Struggling to keep my wits about me, I make my way inside cautiously, both nervous and weirdly excited for what I might find, even though I have no clue what that might be—if anything.
I keep looking behind, my eyes darting over my shoulder every so often, reconsidering what I’m doing. All sorts of thoughts and questions race through my head and I can’t help but wonder if I should go back.
Maybe this isn’t such a good idea, after all. What if there’s something dangerous lurking inside? What if the crows are actually a warning to stay out?
My heart starts racing as renewed panic begins to set in. I try to breathe normally, inhaling long and deep in an effort to calm myself.
People don’t actually die in their dreams, right?
That’s just a myth…right?
I clench my fists, steeling myself against the wave of fear threatening to change my mind and send me running back in the other direction.
It’s just a dream, I remind myself. Nothing bad can actually happen to me here.
I nod, trying to convince myself of that, as if doing so will erase all my concerns.
Heart pounding, I place one bare, slightly shaky foot in front of the other, again and again, willing my reluctant body to just keep going.
I can barely see anything in the distance, the rays of sunlight unable to permeate more than a few feet inside the primitive, cave-like structure.
Dark grey stone walls stretch on, opening up into a cavity that takes me down a narrow flight of stairs ending in a small walkway. My steps are tentative, and I feel the cool juxtaposition of hard asphalt and loose gravel beneath my feet with each movement. I pause a few times, allowing my eyes to adjust to the lack of sunlight as I inhale the diffused, earthy smell of damp rocks.
I don’t know if my eyes are simply adapting to the darkness extremely well—though, with my crappy vision, I highly doubt it, even in a dream—but I soon realize that the further I walk, the better I can see.
There isn’t any apparent source of illumination in the terrain but now, several feet in, the pathway seems to be lit from everywhere all at once and nowhere in particular with a warm, dispersed glow.
I tip-toe through a narrow corridor, bunching up my gown to avoid tripping over myself. It stretches wider and wider as I keep going, the small strip of gravel quickly expanding into a much larger tunnel, lined with unusually polished black stone and…
Holy crap, is that…gold?
I stop in my tracks instantly, and my brain starts tap-dancing inside my skull, eager to confirm what I think I’m seeing.
I lean forward, my fingers reaching for one of countless deep yellow flecks embedded in the ground, eager to touch—
I barely make contact with the terrain below when a sharp, unpleasant zap shoots through my hand out of nowhere, traveling through my entire arm like a massive electric shock.
My hand jerks away on reflex and I stumble backward from the abrupt and unexpected jolt. My eyes slam shut against the brief but horrible sensation of static, a stuttered yelp tearing itself from my throat, mirroring my agony.
My eyelids fly open, a frown tugging at my lips even though the pain is fleeting. “Owww!!! Son of a bi—”
Before I can even finish my sentence or form another thought, my eyes go wide without my permission as they land of what’s now in front of me:
The insanely large expanse of a hall.
What the hell…?
My head whips around impulsively as a million waves of confusion engulf me.
The tunnel is…gone.
The pathway sprinkled with gold that I was just standing in is no more, replaced by…by…
I don’t even know what to call this.
Perhaps even the beginnings of an empire?
All I know is…it’s huge.
Crisis…what is this place? And how the hell did I get here?
My eyes dart left and right, trying to take in everything in sight but unable to decide where to start.
Several unique statues—quite a few of which are just downright strange-looking—are dispersed throughout the space; some made of rock and highly-reflective steel, but the majority seemingly of pure gold.
Several cylindrical pillars stretch impossibly high, as if they’re reaching for the heavens, supporting a massive, contained dome at their center. The formation is sturdy, impossibly robust, covered in alternating rings of gold and silver that are broken up by thin plates of glass. Or maybe it’s crystal, I’m not sure.
And the floors…
Holy crap, the floors!
They stretch on in either direction, seemingly forever with no end in sight, their impressive area made of one thing:
I look up, my eyes bulging in their sockets at the sheer, incredible height of the ceiling…but that’s when I realize there actually isn’t one. There’s no roof, the top completely bare, open to the sky above.
There’s only one problem, though:
The sky isn’t blue.
Like pretty much everything else here.
It’s…some sort of… fluid mass, hovering in the atmosphere, overlooking the entire building.
Like another sun.
Jesus, this place is just…unreal.
