I was left in the middle of nothing, on my side, against an irregular spire of black rock. I could breathe slowly and started moving but the recovery from this frantic trance had been harsh on the body and the mind. Now the reality of this morbid situation was slowly downing as I hastily searched for a light. Thankfully the small utility keyring at my belt had remained attached including a small pocket flashlight. I turned it on for an instant and, confused, I saw nothing at all. With a ceiling so tall and air so dustless the light just scattered into infinity. I lowered it to the surrounding rocks and inspected them carefully. In relief, I saw what I was looking for, blood stains. In my animalistic rush, I had left marks behind me which might have now become my salvation.
But this was Agowl and I knew that finding my way back to the path would be nothing less than a miracle. I had to consider every possible mistake and proceed with the uttermost meticulousness. With an estimated hour of light and no idea how long the trip back could be so, I took a moment to think. This blood trail probably didn’t run all the way to the path and could very well loop around across itself.
It is difficult to understand how disorienting the Agowl landscape can be. This unnatural amalgamation of ridges and pits plunged into complete blackness looks alike in every direction. Even sound itself travels unexpectedly in this haunted geometry. Totally futile are the human senses in such a context and one could very well be progressing in a circle not wider than their arm’s reach while confidently believing they are traveling forth. Regardless of the direction scaling this terrain is so treacherous they would eventually fall prey to a bottomless crevasse.
In the light of this knowledge and ignoring my physical pain I proceeded to establish a strict protocol that would alleviate any risk of getting more lost than I already was. Such were the steps: Find a trace of blood. Scratch it with my keyring so as not to mistakingly return to it. Press my foot firmly on it to avoid losing it while searching the surroundings for the next one. Repeat.
This pathetic breadcrumb trail lasted for what felt like an eternity. Multiple times I worried that my light was dimming but it held. I was able to keep going step by step, occasionally getting stuck for some time until the faint trail revealed itself to me. Yet this brownish stain had to be the last one. I could tell by its position on the tip of a small outcrop that this was where the skin was first broken and as expected there was no path.
My plan from there on was more reckless than it had been this far. I held my arm out in the direction I believed the trail was pointing to and while trying to keep my arm in that same orientation I started scaling the rocks. Now that I had left the blood behind this very approximate compass was all I could ever count on.
Every few steps I stopped. Turned off the light, and observed. My last hope was that I had dropped the bulk of my equipment when this all started, including my main light source. If not damaged or turned off it should last for days and shine like a beacon in this hell. It took many terrifying tries before I finally saw the faintest glint at a distance off to the left.
When I finally lay beside my backpack, the harsh gravel now felt welcoming but I knew I needed to travel out of those caverns as fast as my physical state would allow me. This miraculous recovery was not going to happen a second time and the mental toll of the events was growing darker around my mind. Over the days back to the mines I felt myself slowly giving up. The dream was still present but it was tarnished.