What’s REALLY at the End of the Rainbow?

The Challenge:

Create a written piece using the prompt below.

What is REALLY at the end of the Rainbow?

I am  fairly certain that there was more than one prompt, there always was and normally, I challenged myself with writing a piece using, not one, not two, but all three prompts.  Apparently I did not rise to that challenge on this one.

Also, I am not proud of my dialogue.  I suck at dialogue on a good day.  This was a quick piece and mostly unedited, so…

Anyway, this is my attempt…

________________________

dungeon

“What was that?” I asked aloud, my own voice echoing back to me in a sinister whisper not my own, as though someone stood in the shadows mocking me.  Turning around to study my surroundings once again in the flickering torchlight, I saw only the damp, moldy walls of the lowest dungeon.  With each step I took across the debris-strewn floor, crunching noises erupted from beneath my feet.  As far as I could see in the unsteady light, the carcasses of various rodent and vermin, some of them human, lay in heaps scattered across the floor.  A shudder went down my spine.  The smell of it all beat upon me—the perfume of death and decay.  The only sound here, the relentless traffic of water, seeping through the floors, the walls and ceiling.

I remembered my foolish boast, “What is there to fear in the dungeon?”  What indeed?  Steeling myself to my mission, I pressed onward, down one of the many narrow, low-ceilinged passages honeycombing the bedrock foundation of the castle.  The path wound its way ever deeper beneath the earth.  Not the slightest hint of air current stirred through this death maze.  How could he be alive after all these years, in these conditions?  How anyone could live a week in this filthy hell, I could not fathom, but two decade?  Impossible!

After an interminable time, the passage leveled out and I entered a cavern with iron cells built along its walls.  Holding the torch up to each as I passed, I began searching for the one that held my father.  What I saw here cannot be described: creatures, no longer human, staring out at me with vacuous eyes, their sweet, syrupy, sticky…smiles of delirium and madness, drooling little trails of spittle through the filth that covered their half-naked bodies.  The stench of it all threatened to overwhelm me; several times I retched until I thought my stomach itself would heave out upon the floor.

Finally, in the last of the cells, I found him.  I knew him.  Perhaps it was his spirit that gave him away to me; certainly it was not his appearance for he had aged beyond the intervening years.  Somehow, he had survived—his gaunt frame only the slightest whisper of his former self.  But his spirit was indomitable.  I could see it his eyes.

“Father, I’m here! I’ve come to rescue you!”  I choked on the words as I fumbled frantically with the locked  gate. The key I had acquired fit easily, but try as I may, it would not turn.  In my haste, it broke off in the lock.

“It is no use,” his voice grated, like the rusted gate, it had not been used for a long time.  “It has been bewitched.”

I fell back, startled to hear him, and hopeless at his words.  “But there must be a way!”

“No, but all is not loss.  I have waited for you.  I knew you would come.”  He erupted in a racking cough, blood appearing on his lips.

“Father!”

“Don’t worry.  Death will come as a relief to me here.  I will at last be free.”  He smiled weakly.  “I have waited to tell you what only I can tell.  They have tried again and again to get it from me.”  He coughed again, this time the blood flowed more freely.  He wiped it with the back of his hand.

Incredulous that he had managed to keep his secret against every effort to pry it from him, I was excited that the answer would soon be mine.  So many had died attempting to attain it.  And, many had killed, as well.  I leaned against the rusting bars and strained to catch his words.

“There’s,” he gasped, “There’s a…” and he collapsed dead upon the floor.

I grieved there by his cell for as long as the conditions would allow me.   When I could bear it no longer, I made my way up the wending path, to return again to the world of light.  I could not grieve deeply for a man I barely knew, but I felt a deep satisfaction that my traitorous uncle would never know the answer to that question.  It never occurred to me that he would not believe my father had not told me.  When the guards met me as I emerged from the secret passage, I suddenly realized it had all been too easy, that I had been allowed to “rescue” my father, in the very hope that he would divulge the precious secret.  Now I sit in the very cell inhabited by my dead father, to scribble these words upon the damp walls for no one to read, and to ponder the question my father died refusing to answer, “What is REALLY at the end of the Rainbow?

Author: michael

I am a former teacher and pastor, now living in retirement as a homesteader, farmer, bee herder, Realtor® and writer.

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