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Elements of the Cave
I sit down against the cold wall and turn off my flashlight. All of a sudden, it is as if the very sun itself has gone out, for I can see nothing no matter how hard I try to keep my eyes open. I can’t even tell if my eyes are open because there is not the slightest sliver of light. Simply darkness.
I breathe in the cool, damp air and feel it rush through my lungs, nourishing and purifying the body that has been a part of the city for far too long. I can feel my heartbeat slow, accomodating the calm that surrounds me. I no longer need the adrenaline; I no longer have any urgency or reason to run. All there is is breath and quiet down here.
My fingers splay out along the chilled ground, feeling each drop of water cling to them and then let go as they spread over the rock. Some of it soaks in, soothing the cracked skin that results from too much time doing and not enough time being. I think of how the water has never changed, how the molecules have always been water and will always be water. For the last millenium and for eons to come, nothing will change in the simplest part of this earth.
As my hands try to absorb the water, they dig slightly into the softer layer of earth that covers the rigid rock. I can feel the little bits of stone and dirt pressed into the creases in my skin, bits of this island that I will take with me when I leave. When life dies, it returns to this earth, which fosters life again. Life always leads to death, and death reaps life. I can feel generations beneath my fingernails.
The faintest of breezes comes down the tunnel, sending a shiver through my silent body and reminding me of the fire that once burned through this rock, plowing through all in its path to reach the sea. Liquid flame, pouring from the mountains above as they could no longer hold their power inside, carved this hole into the earth as it raced along, leaving only emptiness behind.
But what seemed so empty is barren no more, for the water and the air have graced this burned earth with their presence, healing its wounds and bringing it slowly back to life. It is a different life than before, though. It is not one that fosters green and leaves and flowers, nor one that makes noise or draws attention to itself. It is a quiet life, one that is meant to make others remember what once happened here.
We have changed as a people, and I believe most are proud of this change. But I am not. I long for what once was, for the joyous song that the trees used to sing before they saw their brethren torn to pieces. I miss the modest paintings of the wind across the mountain ranges before it saw pieces of its brothers ripped away as a race of beasts tried to quantify the golden love that lay within. I yearn for the whispered poems of the natural fire as it licked around the edges of a crystal lake to bring room for new life before it saw its sisters drained and poisoned. Now the trees have no reason to sing, the wind has no dreams to paint, and the fire has no more kind purposes because there is no more new life to generate in the place of death.
Although my dry skin and pale face, my weak muscles and aching lungs are the most obvious effects of my life away from the earth, I couldn’t count the changes that have stuck their pins deep into my body. It is only now, in the tunnel created long ago by the heart of this island, that they begin to loosen and fall out. I feel twinges of pain as the needles of what they call civilization twist out, away from my skin, but it is relief that flows through my blood when I know that yet another is gone.
But the wounds remain. As I stand, I am reluctant to turn on my flashlight and return to the world I must assimilate myself into once more. And so I do not. I leave the light off, feeling my way along the wall as I walk back out of the tunnel. We have no need of false light to guide us, I think as I pause to reaffirm my place in relation to the slabs of rock around me. The earth will guide us.
Putting my trust in the earth has paid off, for I emerge now into the gentle natural light of a cloud-tinted sun. I turn my face to the sky, feeling the heat of the body that gives us all the light we need. People swarm around me once more, but I feel as though there is a cushion around me. I am not truly a part of these people. I am an ancient one, a maiden of the earth.
I only hope that I am not the only one.