- 1 Corinthians 15:14
We moved deeper into the Cave of Belonging to escape. Those-Who-We-Can-Not-See had once again tried to kill us, we knew of their workings even though we had never seen them, we knew the sound of their arrival, how the gas was used.
I searched among the survivors in the first cave, the Cave of Belonging. My lover was not amongst them. A feeling of fear and despair stole across me; had she made it? Was she in another cave? Was she alive?
“You are alive!” I said as I saw that my life long friend and blood brother was here in the Cave of Belonging. At least he had made it to safety; most of my clan had perished over time, sometimes to gas, sometimes to injuries from Those-Who-We-Can-Not-See would inflict with their traps.
“It is good to see you blood brother.” I said.
“You too, I was afraid you might have been murdered. It was quiet and sudden today – what new tricks are they playing?” He looked around nervously as if Those-Who-We-Can-Not-See could find us here.
“I do not know blood brother,” I said, “These are strange beings indeed. I wonder if they will ever stop with their want to kill us. Tell me, have you seen my lover? I did not see her in our rush to get to safely from the gas.”
“No.” He replied, “I have not.”
” Will you help me look for her?” I asked, “I must find her.”
“Of course brother!” He responded.
We started our search. The Cave of Belonging had many entrances and exits, there where other places to hide, places that connected to the Cave of Belonging. Of some of the places, we stayed away from – it brought only death. Sometimes we had to leave the corpses of those who had perished where they had fallen least we too become part of the death.
We made our way past a few survivors walking into the second cave, which had entrances to almost all the other hiding places.
Walking onwards, I noticed that there was a new corpse on the forbidden place.
“ Look!” I said, pointing.
“Yes, I see. My brother sniffed the air, “He has not been there long.”
The newer victim, not one of our clan, had been killed while trying to scavenge on the dead ones.
“I do not sense your lover here.” My brother looked around, sniffing the air.
“Perhaps we should go to the other caves.” I muttered to myself.
I continued walking into the depths. This part of the cave was by far the largest, I saw a few entrances, a few of our clan was there, waiting on the ledge that strung across the abyss.
“Have you seen my lover?” I would ask, as I would pass, the invariable negative reply came from their lips. Some did not even know who she was.
“Mandy,” I would tell them.
She was my lover for sometime now and we had many children, some who had grown up and survived others had not, falling prey to Those-Who-We-Can-Not-See.
“Let us go into the Cave of Stars to see if she is there.” I told my brother
“You decide where we should look, you know her better then I do.”
We walked into the Cave of Stars. I called her name.
“Quiet!” My brother was still full of fear from what Those-Who-We-Can-Not-See had done to our clan.
“Those-Who-We-Can-Not-See will hear our calls here if you continue to shout like that!”
“How sure are you? Only we know these places. Why do you think Those-Who-We-Can-Not-See use gas in the Thin Place only? Have they ever struck here?”
“I have never thought of it.” He responded.
“They cannot find these places. Remember the stories our mother told when we were still young?”
“I remember them vaguely.” He has seemed to have forgotten most of them.
“I remember all the stories.” I say. “That is one of the reasons why I am still alive and why I have saved you from a certain death so many times.”
“Some of the stories made sense, others, I am not so sure of. They sound too crazy to me to be true.” My brother spoke slowly as if to perhaps explain himself why he did not understand or even listened to them.
“Mother told us these stories so that we would be able to survive as she had.”
“Yes, but how can you forget how she died at the Place of Deep Waters? How she had been drinking the water? How a creature from its depth, a creature we had never seen before had reached out taking her away? Do you recall how quickly it had happened? The water had not been disturbed before it struck, right before us. Then she was gone!” He reminded me.
“At least she is in Paradise,” I reminded him.
“I remember we were much younger then, even in her death she had taught us of the dangers of the Place of Deep Water.” He said.
I called my lover’s name again, hoping she would hear or answer my call. We strolled deeper into the Cave of Stars until we come to its end, which was marked by a small entrance, which led to a third, smaller cave then the ones we had walked through in our search.
“If she has gone in here, she could be gone forever.” My brother said.
“Perhaps.” I looked around. No one was here to inform us if anyone had gone in. I weighed up the odds for myself.
“Let’s go and see; perhaps she will be near the entrance, or at the Place of Little Water.”
“All right. Let us go then.” My brother replied.
We went through the hole. It took a few moments for me to adjust. I had not been here for some time as there was no need to – as a child I had been everywhere, it was in my nature to explore the unknown world. We had called this cave the Place of Shadows.
My brother shivered, reminding me of how cold it was here.
“What is wrong?” I asked him before calling my lover’s name again.
“I am scared.” He replied slowly.
“What of?” I asked him. “Only our kind knows this place.”
“You could tell me that a thousand times, I still feel that it would not be… what is that noise?” He asked
I looked into the void, hearing nothing, I looked at him for a few seconds.
“Nothing. Come on.” I called my lovers name. Where could she be?
“Let’s get out of here.” My brother becoming more nervous now.
“Those-Who-We-Can-Not-See do not know of this place. Remember how we hid here when we were young? Remember how safe it was?”
“I do not feel safe here now.” He said. “This is the Place of Shadows.”
