My eyes blink reluctantly as I wake up. I stare at the impenetrable blackness of the stone ceiling hanging insidiously over me. The light emanating from the fire pit dances nihilistically across the cave walls, reminding me that this is Hell. I see her lying next to me. A shot of bliss warms my body. My dreams deliver me with a stark indifference back to this cave every morning where I would surely languish in unrelenting despair until I suck in my last putrid breath and simply cease to be. Yet every morning she welcomes me back with what can only be described as love in its purest and most unadulterated form. Every time her smooth and delicate voice graces my ears and rings through the cave as if sung from an angelic choir, I know why I’m here. I live for her; she’s the only thing I’ve got left. In this cave she’s stayed pure: untainted by the real world. She is the most innocent and decent being in existence. When the planet dried up, she was only 18 months out of her mother’s womb; the most perfect sanctuary she would ever know. I couldn’t save her mother: my most significant and permanent failure. I took her into this cave and started constructing the lie that would soon become her life. As her father, my job is to make her feel that everything is alright. When I come back from a hunt covered in dirt and stinking of a leftover, I dismiss her inquiries because she cannot know that anything is wrong. I call myself Prospero, although she just calls me “Dad”. That word fills me with purpose and pride. I’ve told her almost nothing about the outside world, and she never leaves the safety of our home. I cannot let Eurydice know the truth. I cannot let her know what lies beyond the cave, for I’m sure it would break her…
The crimson cloud of dust swirled violently around Prospero on his trek back to the cave. He smiled sardonically to himself as he thought about his home and how willingly he’d accepted the lie that he himself built, although he knew he had no choice. He hasn’t run into any leftovers today, which isn’t altogether too uncommon yet he can’t help but feel a sense of unease. The leftovers are the survivors of the global drought who, with startling speed, devolved into primal barbarians, ravaging anything they stumble upon. They have never found the cave but Prospero has seen them coming closer lately. Struggling through the red soot, Prospero’s only source of motivation was to see Eurydice again. With a dead snake upon his back serving as the night’s meal, he carried on to the cave. The wind was picking up. The dust began to blow and Prospero’s vision became strained. He noticed a faint yet distinct growl rising above the wind. He felt rather vulnerable. The growl grew in volume and Prospero knew for certain he was not alone in this red haze: a leftover was taunting him. Considering making a run for it, Prospero worried about Eurydice. He was almost home and he knew he could be leading the leftover to her. Suddenly the growling stopped. Prospero stopped and listened carefully. A scream hit him like a bullet in the chest. With the stinging image of Eurydice in peril, Prospero took off sprinting, cursing himself for endangering her. Another scream pierced the air and Prospero felt pure dread and hopelessness. When he reached the cave, a dark, crouched figure leapt out of it and took off in the opposite direction. Prospero didn’t pursue the leftover: he needed to see Eurydice. Fearing what he would see, Prospero entered the cave. The screams had stopped but reverberated hauntingly throughout the cave and created a terrifying score for the scene Prospero found himself in. He saw her crumpled and motionless by the fire. He lurched forward and fell to his knees by her side. No, no, no, not her too! He lifted her head onto his lap; her recently-warm blood oozed out from gash in her neck and soaked his lap and legs. Her large and watery blue eyes, which were always filled with such love and joy when met with his, showed the remnants of fear and confusion. They held a longing for her father in her last moments. I was supposed to protect her! Instantly consumed in storm of violent fury and suicidal despair, he pulled her towards him and wailed unashamedly. He failed once again, first as a husband and now as a father. He screamed until he could no longer make a sound. Eventually, he fell asleep with her in his arms, for the last time.
A few weeks later.
I eventually burned her remains and most of our possessions… I had one job! I had to protect her and I failed. I’d created this sanctuary for her and it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t save her. She was the most innocent being on the planet and I let the world ruin her. I can’t kill myself, although I have no reason to live. I can’t let myself get away with this failure that easily. I can’t stay in this place. I’m walking into the desert, indifferent if I live or not. I can’t look back at her. I’m sorry, Eurydice.