It was darkness. Thick and penetrating, it clung to the hole in the base of the cliff like a tattered curtain. A weaker man would have turned away, but she was driven. She had heard the cries for help and knew her time was limited.

As she stepped into the cave, she raised her lantern high. Water slowly dripped down the walls, creating a green slime. The dirt floor created a cloud around her feet as she moved forward into the dark. Carefully she stepped around fallen rocks, evidence of the cave's fragile state. One wrong step and her mission would be over.

She could hear whispers. Some coaxed her along, while others urged her to turn back, begging her to give up before she lost herself over one child. She ignored all of them. She couldn't jeopardize her truth by listening to the ghosts of a forgotten cave.

Using the walls as her guide she carried on until they fell away and she stepped into a vast a openness. Raising her lantern high, she gasped. Carved into the walls were obscenities, names and words which should never be spoken. Perched on ledges throughout the cavern where the ghosts, their whispers now louder than ever. Telling her she would never make it out, she was wasting her time, that her journey wasn't worth it. And in the midst of it all, curled up in a ball on the cold, dirt floor was the child, watching her with tear-filled eyes.

"You came for me," the child whispered.

She quickly crossed the floor and dropped to her knees in front of the child, wrapping her arms around her.

"I will always come for you," She whispered. "I will never leave myself again".

No sooner had the words crossed her lips, the ghosts attacked. Swarming around them, clawing at their skin and hair, screaming the verbal abuse that was no longer a part of her life. She scooped up the child and ran out of the cavern. As she ran towards the exit, the ghost streamed behind her. Finally, she could see the light marking the entrance of the cave. With a final burst of energy, she sprinted towards it. As she burst into the bright sunlight, the ghosts of her past burned in the light, misting away to nothingness.

Collapsing in the cool grass, the child tuck safely in her arms, she looked her in the eyes and murmured,

"Never again."