The door under the stairs had been there for as long as anybody could remember. While the building itself had been remodeled and refurbished multiple times, the foundation had been there since long before the town was founded. When the self-styled ‘chronicler of urban decay’ started asking around about what it was, people told him stories about underground gay clubs, speakeasies and opium dens. Things would be lively for a while and then the club would disappear. Nobody knew if the door was locked.
It was overcast the day he went to take pictures of the brick-work around the door. He was hoping to get a softbox, deserted feel to the story he was planning to tell; the sadness of urban decay that had been infecting the city longer than anyone wanted to admit. The shots of the different types of brick joining, with some of the seams flaking off were artistic, the shadow of the doorway creating the ominous feeling he was looking for.
The bricks the door was set into were larger, more like natural stones shaped to fit together and there was no sign of mortar. Faded graffiti was painted on the walls and closer to the door it was etched into the bricks. The oldest marks on the lintel couldn’t even be read, though someone had worked their way to the top of the arch to etch a well-preserved skull. It looked like something that would have decorated a punk club but there hadn’t been one here that anybody had known about.
On a whim, he tested the antique latch on the door and it opened without making a sound. Smiling, he pulls the flashlight be brought from his belt and heads through the door.
It’s cleaner inside than he anticipated, as though someone had been through recently with a broom, the tables and chairs look almost new, as does the bar along the back wall. Disappointed, he snaps a few pictures and heads to the door behind the bar. Instead of a stock room, there’s a set of stairs leading down. The bar area had the cool, damp feeling of an underground room but heat wafted up from wherever the stairs led to. Determined to get the story he’d anticipated, he headed down the stairs, feeling stream brushing against his face.
Though he considered himself a rational, bordering on cynical, adult, childhood fears surfaced in his mind and he couldn’t fight the feeling that he was descending into hell. The stairs became rougher the further down he went until they spilled out into a large cavern. It was the largest natural cave he’d ever seen and a shock to find below one of the oldest cities on the continent. A glow to his left turned his attention to the first pool, which radiated a bioluminescent light that he could only recognize from movies.
This place was a much better story than some abandoned opium den, he decided, and turned his flashlight on his camera to change the settings. There had to be a way to document this cave, complete with the natural lighting that he was beginning to see on walls further in. With the camera ready, he turned off his flashlight and began snapping pictures. The first pool was smaller than he’d thought and the light he’d seen earlier was a series of pools leading deeper into the cave system. The water steamed and glowed and some of the pools bubbled in the middle. The light from the pools illuminated parts of the walls, displaying graffiti that was reminiscent of the symbols carved around the door leading to the outside world.
He wondered if this was the real secret of the clubs that had been there. The bar was the cover that could be raided but the real excitement took place down here. Lighting in the water would make a good ambiance for people who wanted privacy but there should be more fixtures, probably higher up. Reaching for his flashlight, he though he saw something out of the corner of his eye. The thought that somebody was readying the club for opening again flashed through his mind, along with the realization that he was trespassing. Preparing his apology, he turned the light on where he’d seen the movement and came face to face with… he wasn’t sure.
The girl had dark hair and a greenish tint to her skin that he was certain wasn’t due to the reflected glow from the pools. She tilted her head to the side and spoke to him in a strange, liquid sounding language. When he shook his head in confusion, she quickly sliced him across the belly with a stone knife he hadn’t realized she was carrying. His mouth opened and closed like a fish as he grabbed at the wound then looked back at the girl in confusion. She pushed him back into the boiling water and watched to make sure he cooked properly.
The camera was taken to a pile of strange artifacts that the people had collected over the years. It looked like technology had taken another leap forward since the last time they’d opened the door. She wondered why people kept coming; the door was clearly marked with death.
So, this whole thing was inspired by a deeply creepy (true?) story about 2 children found in a cave. They had green skin and spoke a language nobody recognized. Then, I went through The Secret Door and was taken to what looked like an abandoned tunnel with a cafe area in it. Yep, I totally creeped myself out writing this but it was fun. If you liked the story and are so inclined, hit the tip jar and/or one of the share buttons at the bottom of the post.