It was silent in the Caves. Not true silence - that utter lack of sound that is found only in the void of space. But what passes for silence in a cave.

There was the drip of water. Perhaps the shifting of a stone. But beyond that, it was silent. This disturbed her. The Caves shouldn't be silent, especially not during the day. There should be the echoes of laughter, the shuffle of feet and sandals on stone, the humming babble of thoughts. The sound of poetry being recited, instruments being tuned and practiced, songs being sung, food being prepared and eaten. And above all, the continual chorus of a thousand mind-voices, all speaking at once. The sounds of living.

But there was no noise.

She got to her feet, making her way through the Caves, straining mind and ears for any sound of life beyond that what she herself made. And even the echoes of her feet, her breathing were hard to hear - as if they were being drunk up by the walls around her.

She called, mind reaching and straining for any hint of a reply. But the walls drank that up too, muffling everything as she started to move faster and faster through the Caves.

And still, there was no noise. Nothing to suggest that there was anyone else alive, that any/thing/ else was alive. She was running now, calling at the top of her 'voice', panting heavily. ~Iast! Mother! Father! Anyone?!~

She rounded a corner, skidding to a stop as she caught the scent of blood. A few feet away, just in sight, was a trail of magenta blood. She slowed down to a walk, shivering at the deafening silence. The trail led onwards, never seeming to come to a source. The silence continued to press in on her, and she covered her ears to try and keep it out.

A pale, pale white hand peeked around the next corner, and she stepped around it to find a figure in an Intermezzo's red robe. A figure that lay, still, on the ground, a gold medallion with a phial of blood around its' neck. No, not its'. His.

She crumpled to her knees, trying to drown out the insidious, oily voice that whispered in the back of her mind, "Your's all your fault..." She got to her feet again, fleeing the body, the blood, the voice. The blood and body were left behind, but the voice followed, damning her with its' words: "...all your know it is..."

. . .

She gasped as she woke up, staring at the bunk above her and trembling in her sweat-soaked sheets as she panted, trying to catch her breath.

It was still quiet.