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Life Eternal
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Life Eternal

©Keith David 2010 ©Virginia Alison 2010

 

....many moons have passed and the torrent of crystal waters still flows swiftly over worn stones on its way to the ocean, meandering through mountains and meadows the river plunges on never stopping, never ceasing on its endless quest to reach the ocean. Giving life to those along its path or taking life from those who would hinder the flow rising from deep in the mountains of Mordavia home of the last remaining stone. Hidden from sight for generations and guarded by the ancients, the stone of the elders feeds off the heart of the earth as it sits within a cavern from which the waters of life spring eternal.

 

Lying dormant for a thousand years as the world forgets, it now glows in the dark, seeking a new Guardian, casting a luminescence over the rumbling water that spurts from the earth’s core. The spring emits a green glow to the algae covered stalactites that hang from the ceiling in a row above the waterfall known to the ones of the past as the Jaws of the Beast....

 

K - …for they are fabled to protect the stone from mortal dabbling. The legend of the elders tells of the stone imparting mystical powers to the water and the protection the earth provided. They live together, eternally feeding and loving one another.

 

One story from the ancients tells of mortals who have tried to take the stone, greedily wanting the power within. In each case except one, the earth sought revenge and the thief met a dastardly demise unlike any other. As the myth goes, the only exception being a maiden so pure, so beautiful, and so innocent the stone and earth agreed she might hold it for a short time. It spoke in whispers only she could hear, telling of mysteries of the universe, powerful knowledge, and paths to great joy and she listened. As the years past, she…

 

V- …grew from a child and blossomed into womanhood. Innocence and childish wonders, sunny days and sweet dreams that filled her life gave way to deep understanding and soul searching and as her days past, the elders taught her well, she was quick of mind and wise beyond her years. As the day of her eighteenth birthday loomed, unease overcame her mind. Troubled she asked for council and the eldest of the tribe granted her an audience. Entering the sacred enclosure the air filled with scents that assailed her nostrils, acrid smoke, stinging her eyes leaving her heady and unsteady. Kneeling down before the wisest of the elders, head bowed in reverence she waited for his acceptance of her.

 

"Speak child" the voice booms out reverberating around the room.

 

"I am lost, unsure of my future, I have dreams that unsettle my mind and I ask for your guidance"

 

"Fear not my child for you are the chosen one who will guide our people through the entrance and keep the Promised Land safe."

 

Her mind whirls with fear; questions fire through her head at the mention of this but listens intently as the man continues.

 

"Your time has come, as your old life ends so shall a new one begin on the day that you come of age, go now, your maidens await you to prepare your body and soul for the trial of life."

 

Confused, she rises and on passing from the gloom, through the ancient doors into the sunlight she finds herself facing her twelve maidens, naked in the eyes of their God. Helping her to remove her clothes, she steps out of them and they guide her to the temple of Mordavia where destiny awaits. Shivering even though the day is warm she....

 

K-…struggles to make sense, to remember, to believe.

 

Purity of soul marked her existence this past 18 years. Free of hate, jealousy, envy, lust and greed she lived in peace. Watching and learning, she listened to the wonderful songs of joy and wisdom from the stone. However, the stone warned of evil and hate, telling of the day when it would come in search of her.

 

These unsettled thought brought her to the council of the elders seeking advice, but she had not expected the answer to be her giving her life. The stone did not foretell this to her, panic invaded her mind, ‘What would become of it upon my death?’ she had grown to love it, and would not allow herself pulled from its grasp. Breaking from the maidens, she dashed back to find the stone and then another thought, worse than the first came to her.

 

‘Are they trying to kill me to get the stone or is this truly my destiny and the thoughts I am having now are the evil the stone warned me of?’ She had to find the stone, to hear its song and then she would know. Running naked, she searched and searched…

 

V- …back through the forest following familiar paths that she used, all these many years until she came to a circular clearing in the forest floor. Her mind whirled, the area was familiar but seemed different today, the trees bending over, their leaves flickering in the gentle breeze and the dappled sunlight, dancing over the dead bracken withered and curled, in amongst the fallen twigs and leaves gave an uncertainty to her thoughts that raced to make sense of the foreboding she felt.

 

Hearing her name called from close behind she starts forward then pauses, as she watches, the dense foliage rustles and shimmers then parts revealing a hidden path. The voices are closing in and although against her nature, she chooses to take the new direction open to her, running swiftly past the whispering leaves as they brush her skin, feeling her strength, feeding off her pure spirit and swallowing her into the forest as they close behind her leaving no trace of her flight.

 

She slows to a walk and leaves the familiar sights and sounds of her past behind. The path, narrow and stony twists and winds through the musty trees. A dank and fetid smell invades her nostrils as she struggles to get air into her lungs. She recoils as she comes across bloody entrails, once a living creature, now a putrid mass of writhing maggots and buzzing flies as they feast on the rotting flesh. Her heart pounds in her ears as she flees the scene and rounding a corner sees light ahead.

 

Stepping into the sunshine, she inhales deeply, washing the malodorous air from her lungs. The path in front leads to a narrow ledge that follows the contours of the mountain, looking out to her right; a deep rift in the range of dark, ominous peaks where a sunless river flows along their base gives her no solace.

 

She is unable to go back; the precarious path is her only way forward. With her back against the hard granite, she edges her way along...

 

K- …the thin slippery ledge, gliding her feet carefully with each step as her hands clutch and claw for a grip on the smooth stone to behind her. The ledge continues to narrow as she moves along unable to see what is around the bend, but driven by fear and curiosity.

