I recently joined a community of writers, more accurately a community of people getting together to support each other as we write and work on our writing. Part of this are fortnightly writing prompts, one fiction and one non-fiction. Though most (ok, all) of what I usually write is firmly in the non-fiction category, I thought it would be good to give the non-fiction prompt a go, and see what happened. This is the result of one of those prompts.

As the prison gate closed behind him, he saw someone waiting for him. This wasn’t completely unexpected, of course, given the nature of this place and the purpose of the traveler’s journey here. But it is one thing to know what to expect and another thing entirely to actually experience it.

The person awaiting his arrival was a sight of splendor, the apparent source of illumination in the otherwise dark and dreary space. Their clothing, if that was the correct word for it, was immaculately clean and almost ridiculously colorful, shedding light from across the spectrum that was at once pure white and a rainbow of color. Though it looked new, beyond new, the patterns and designs in the fabric betrayed its age, dating it to an era several hundred years ago when this place had served other, more cheerful, purposes.

This was not true of anything else here, far from it. Everything else showed its age. And the darker purpose to which the place had become home. Most notable, and the easiest to visually date, were the bodies. From the relatively fresh, with most of the flesh still intact, to the quite old, the skeletons where all of the soft bits had faded away so that the bones fell from each other and rolled apart. This was a helpful, though unnecessary, reminder of what lay in store for the traveler should he lose his way, forget his purpose.

As he looked around the room, he wondered what purpose had brought those who had come, and fallen, before him. And what fate they had met. Obviously, their ultimate fate had been death, that much was obvious from the carnage on display. But how had that fate been meted out, and how had they faced it? Would the traveler be subject to the same ordeal as one of these past heroes-in-training? Could he learn from what he could observe before it all began and improve his chances of success, or was he to face something unique to him, something that only he would be presented and that only he could overcome.

There was more here than just bodies. Beyond the physical structure, there was something about this place, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. And then it came to him – he was seeing this space as it was at the time each of his predecessors had arrived, had greeted the awaiting resident, and then met their fate. He found that if he focused his attention on one particular corpse or set of bones he could filter out all of the other temporal layers from his sight, and see a vision of the experience that person had endured.

He had heard the stories, but again the living of it was quite different from the hearing of it.

He was starting to get pulled into another of these visions, not remembering how many he had already viewed, when he remembered where he was. Why he was there. He returned his gaze to the person awaiting him. A knowing smile, a “yes, it is quite a sight isn’t it” smile, spread across their face to let the traveler know that all was as it should be. They then motioned the traveler toward them as they turned and started walking, head turned over their shoulder to see the traveler’s reaction.

What else could he do? The traveler started walking.