's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Drowned in Darkness

Submitted by Luna Wolf

My companions jumped every time sand slipped through cracks in the ceiling, thinking the structure was about to cave in on them. I've been in hundreds of ruins like this and I was confident in my ability to tell if I was seeing it in its last moments. This one still had years ahead of itself, despite its age. From the outside I assumed this place to have been built prior to the times of Christ but... it doesn't quite match up any signs of the era I expected.

We entered a large open room, deep underground. My followers seemed glad to finally leave the stairs behind them.We lit up some flares to light up the room and increase our comfort. As we did, I studied the walls. The responsible culture seemed to have been more comfortable in writing than in depicting pictures. The walls were covered in a text of unknown language, leaving us no clue as to the purpose of this structure. I personally was a fan of cave paintings for this reason, but I brought my trusted friend Beatrice Marlow for this reason. I glanced at her but she already begun deciphering the language on her own. I knew this would take her a while, so I left one of our team with her and penetrated further into the ruins with the rest.

Opposite from the stairs, a hallway extended further south. My team groaned in disappointment when the hallway descended into stairs again. It took us a good ten minutes to reach their end, though that includes one of us falling a few steps and taking a moment to recover. At the bottom, we entered another large room. It's hard to say with the thick darkness within, but I'd expect it to be at least four times larger as the previous room.

What irritated us was the noise. We heard it on the stairs but could not yet see its origin when entering the room. What I expected to find was rock falling off the ceiling and hitting the ground, yet the frequency of this sound was concerning. There was barely a moment of silence between them. My instincts told me to be very careful. My team was more driven by the desire to find out what is making that sound. I told them to be careful when they lit up flares and wandered out into the dark that consumed this chamber like thick fog.

I was taken by surprise when the light of the flares was swallowed by the dark. It was impossible, I should still be able to see their glint event from the other end of the room. It's not like they suddenly went out or became obstructed by something. They gently faded out the deeper my team went. My sense of danger spiked. I yelled for my team to return but I only heard the sound of rocks slamming into the ground in return,

At this point I had two options and I was not about to simply turn back and leave without even knowing what became of my team. I lit up a flare and chucked it in front of me. I cleared a path through the shadows this way but I found no traps, just an empty room. I could tell I was getting closer to the sound of rocks. Not long after I found out what made them.

Boris is the name of the one I found. He knelt on the floor. I called him and grabbed his shoulder. He turned to face me. He was shaking and sweating with fear. He said these words, but it was more like he repeated something he heard.

"This shall do."

The darkness dissipated. The light of the flares of my team lit back up by their bodies. And next to them knelt other bodies. Older. Their movement was mechanical, as if moved by tight puppet strings rather than their decayed muscles. They hung over slouched with their left arm rising and then smashing a rock into the floor. By the progress of decay and the dent hammered into the floor below them, I could tell these bodies all originated from different points in time. I listened to the knocking. I was torn out of the trance when a liquid spattered on the floor originated from Boris'mouth. it was black as oil. He gasped for air and a sweet smell arose from his throat. More oil spilled out and soon a hard object followed. I shuddered when it hit the floor like the stones in the hands of the dead. I stared at it but what it was, it couldn't be. It started move. Convulsed. It was his heart. Black as the oil and fossilized, although it still beat like a regular heart. Boris took it into his hand art  hammered it into the floor. I looked up and saw the rest of my team doing the same. I shook my head and grabbed Boris'arm as he reached back for a another swing. He ignored me as I attempted to pull him back to the stairs, only waiting for me to release his arm so he could continue his work.

I screamed in horror when I felt a touch on my back. I let go of Boris and turned to see Beatrice. Her eyes wide. I heard Boris smashing his heart against the ground again. When I reached out to stop him again, Beatrice pulled me back. Her eyes begged me to listen carefully. She shook her head without breaking eye contact then said:

"Let the bodies hit the floor."