The young man in his neatly pressed naval uniform looked around in confusion. He had arrived in an underground cavern, after wandering aimlessly for what had seemed like hours.
The cavern had an unseen source of light, which was how he came to be there. In the dark tunnel of a cave he'd discovered, he felt his way along paths until a glow appeared down one direction of a crossroads. It was a no-brainer: You're in the dark, you head toward the light.
When the tunnel opened up into the vast space he was in, he first looked around for the source of the light, but couldn't even see a place where the glow seemed brightest. He was standing at an abrupt drop-off into a small lake that entered the cavern through a tunnel at one end and exited at another. The water reflected green into the air, but it wasn't the source of the light.
It was as if the light came through the walls of the cave itself. Not the ceiling; that was dark. It was also annoyingly low - not low enough to touch, but the size of the space was absurdly pancake-shaped without a cathedral dome rising above it.
He paced along the edge of the lake, then sat cross-legged and bent forward to touch the water - hoping it was simply water.
As his finger touched the water, a shallow boat appeared from the tunnel at the head of the lake, with an oarsman steering it directly toward him. The sailor rose and stood at parade rest in anticipation.
"Welcome, traveler!" said the oarsmen when he pulled alongside the sharp edge of the lake. "Join me!"
The sailor blinked a few times in confusion. The skeptic inside wanted to decline the invitation, to stay put at the side of the lake. He wasn't usually wary, but didn't know where he was, or who this strange person was, and had no reason to get into the boat.
Except for curiosity. Curiosity won and he stepped down into the boat.
The oarsman rowed away from the shore and into the tunnel at the other end, where the walls were all aglow as in the cavern. Soon, the generic green glow of the walls turned into pictures, moving scenes occurring down the length of this tunnel: A young child being chased by a large goose on an old farm. A ring of siblings unwrapping gifts in front of a brightly colorful Christmas tree. A mother waving good-bye to her kids as they walked to school.
"Wait, that's me!" said the sailor, riding in the back of the boat and watching the scenes like movies on the walls. The oarsman nodded and rowed on.
Further down the tunnel the sailor cheered, "That was me playing football in high school!" The oarsman remained silent, rowing, rowing, on and on.
"There I am checking in at the naval base... getting my uniform..." The movies continued well-past the young man's naval career.
"Wait, what's this? I don't remember..." his voice faded as pictures of a large family surrounding him flashed on the screen quickly, each picture showing him greyer or slower, or more stooped. "Why are they going so fast?"
"You said you don't remember."
He watched the movie playing out, trying to think. "I want to remember."
"Your time is gone. If you don't remember, that's okay. It all happened, and you were a part of it."
"But if I don't remember..."
"Remembrance doesn't change reality," said the oarsman as they neared the end of the tunnel, where a new lake spread out. He pulled the small boat up on the opposite side from where the sailor had joined him in the smaller first lake. "Your time there is gone. You've crossed the river. Welcome."
Without being instructed, the young man got out of the boat and watched the oarsman row away. A cloaked individual approached him. "Follow me to sign in."
He didn't know what journey lay ahead of him, but had no choice but to follow.
It's FICTION FRIDAY!
Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.