And it’s, without a doubt, the craziest, most impressive thing I’ve ever seen.
I continue to marvel at it for several moments, drinking in the glorious, golden colosseum before me.
Where would anyone get this much gold, though?
There’s literally so much of the stuff that the place doesn’t even need actual light. It’s like a ready-made mine or something.
My eyebrows furrow, and a questioning frown makes its way onto my face as I recall what I saw outside.
Is this the same building?
No. No, it can’t be. The chapel was exponentially smaller than this mammoth structure, and empty to boot…at least it was from outside. There’s no way the two are linked—
Suddenly, a multitude of tiny heat waves engulf me, forcing my attention back to the vast space around me.
Despite its overwhelming size, it’s strangely warm in here; cozy and balanced, completely different from the intensity of the sun outside. It actually feels like the walls themselves are radiating controlled heat…almost like a living, breathing organism.
And it feels oddly…nostalgic.
I have no idea why, though.
Not a single thing in here seems even remotely familiar.
But, by god, it smells amazing; fresh pine and cedar, with hints of sandalwood and musk that are accentuated by the warmth. I inhale deeply, taking in full breaths of woody-scented air impulsively before exhaling with a small, relaxed sigh.
I make my way down one of several distinct pathways linked to a center aisle, its edges lined with even more gold than the rest of the floor. My gaze is steady, alert for signs of anyone else as I continue to stare in awe at all the wealth that surrounds me.
How cruel. Of course the only place I’d ever find a crap load of gold would be in my dreams.
“H-Hello? Is anyone here?” I call out hesitantly, totally unprepared in the event someone actually replies.
All I hear in return is an echo of my voice, followed by complete silence.
Hmm. Guess not.
With a shrug, I walk further inside, allowing myself to relax completely knowing no one else is here. My steps go from tentative to carefree, and I relish in the feeling of literally walking on gold—even if it’s a lie.
A girl can dream, can’t she?—no pun intended.
From the corner of my eye, I notice an altar up ahead, and on it, a pulpit sits proudly at the epicenter of the converging aisle.
Instantly, I spot something familiar atop it:
A metal cross.
Exactly like the one I saw on the little white chapel outside.
Oh, my God…maybe it is the same place after all…
Without even thinking, I walk toward it, the action almost instinctive.
As I near it, I notice a cup on the pulpit. When I get closer, I realize it’s some sort of bronze chalice.
And, for some reason…I want it.
I have this ridiculous urge to drink from it even though I have absolutely no idea if there’s even anything in it. I continue to make my way to the altar, my pace quickening with purpose and determination.
Upon reaching the pulpit, I notice unique engravings on its marble finish that I can’t quite make out, but I don’t dwell on it.
I shift my focus to the chalice in front of me. With a shaky hand, I take it from its resting place cautiously, holding it firmly between my palms.
Well, what do you know? There is something in it.
I stare into it intently, not sure what to make of what I’m seeing.
What exactly is this?
It looks like some kind of golden liquid. I swirl it gently out of curiosity and find it to be somewhat viscous; like engine oil or watery pudding.
This thing could be exotic fruit punch, expired yogurt, or frickin’ bird poison, for all I know.
And, somehow, I still want to taste it.
“You have to be out of your damn mind, Eli,” I mutter.
And I’m still talking to myself while I sleep. Delightful.
My mind is screaming for me to put this antiquated-looking mug back where it belongs, but something else entirely eggs me on, urging me to consume its content.
It sounds crazy as hell, but a part of me feels like it was laid out here for me.
I raise the chalice to my lips, inhaling the aroma of the substance.
I can only think of one word for it: spectacular.
Like nothing in the world I’ve ever smelled. It’s hard to describe…the scent is soft and simple, yet so alluring, enticing.
I have to have it.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” A deep, ominous voice erupts from behind me, booming through the vast space out of nowhere.
My heart instantly leaps into my throat, and my brain nearly comes apart in my skull. The sudden outburst startles and disorients me, and I accidentally drop the chalice, gasping as I feel the weight of it slip from my fingers.
I try to catch it but I’m too late. The cup hits the ground with a sequence of metallic thuds and my prized substance splatters all over it, its rich, golden hue almost matching that of the floor it’s now streaked across.
In my frenzy, I whip around to see the bearer of such a sinister tone…and my breath ends up getting caught in my chest.
It’s a man.
In a dark suit.
And, by God: