In a place of simple darkness, came a faint echoing ring. Like the sound of two pots hitting each other. Over and over again. What was making that noise? I felt the world shifting in and out of focus becoming darker than lighter and less and less blurry. I came to, lying on a cold cave floor. I got up and looked around. There were torches surrounding me, and a disturbing silence other than a faint repeating sound. I chuckled to myself as I looked around. This was a dream. One of those dreams where you’re aware you are dreaming. However, this dream… It didn’t look too inviting. But there was nothing around. It was more creepy than scary. I could just wake myself up, but it was always a hassle trying to fall back asleep. Besides, the faint ringing was eating away at my curiosity. What could that noise be? It was always hard trying to get myself to fall asleep. But trying to sleep puzzling over an unsolved mystery? Next to impossible. The solution was simple. Find the source of the noise. If it’s scary, I’ll wake up and eventually forget this situation entirely.
So I grabbed a torch from the cave wall, and ventured towards the sound as it echoed throughout the cave. The sound became louder and louder, and I followed it’s bangs with one ear covered and one hand to hold the torch. I followed it to a dead end where I found it’s source. Two pipes were loose from opposite ends from a line on pipes and hitting each other over and over again. I sighed. It was nothing exciting. This trip wasn’t worth it. It was odd how I didn’t notice the line of pipes on the cave ceilings, but it wasn’t much in terms of a discovery. So I sighed and made my way back, round a corner and trying to think where exactly I took this torch from so I could return it.
I dropped the torch with shock and jumped back, falling on the hard floor. I whipped my head around to see a man sitting in a ball, but his head was poking out like a child seeing if the seeker was near in a game of Hide And Seek. I took a second to catch my breath as I gasped for air shaking. This man had been so quiet, I had completely missed him while I searched for the source of the banging sound. It didn’t help that the torch I had used casted a narrow light. As I looked closer at the man two things immediately struck me. The man was thin. Really, really thin. And he was in a cell. The cell looked strong enough to hold a dragon. I took another look at the man, with baggy eyes and brittle thin arms. He didn’t really seem to fit the type of person or creature that this prison was built for. Then his words finally sunk in. It was amazing I could understand him. His voice had the raspiness and shakiness of a person who was very old, hadn’t talked in a very long time, and who forgot when they last had water.
“S-survived? What do you mean?” I asked.
The man was very twitchy. His eyes were widened and his eyes darted around the room.
“You survived? You survived that beast? “ his voice dropped several notches lower. He sounded like he deeply regretted his sudden outburst.
“Beast? Survived what?” I asked, getting up and backing away several inches from him.
“The Crugantis” he hissed in as loud a whisper as he could as he launched himself backwards, hugging the wall. It might have been fitting to see foam coming out of his mouth.
I blinked. “The who-da-what-now?”
“The Crugantis!” the man unhelpfully repeated, and with my continued look of confusion he tried to illustrate his point with his hands. “You know. Massive teeth and claws? Banished here 1,000 years ago? Trapped In chains?”
I shook my head. The man held his palm to his face and sighed and looked at me like I was an idiot. “How did you miss it?! You were right there!”
I looked to where he was pointing. He was pointing to where I was before. But there was nothing where he was pointing. Certainly no mythical beast in chains.
“Look… I was there, but I didn’t see anything that matches that description. Like at all.” I eventually said.
The man raised his voice, but only slightly “Are you mad, boy? How did you miss it?! It’s over 25 feet tall, and can swallow a person whole! You must have at least heard it! It’s constantly trying to free itself from the chains it was put in years ago! Listen! The noise is there now!”
I sighed. I finally understood what was going on. “Look, I’m sorry if there was any confusion, but that banging sound is just from two hanging pipes. I didn’t see a monster.”
“No! No. You fool! It’s the Crugantis! I know it! I grew up listening to the stories!” the man said, his voice rising a little more.
“Is the..Crugantis was it? Was that who the cage was made for? How did it escape with it so intact? And how did you wind up in it?”
The man burst out laughing, a horrible, insane, high pitched laugh. “The cage? For the Crugantis? Foolish lad. I built this cage. I built it from nothing. I built it so when the Crugantis finally breaks it’s chains, I might have a chance to live!”
I blinked. This man was nuts. He heard a banging sound, and without ever once getting the smallest glance of its origin, had built himself a cage and locked himself in it for who knows how long. There was water dripping in from the cell ceiling, so the man had water, but the menu of this place couldn’t be all that appetising.
“Look, I hear the noise too. And I followed it. I promise you it isn’t anything scary. You can kinda see it from here. Look!” I responded. I looked at the shadowy shape of the two clanging pipes. I realised the man was a bit to the left of me and moved to show him where to look. I realised those slight movements had me face to face with a corner of the wall. It wasn’t a large corner, but it was protruding enough where from the man’s spot you could no longer see the pipes. The man looked at me like he thought me crazy. I sighed.
“O.K. New idea. You tell me how to open this cell, and I’ll show you. I promise there is nothing to fear.”
The man gasped. “You. Y-you’re working for it aren’t you? That’s how you survived! And you’re looking to get your masters’ next meal aren’t you?! Well I’m off the menu!”
I grunted with anger. This man made no sense. Who would want him as a meal? You could probably get more calories by nibbling on a twig. And if “the Crugantis” was real and as powerful as the man made him out to be, how would that cell provide any protection whatsoever? I turned my back to the man. I assumed that it wasn’t worth it to tell him any of these thoughts I had, and they would continue to fall on deaf ears. Whatever. This was boring now. So I walked away from the man who began laughing.
“Yes! Leave! Tell your master you failed! You’ll never trick me!” he cried after me.
Whatever. I made my way through the maze of the cave, the sound of my feet timed perfectly with the sound from the pipes. Relief washed over me as I finally reached the door. I gave the handle a tug. I pulled the handle again. I gave it another pull. I began twisting the handle like crazy, throwing my weight against the door. I fell to the ground for the second time that day, mouth agape. I stared at the door, frozen in horror. Then, finally, something did escape my lips. I chuckled. I giggled. I began to laugh. I finally understood the cosmic gag. The man and myself were the subjects of the same joke. I laughed harder and harder, achieving a laugh like that of a true madman, as tears flowed down my face. The darkness and silence of the cave was pierced and interrupted by the torches’ dim and flickering light, the sound of two men laughing, and the sound of two pipes continuously and meticulously banging together.
Jonathan notes: “I’ve been writing for a long time. However, I recently realised that I write to process and understand myself and the world around me. I write for its freedom. And I write with the hope of finding my freedom outside the world of writing as well.”