The Cave

The first thing David ever felt was the cold, hard surface of stone. His first memories hosted no hint or trace of the warmth and comfort that were to fill his later years, but only the blind bluntness of naked rock against soft skin. The second thing David remembered was a voice, a delicate melody soothing and taunting him with the sound of what he would later call hope, as he groped and cried in the dark of the cave. The third, perhaps more compelling feeling David ever experienced was that of all-encompassing warmth, as he was passed along the arms of the clan and words of comfort and welcome were gently dropped into his ears by the people he would learn to call family.

            Years later, in the brutal cold of the Frozen Wastes, under the imposing weight of an unforgiving sky, David would often recall that moment of near peace, summoning the warmths he had learned to love and name through the cycles, humming the melody he had always remembered but never really learned, as the comfort of the clan filled his body and eased his mind.

            There was Janira’s warmth, calming and reassuring, an anchor to the world and himself. Although all the women in the clan that had ever given birth were his mothers, Janira was the one to pour him from the great dark into this world. From her, David learnt to find strength in compassion, to draw a circle big enough to embrace the whole clan in the arms of his mind, to feel their warmth as if it was his own. She also taught him the history of the world beneath the ice, back when the gods walked the earth and there was still earth to be walked on.

            There was also James’s warmth, silent and distant, never too obvious yet always there, like the faint glow of smouldering ember. From all his fathers David learned many great things about the world, such as the meanings of the different brightnesses of the great cloud that was the sky or the words spoken both by the mouth and the body. But James was the one to pull him from the dark into this world, and from him he had learnt about the Frozen Wastes and its lurking predators, as well as how to defeat them in combat, and for that he was grateful.

            Zenobia’s warmth was of another kind. It started like a familiar comfort not unlike the one he felt amongst his brothers and sisters, until one night, sitting together on the Chamber of Echoes as they listened to the tales of the Great Mother, David discovered a newfound warmth in Zenobia’s smile that stuck in his mind like a feverish thought. It was after one of these tales that she took him against the hard surface of the Wall of Thoughts, their warmths tearing ravenously at each other like the fabled Sun had done with the heat of the world uncountable cycles ago.

            And in all those memories, with their many corners and turns, their high ceilings and low archs, their comforting surfaces and unnerving hollows, the walls of the cave stood like a quiet witness to their unfolding lives. It was there that David had learnt to look at each of his brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, as if the warmth in their eyes and hearts was worth protecting with his own life. For they were the Oikumen, one of the last remnants of a world now buried in ice, inheritors of the ice and the earth, and that was their home.

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