Mustering my resolve I press up the stairs, my oozy body thankfully large enough to move up these steps with ease. No awkward climbing or nudging up bit by bit, no, I basically just gribble my way up them. Gribble is the word I’ve just made up on the spot and am using to describe this particular form of combined upward moving, sliding, slurping motion. I gribble. He gribbles. She has gribbled. They are gribblers. It’s a good word. I like the way it feels to think. Gribble gribble.
In truth I am just trying to distract myself from the creeping depression that is existence as an ooze. Fresh memories of my kin who all chose to die rather than to stop drinking the black water, to stop wallowing in the murk that is our life in the dungeon won’t stop playing in my mind. Is it really that easy? Is it really that easy to choose to die instead of choosing to go on for another day?
I guess it is. I guess I of all people know that it is and I guess that people say that those who charge towards death are brave. But I don’t think so anymore. I think you’re a coward. I think you’re lazy. If you have the chance to live, but you choose not to because you would have to fight for it then I don’t think you’re brave at all. They didn’t choose to die to protect anything, anyone. Not for some sacred holy cause or to impart a final wisdom that would bring a greater good to the world. No. They chose it because it was easy.
It’s easier to die than to stop drinking the black water. It’s easier to die than it is to leave it all behind and to try. To really try. Real talk. Can I tell you a fear of mine, guy? Can I tell you why I keep going apart from my greed to get out of here? Apart from my want of material things and experiences?
The truth is that I’m afraid too. I’m a coward too. I’m afraid that one day I’ll die and I won’t respawn anymore. That that will have been it. For what purpose would all of this have been? I don’t know. Even if sometimes in the last few uh… weeks? Lives. Even if sometimes in those last few lives I wished for that scenario, I’m still afraid of it. I’m afraid that one day I’ll be floating there in the void and there will be another me ready to tally the score, go through all the books and dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s before we go. The first me. The me I used to be when I was still a young… whatever I was. A first me with fresh eyes. Clean eyes.
I’m scared that they will look at me. I’m scared that they’ll ask about how I lived, how I spent their life after I took it from them. I’m scared that everything I tell them, every word will just smother that spark of hope in their gaze just a little more with each passing breath of my story. I’m scared that when I have told my tale to the end and I look back at the let down, young face looking back to mine, wondering if that was it; I’m terrified that that expression of theirs will change.
That it will stay not as one of continued disappointment, no, I’m scared that it will change. That it will turn into a weak smile, a protecting, understanding smile with kind eyes. I don’t want to have kind eyes. I don’t want to feel them look at me and ask that question. That question that fills me with so much dread. The question that I need to be able to answer with conviction when it comes;
“Well at least we tried, right?”
I continue to gribble my way forward. Trying. At least I’m trying. I need to be able to say that. At least I tried. At least we tried. Dungeon-master, are you watching me? I’m trying, you know? I always try. What else is there to do?
As I continue my way up the darkness, ascending to a new place to try my best in; I wonder what it will be like. Floor number… uh… wait…
Racking my brain, I undergo the arduous task of counting. Floor ninety?
I stop on the stairs.
A reinvigorating rush fills my body and I’m sure I’d smile if I had a mouth. Floor ninety! Ten whole floors already done! Ten floors closer to leaving the dungeon! A real milestone, a real marker! I gribble now with excitement, feeling the steady change of the air shift and warp around me as the ever ascending warm breeze from the bottom of the dungeon rises with me quicker now, expanding and changing as it comes up to an opening that can’t be much further ahead of us as if it itself had sensed this new hope.
Now I wish I had eyes. I wonder what the next floor is going to be. I feel excited, I feel a child-like wonderment. This is why I do it, tell you what. Progress. This is progress. This is something I can live for. Something that can remind me to do this every day, to climb and struggle every day. Because there is progress. Even if it’s hard for me to see inside of all the muck and the blood and the black water. I’m moving. I’m living. I’m trying.
With fresh eyes, metaphorically speaking, I press forward and feel the space around me shift and change as I enter the next floor of the dungeon I call home. Number ninety.
As I enter the floor, I feel something shift behind me. A wall. I press myself away from it as I fear being crushed for a moment. The rumbling in my senses stops and I touch the thing that has sealed the secret entrance I had just emerged out from. Wood?
I taste… wood. Dust. I rub my goo along the edge, along the many edges of the wooden wall behind me. I taste… paper. I feel paper. Old. Many old things are here. The wood is old. The air is old. The dust is old and so is the paper. No. Not paper. I run a slender tendril of goo along the spine of one of many. Books?
Feeling out I spread my goo wider and wider. Books. Dozens. Hundreds. The entire wall behind me isn’t a wall, it’s a bookshelf. Sloppily I move to the side, feeling everything around me. Feeling for more walls. But there aren’t any. There are just books. Every wall is a shelf and every shelf is filled with books for as high as I can reach, for as far as I can taste.
Is this a library?