiving hours feel like days and what feels like miles has only been a matter of a few flights of stairs. I can focus only on the pain as it builds and builds to a crescendo, my attention sapped from the mindless task at hand. My head swims. The hopelessness of my circumstance comes bubbling to the surface and sets in; climb or die. It’s climb or die from now until I succumb to the fragility of old age. Climb or die. It’s difficult not to feel embittered and a rage comes with it.
I lose my footing, my shin bone bears the brunt of my fall and what pain in my muscles before now feels meager by comparison to what can only be described as a sharp hacking feeling. Brought low by a step. I drag myself to the top, clasping at the pain and muffling any groans. I lift my trouser leg to find several trickles of ruby red blood oozing from a wound no bigger than a few inches across. Upon closer inspection, I can see that it’s not a very deep cut but is nonetheless excruciating. A possible fracture. Cautiously putting weight on both legs, I clamber to my feet and carry on with a limp. I can only think of how pitiful I must look right now as I manage to make it to the next floor before giving up to rest. I settle inside another doorway and apply pressure to my wound. An eerie feeling comes over me and the sound of the roar of waves and wind retreat as though they are a million miles from me now. It seems like some unseen danger is upon me and all I can do is sit there, paralyzed, cautiously, senses heightened. A deep breathing grows louder, almost panting. A large, terrifying bulk of a shadow speeds past me. It is the dog. I see it as clear as I can see my own limbs but it does not see me. It is fixated on something else.