 

A pulse of fear and adrenaline shots through her body as the sound of the crumbling cliff echoes through the canyon. Giving way beneath her feet and she scrambles forward to safety on the precipice. Any hope of turning back vanishes with the stone tumbling to the riverbed below, as if signifying the end of her innocence, the path forward becomes clear.

 

A deep breath steadies her trembling hands and she looks ahead on the path to a small clearing. Smoke rises towards the sky in a thin black wisp. Approaching slowly she begins to make out a shape next to the fire. It is a small, very thin man with his back to her. His skin is furrowed and leathery, hanging loose on his ribs. Long gray hair hangs down his back in thin strands. He sits cross-legged looking to the heavens, his arms outstretch and palms open.

 

Quietly, she watches closely from behind a near-by tree. He appears to be chanting or praying. Unsure she waits and watches until a voice echoes through the canyon, “Come my child, I will not bite.” Shocked at both the volume and warmth she wonders if it is truly his voice as he continues. She approaches him cautiously to find…

 

V- …that the fire sits in a circle within a circle. The man rests on a woven blanket, surrounded by white rocks. Nearing the figure, she notices he wears only a loincloth and a band around his head with a strange design that looks almost familiar. She suddenly becomes aware that she is still naked and clasps her hands over the appropriate parts of her body to hide her shame.

 

Oblivious to her he continues chanting as she watches, the fire spits and hisses, occasionally sending tall thin spirals of black smoke twisting and twirling into the air.

 

"Sit my child, take comfort from the fire," an old voice echoes through her mind and watching him, he smiles and opens his eyes.

 

She takes a step back in horror as the black empty sockets stare at her, and he speaks,

 

"Fear not, my child, for though the windows to my soul have been taken from me, many moons past, my vision is keen as the world passes. Come, sit" and he passes her a blanket, which she gratefully pulls around her.

 

"You know me," she states, to which he nods in agreement. "How can that be?" she asks,

 

"All in good time child, your destiny awaits, let us not speak", he takes her hand and pulls her to him, "but gaze into the wells of darkness, your questions will be answered".

 

Pulling her towards him, and transfixed by the black holes in his face, she looks closer, blinking her eyes in an effort to comprehend the impossible. Each inky black pit swirls and wavers, drawing her in, deeper she sinks until the vortex sucks her into the swirling mists, enveloping her as her body tumbles into the void.

 

Her life flashes before her eyes and swirls of violet haze take her screaming into...

 

K- …a flash of coloured lights. Fear and panic grip her spirit, as it rips from her skin and bones, yet without pain. No longer aware of mortal trappings, her soul flies soundlessly through the streaming beams. Gradually slowing, the colour fades to white around her and a peace begins to warm her glow.

 

A pinpoint of darkness approaches and grows through the clouds of purity, becoming clearer as it does. Time has no meaning in this realm, but she is aware of a progression towards the darkness. The once tiny dot has grown wide and awareness sweeps her spirit of the cave where she found the stone. The scene crystallizes in her mind’s eye, the stones guarding the entrance, the smell, a sensation of dampness on her skinless spirit and her special stone are all there to warm her soul.

 

Within moments, she sees herself, walking through the cave on the day she found the stone. All the memories of her life held fast in her soul, stream through her mind from this day before her to what brought her spirit to this place again. A familiar voice begins speaking, yet wrapped in the scene, she is unsure if it is speaking to her, or speaking to the small girl in the cave.

 

Immediately placing the voice as the stone, which sang and talked to her all these year of her youth, she hears…

 

V-….the voice deepens as a rumbling emanates from the darkness, oozing from its depths, malevolent in its intent. The air around her begins to shimmer and liquefy, and she cautiously reaches out her hand to touch the wavering in front of her face. Her hand disappears into the liquid, slimy, warm and soothing to the touch, withdrawing her hand she can see the moisture glistening on her fingers and ventures in a little further, suddenly something grasps her hand , she is pulled through the gelatinous mass only to find herself standing in the cave, dripping globules onto the stone floor.

 

The Jaws of the Beast stand before her, glowering, daring her to enter, and exuding a stench from the depths of the black throat. Her resolve remains strong; her inquisitive mind does not fear the unknown. The voice continues, reciting from the ancient scrolls,

 

‘The heart that beats within the pure

Shall stop and beat no more

When flesh and bone

Meet black and stone

The shores are safe once more.’

 

The words spin around in her head until realisation dawns, venturing forth she climbs the worn stone to the gaping mouth, standing shivering she watches as from the dark a light begins to glow, lighting the way along the ancient path. Down the centre floor of the short tunnel runs the crystal stream, treading carefully she follows the light which opens up into a glowing cavern that sparkles and glitters as the luminescence bounces off the crystals set into the walls. In the centre stands a plinth on which rests a stone, towering high above, from whence the waters spring through a hole eroded by the eons. Circling the odd shaped rock she can feel its pulse pounding through the floor, thrumming its song, calling to her. Inscribed on the flat face above what look like fingerprints etched into the stone are the words

 

‘Guardian Rest thy soul here’

 

She knows this is the end, she knows there is no turning back but she hesitates remembering her years on this mortal coil and smiling softly as memories flood her head she places her fingers into the prints. Without warning, a glow emanates from the rock beneath her hand and the stone sighs heavily as her head fills with the welcoming voices of those who went before. As the glow subsides, the stone stands alone as its crystal waters turn red.

 

 

As night falls, the torrent of crystal waters still flows swiftly over worn stones on its way to the ocean. Now tinged with the blood of the Guardian, it meanders through mountains and meadows, the river plunges on never stopping, never ceasing on its endless quest to reach the ocean. Once again, the earth breathes easy for the next thousand years as Life Eternal remains set in stone.