SHE DID NOT REMEMBER BEING YOUNG, for she had always been here. Well, perhaps not here, exactly, for there had been no Here when first she became. Since then, she had abided in many a Here, as each crystallized around her with her Thoughts. Some Heres had been hot and dry, some hot and steamy. Some had been cold and windswept, some sparkling with snow and ice. Some had been bright, some dark. All had gradually filled with creatures small or large, mobile or stationary, as she imagined new shapes in the Universe. And she had tended the Living Essences of rock and water, air and fire as well as the myriad other forms that Life had taken with her flights of fancy.
It was no burden to Be. Indeed, there had always been joy in creation. And she had chosen to become many, in time, when the proliferation of vital Spirits required expansion of her power.
Time. It was Time that allowed the Here to have meaning for each manifestation of Life. But it was Time, she now realized, that had brought to her a strange ennui. This listlessness had crept into her soul slowly, imperceptibly at first, until it swelled enough to thrust itself upon her awareness.
But what was it? What fed this weariness within her?
She had been mulling this phenomenon for an aeon or two when she finally put a name to the dreadful void: loneliness. Despite all her many Selves and all her many Children, she felt alone. Disconnected. Incomplete.
The irony was not lost on her that she needed to go to the mountains to seek solitude while she studied upon this conundrum. It seemed ludicrous to isolate herself because she felt isolated. Nonetheless, she heeded the urge that compelled her to the highest of the jagged peaks along the spine of the World. There, she cloistered herself in a glistening cave of ancient quartz and pondered her dilemma as Time flowed on….
SOUND ROUSED HER. She had been ruminating for millennia, or perhaps milliseconds, when she heard the peculiar groan and scream that came to an abrupt end close by. A burst of emotion had accompanied that noise: fear. Much of the jarring energy had vanished with the explosive din that had punctuated the event, but a faint and tempestuous mix had remained afterward. As the solitary Spirit approached, its passions surging erratically, she focused her vision to examine it. Instantly, she recognized its form: This was one among her recent creations, a member of the Beings that had named themselves “human.” She remembered watching these youngsters explore first their own capacities and then the World with avid curiosity. They had even turned their attention to the stars, of late.
Her smile at the fire of the creatures she had gifted with Free Will faded with the knowledge of what they had done with that godlike endowment. Their inquisitiveness and impressionable nature had been turned against them by the Dark Force that had always been a part of the Universe. She did not begrudge the Darkness, though, for it was merely a victim of its own inherent qualities: Being blind, it could not see beyond the narrow vista of its Function to the wider panorama of its Purpose to create Balance. Instead, it sought the purity of absolute Destruction.
She had foreseen the problem, of course. But she had also known that her Children must overcome the adversities presented through their complicity with Darkness and must open eyes that had been rendered sightless by confusion and animosity in order to find their way once more to the Light. The struggle would help them to grow into the intrinsic power they did not yet comprehend. Eventually, she knew, they would break free from the cocoon of oblivion that had so long held them in its strangling embrace. Their innate capacity to discern Truth made that liberation inevitable. But it would be a painful emergence that she could not facilitate. She would not rescind the Free Will she had bestowed.
A change in the human’s vibrations roused her from her reverie to concentrate upon the survivor. Scrutiny revealed anger and waning hope. At an impulse, she drew a single ray through the clouds to illumine the entry to her chamber.
Outside, optimism renewed.
HE HAD BEEN FOLLOWING THE COMPASS faithfully for hours. And hours. And the sun had sunk below the pass, leaving only a gilded glow along the craggy horizon, a glow that would soon disappear to plunge him into blackness so absolute he would be unable to see his hand in front of his face even under a star-filled sky. But the sky would hold no stars tonight, he realized as he looked north.
“Not good,” he muttered to himself as he pulled his flask from its pouch and uncapped it to sip while he considered his situation.
He was lost, that was clear enough. Perhaps he should have stayed with the plane, after all. But, recalling the unnaturally contorted bodies of his companions—his late companions, that is—and the damage to the cockpit and fuselage, he shuddered. He could not have stayed there, though his life might well have depended upon it. Somehow, dying out here alone seemed preferable to waiting for help among the corpses of his colleagues. Especially if he died anyway.
He had left a trail a child could follow. At least, he hoped he had marked his path obviously enough. He sighed. Perhaps he should have paid more attention when his brother took him camping on their annual get-togethers. He had always relied on Brad’s knowledge of survival techniques and wildcrafting. Now he rued that lazy and secretly disdainful attitude: He was the technical wizard of the family, while Brad was the rustic, the wilderness guide, the throwback to the hippie back-to-the-land movement.
Right now, he wished he had even half the savvy Brad had accumulated. And dammit, Brad will be so pissed when he finds out his kid brother got himself lost and perished on a mountainside because he hadn’t sense enough to stay put and make a camp.
He shoved his flask back into the pouch he had found among the scattered fragments of the wreckage, in the snow a few yards from the pilot’s seat. He wondered if the black box that should have sent out a signal to identify the plane’s location was damaged or operating as it was meant to. Not that it mattered, he supposed. He eyed the shrouded sky in the last rays of twilight. If that storm didn’t kill him, the night’s cold probably would because he couldn’t light a fire: There wasn’t a tree or bush in sight. Damn! He should have stayed below the treeline! Why the hell had he climbed up here, anyway?
He surveyed the area once more, looking for a sheltering rock or notch. He had almost decided to just sit by that small boulder to his left and wait to freeze to death when he spotted, beyond it, what looked like the entrance to a cave. Heart pounding with sudden hope, he glanced for an instant toward the western sky. He had a minute or two, if he was lucky. He ran with every ounce of his waning strength to the crevice revealed by a golden beam.
SHE OBSERVED THE CREATURE that stumbled into the cave and collapsed upon the lithic floor. It was a male of his species and he lay panting, his eyes closed. As his respirations steadied, his heart slowed and his mind drifted. Soon, he slept. However, his light wavered, for the artificial coverings his kind had devised to protect themselves would not suffice to keep his inner temperature at healthy levels. Already, his extremities had chilled.
She felt torn. Normally, she would not interfere in the course of a Being’s life. But, for no reason she could name, she wished this one to survive. Indeed, the more she studied him—his form, his Light—the more she desired to know of this Man.
Gazing down upon him, she traced the pleasingly symmetrical features of his face; the hair beneath the woven fibres, its flame bespeaking his inner fire; and the silvery rays of his Spirit. She followed the threads of his memory to discern the life path that had brought him to the cave. And she marvelled at the tumultuous combination of curiosity, excitement, pride, fear, and grief that had turned him this way and that through his short existence.
At another uncharacteristically impetuous decision, she galvanized the crystals of the grotto, that their vibrations should warm the chamber.