For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.
Beneath the church was the crypt. The entrance lay behind a small door that she had passed many times but never seen opened. The steps were broad and well-hewn, and there were torches in the sconces. She lit one and carried it with her. Low arches held up the vaulted roof above a pavement where lay the ranked tombs of worthy, forgotten bishops and noblemen. Go to the east end, beneath the altar, he’d said, and go down, deeper. Her steps echoed though she tried to walk silently among the dust and the dead. In the silence, even her breath made a sound.
There was no door at the east end of the crypt, just an opening like the open mouth of something toothless and dead. The steps were rough and uneven and there were no torches, no sconces, defying the day-sighted to enter. The torch flickered and she hoped it would last the time it took to get what she wanted.
She entered the darkness and the shadows swallowed her. Cold gripped. The torch cast only a feeble halo of light and the descent, the curling, corkscrew descent, seemed to last for hours. At last, she reached the lower level, a narrow passageway hewn through the rock, punctuated by arches, some worked in the Gothic style, others round and unadorned, and the oldest of all, mere stone lintels. Passages led off to left and right, all dead and dark except the way ahead that was lit by the pale light of distant torches.
The texture of the air changed, grew thick and greasy like burning fat, and the smell increased, the damp and unwholesome stench of fungus and corruption. Her steps slowed, the torch held aloft guttered and died. In a distance measured by the unequal roof supports, a figure appeared, dark and uncertain against the flickering light. Suddenly she wished she had never come.