A stray sunbeam slipped through the barred window.
Looking up from my spot on the dirty floor, I gazed out the cloudy glass of the window above me. It was very hard to see the world outside but I looked anyway in hope that I might – someday – escape this place.
As the chatter of birds within the temple came to my ears, my thoughts drifted back to my life before I had become trapped in here. I had a home, friends, and happiness. The only thing here is darkness and control. My gaze moved to the dark gray floor as I remembered how I got here and what happened thus after.
The iron temple, my prison, my home.
It looked promising at a first glance.
The temple stood silently in front of me, it’s pristine iron surface shone brightly in the sun. I smiled a little, my luck had surely taken a turn for the better. With a spring in my step, I confidently walked up the steps that wrapped around the large metallic building. As soon as I set foot on the last step up, I heard the cry of a vulture in the distance.
I paused and looked up at the large bird that soared overhead. A gentle breeze blew my white Grecian dress and the few loose strands of copper hair that hung loosely from my rose bun.
Within the moment, the vulture was gone. Soon after, my eyes landed on the intricately designed metallic door in front of me. Without hesitation, I pushed the door open and stepped inside.
The first thing I noticed was the large glass chandelier that hung from the ceiling. The fire the flickered on top of the candles that adorned the chandelier was white. My gaze lowered to scan the rest of the room. Beautiful cream white curtains and furniture scattered the room. In the middle of it was was a little glass table with a plaque on it.
My fingers moved over the furniture lightly as I made my way towards the center of the room. On the plaque it read:
The Iron Temple:
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.
I frowned, what did it say? Soon after, my eyes landed on a door about a few yards away from the table. This door was even more beautiful than the first, intricate designs were etched in its bright iron surface. The wall around the door was etched with beautiful designs as well.
Amazed by its beauty, I walked up to it and ran my hands over its surface feeling the designs on the door.
Opening the door, I walked inside. This room was empty; it had a black ceiling and walls the floor was a dark grey. The only thing that was in it was a smaller version of the chandelier in the first room. I stared at the small white chandelier for a few moments. Behind me, the door was still open letting light pour in.
Taking a step forward in the room, a loud bang came from behind me. The room immediately darkened, the only light left was the dim light of the small white flames that danced upon the candles.
I whipped around in fear to see that the door was shut. Running up to the door, I frantically pounded on it with my fists hoping that it might open, “No!” I cried out, “Let me go!” After seeing that it would not budge I staggered away from the large iron door, hands throbbing with pain.
I stood there for a moment as the dim light of the chandelier continued to shine softly on the door.
Turning around, I spotted a black wooden door at the exact opposite side of the room. Rubbing my hands, I walked over to it slowly. I opened the door gradually letting it creak open. This room had a dark gray stone floor and walls, the wall to my left had two barred windows each letting some light in.
I walked over to the window nearest to me and started pulling on the bars hoping it was weak enough to budge. Nothing happened.
Suddenly, I heard the rustle of feathers behind me. I turned around to see what looked to be the faint outline of two large birds standing in the middle of the room, their forms becoming gradually apparent. After a couple minutes, I could clearly see two vultures standing side by side looking directly at me. One was bigger than the other.
“Come hither child,” The vulture to the left spoke flatly as it looked me in the eye. Its voice was masculine, and grating. “What is your name?”
“I’m Judas and this–” He looked at the vulture to his right who was also bigger, “is Delilah.”
Delilah only looked at me.
“Nice to meet you two, but can you show me the way out?”
I frowned, maybe I understood him wrong, “Do you mean you can’t or you won’t?”
Judas looked at me with a steady eye, “I won’t. Only Delilah and I can go in and out of the iron temple. No one else is allowed to leave.”
My heart began to pound again. I had been tricked.
Delilah gestured towards a hallway leading out of the room that wasn’t there before, “Come. We’ll show you the rest of the temple.” Her voice was feminine and honeyed. Judas and Delilah both spread their wings and silently flew in front of me into the hallway.
“This,” began Judas as he landed on top of a perch that was attached to the wall, “Is the main hallway. You can get to anywhere in the temple from here.”
Delilah continued, “In this hallway, are the doorways to the altars, the most important part of this temple.” She motioned to one of the pitch black ornately designed doors with her wing.
I opened the door quietly and peered inside.
The stone floor and walls were a light gray, in the middle of the room sat an intricately designed black altar. The only thing on the altar sat two black candle holders and a glass plate, the same strange white flames flickered lazily upon the candle’s wicks. The ceiling was a stained glass dome of different shades of gray.
Something felt terribly wrong about the altars and the two vultures.
Then, I was escorted to a sanctuary with walls of iron. It resembled the beautiful sanctuaries seen in Catholic churches. I marveled at how majestic it was. Why wasn’t the sanctuary the most important part of the temple?
Next, after walking down a long dimly lit temple hallway with Delilah and Judas flying ahead, I was shown what was to be my room. The room was small, gray, and dusty. The only things in the room was a simple bed pushed up against the wall and a barred window with cloudy glass.
I turned around to see that Delilah and Judas were no longer there. The door was closed and I was left to myself.
The sound of pigeons talking outside my door brought me back to the present.
The day after I first became trapped here, I found that there were other birds living within the iron temple too. At first, I thought they must have flown in one day and didn’t realize they couldn’t get out again. But I quickly came to the realization that they, in fact, were aware they were trapped and felt no need to do anything about it.
I also noticed that most all of the birds did as they were told by the vultures, Delilah and Judas, with no questions. The most important command was when the clock struck the nineteenth hour that all birds must convene at the altars.
I used to go to the altar meetings but stopped as I got a very wrong feeling about the whole thing. No one really thought much of it at first, but after several weeks of not showing up for the altar meetings, they quickly began treating me differently.
Most of the birds were friendly to me at first (especially when I did as I was told by the vultures) but as I stopped letting them control me their friendliness disappeared too. Many times I had run down the temple hallways chasing specters and trying to find a way out of this place.
I listened to the pigeons out my door for a couple of minutes. They were gossiping again.
Opening my door, the chatter of the birds stopped immediately, “Good afternoon, Strato and Eris.”
“Good evening Cassia.” Eris replied flatly. Strato only regarded me quietly, then began preening his feathers.
Nodding to the two, I walked down the long way to the sanctuary, the other way was shorter but that was where the altars were. And I didn’t feel like talking with anyone.
Only a few weeks ago a fall out happened between the vultures, the other birds if the temple, and me. Again, I drifted into a daydream as I walked down the dimly lit temple halls as I replayed it in my mind.
I was reading a book in the sanctuary when Junia – the unruly young relative of Delilah and Judas – started pecking at me with her beak to entertain her. After brushing the young vulture off me, I corrected her. This wasn’t the first time I had to keep this bird from treating me like I was her property.
Delilah quickly caught wind of this and gave me a tongue lashing, after which I confronted her about the manipulation, and other matters. A couple hours later, Delilah caught me in the main hallway. She also had Judas and most of the other birds of the iron temple with her.
I ducked down and hid my head as they flew up in the air and came down upon me like a swarm of bees.
The glint of light on iron caught my eye as I walked into the sanctuary and sat at my usual place in the very back. I stared at the front of the sanctuary as I silently prayed to God, thanking him that I had survived this far.
The next morning, something felt different.
After I finished my morning routine and stepped out into the hallway I noticed large cracks on the temple walls. Each crack let in a beam of sunlight and fresh air from the outside. I walked down the hallway slowly as my fingers lightly skimmed over the cracks. A smile began to form on my lips as I walked.
I knew, somehow, that I would soon be free.