He regained consciousness as daylight heaved itself over the horizon. In the desert, the disc of the sun appeared large, but even more so as the boy lay leaning against the basalt tower. He looked up again, just in time to see the last star of the night shiver and wink out in deference to the sun.
The boy couldn’t remember how long he had been on this journey to the rock, and he wasn’t sure what he would find, but now that he was here, the months – centuries! – he had spent searching for this place receded, replaced with a deep dread of what he must do next.
He sighed and rose, dizzy for a moment from dehydration and fatigue, and set off to his left to circle the black column. Once, twice, three times he circled it before he spotted a crack just big enough for his withered and emaciated body to slip through. Heart pounding, he entered.
The crack grew tighter and darker as he pushed further into it. At one point, long after he had lost his sight to the darkness, he felt the rock squeeze him from front and back and he feared he’d be stuck forever, but panic, sweat and some earnest wiggling allowed him to slip past and into a space that felt very open.
It wasn’t as dark here as it was in the crack, and once his eyes adjusted to the dimness, he could see clearly enough to be left breathless. The floor was the same black glistening rock that made up the whole tower, and the roof was so far above his head that he couldn’t see it. The entire place thrummed with energy and majesty – a cathedral to some ineffable, arrogant godling.
On a raised platform at the center of the chamber was a simple marble table, white and out of place. Curled up at its base were three black dogs, slumbering peacefully. The table he could have understood, but the dogs were inexplicable, more out of place than the table itself.
He had journeyed so long, always aware of his goal, and now that he was here, staring at the dogs in the dark, he felt for the first time uncertainty. There was no way he could get to the table without waking them, and he wasn’t sure he wanted them to know he was there.
Kill them. Fool them. Befriend them. Leave them be and go back. He doubted he could fool them, and killing them seemed as unlikely. The boy stood still as the rock he was buried in, petrified by his uncertainty.