We walked along the ledge. My brother leading the way, as if he was the one searching. The darkness here and the sound of water, a flood of memories, long repressed returned to me. I recalled how fearful we were when we hid here, waiting for Those-Who-We-Could-Not-See to stop their attacks on our kind. Only once were we forced to go this far into hiding because of them.
“Don’t worry brother.”
He continued to walk as I continued to call my lovers name. Where could she be? I had to know if she was alive or dead. Had she been murdered in the gas attack? Perhaps she had escaped to a different cave. I was not sure how long it would take for the gas to clear before it would be safe for us to venture into the Thin Place again. Then I saw something move, just ahead of us. Something large. Something brutal.
“Brother!” I shouted. “Be careful!”
It was too late even when shouting the warning. The creature, far bigger then anything I had ever seen before pounced on him. I realized there was nothing I could do except turn and run for my own life.
His sudden scream made me turn to look as I made my way back to the Cave of Stars, my brother was in its jaws then he was gone as the creature swallowed him.
I ran quickly, hearing the creature storm after me, no doubt intent to make a meal of me too. The door was just ahead, the image of my brother was enough to spur me onwards, through it, back into the Cave of Stars, back into relative safety. The shouts from the creature stopped me. I turned to see a claw reach through the doorway I took a few steps backwards. Fortunately, it could not reach me. Its talons scraped the floor, and then giving a frustrated scream, it moved its claw around for several seconds, hoping to grab me. I waited in silence. It screamed again, then, thankfully, the claw withdrew.
I waited a little longer, it took several minutes for the creature to turn around and finally leave this place, our home.
* * * * * * * * * *
When I returned to the Cave of Belonging, our leader was reassuring everyone.
“We will prevail,: he was saying, “We must show Those-Who-We-Can-Not-See that we are not scared of them, that we, in our beliefs will not be swayed or join the dust of the earth. We may not see them, but this does not mean that we cannot defeat them. We have stayed here for how long now? How long has it been that we have survived here?”
The assembled was quiet.
“How long have we survived here? Tell me, for how much longer will we be here? I tell you this; we will remain alive as long as there is air to breath, so long as there is water to drink! One-day Those-Who-We-Can-Not-See will not be here. We will remain. Who amongst you have seen our strength? Who knows of our strength?” Our leader paused for a few seconds, acknowledging my presence.
“Our strength is in our numbers. Remember this as your mourn for your loved ones; remember that we will always prevail!”
With this, he turned leaving the assembly. I quickly followed him, perhaps he would know of where my lover was. From what he said, I did not expect much. Many were missing from the assembly so… was my lover amongst those lost?
“No,” I said to myself. She has survived and I will see her again. I did not wish to mourn the death of two loved ones. I followed him into the inner cave. He waited for me to join him.
“How are you?” He asked
“Worried,” I answered.
“So are all of us. The last attack killed many of us. I… I do not know if we should remain here much longer. I have heard reports of another place not far form here where Those-Who-We-Can-Not-See do not know of.
“How did you find this out?”
“I have sent many out to explore, many have not yet returned and I fear them to be dead.”
“Did you send them past the Cave of Stars into the Place of Shadows?” I asked
“Well, then they are most certainly dead.”
“How?” He asked, now concerned.
“There is a creature there unlike anything I have ever seen. Huge, with claws.”
“It is dangerous, then.”
“Yes, without any doubt.” I answered.
“Do you think that we could defeat it?” He asked.
“No, I also suspect that the creature has not been there for long. Or we would have heard reports of it sooner.”
“How did you find out about this creature?”
“I was searching for my lover. My blood brother and I went into the Cave of Stars then in the Place of Shadows, near where the Little Water is, it happened, the creature attacked, killing and eating him.”
“This is terrible news indeed!” He looked around at the bare walls. “This new information is worrying, but still…”
“Have you seen my lover, Mandy?” I asked.
“I have not seen her yet, but I fear that she may be amongst those who were taken.”
“I listened to your speech; I feel that we should stay here. There are many dangers here, but there is food. And water. We know this area well; there are many places where we can hide from Those-Who-We-Can-Not-See.
“Yes, this is true and I know that this will be the only resistance to a move. I too do not wish to leave but tell me, do we have any other choice?” He asked. “Too many of us have perished here already.”
“Must we leave?”
“Those-Who-We-Can-Not-See, murder us without mercy! It is a quiet genocide.” His voice rose in anger, “can you not understand what they are doing to us? Every time they attack there are less of us. Every time we hear them we run, we hide, yet they still murder our loved ones. We must leave, even if it is only a handful of us who do, we must find a better place, a better life, a place where we can be who we are and build our civilization.
I was quiet. I could only but agree with what our leader had said. This place was where we had lived for a long time – perhaps too long.
“What is it John?”
“Perhaps we should leave. Perhaps it is because of our numbers that Those-Who-We-Can-Not-See becomes aware of us. Perhaps what you say has more merit then I first thought.”
“I am glad that you can see that.” He replied.
“When do you plan to do this?”
“ As soon as possible.” He looked at me before turning away.
“I must find my lover. I have to find her; she had been with me for a long time.”
“Then go, find her, when you return we shall start with preparations to make our way to the new Field of Elysium.”
“Is it far from here?” I asked.
“A few days’ journey at most. My sources tell me that there are no dangers on the way, which is good. I do not wish to loose more of our people.”
“I agree Leader.”
I turned to leave
“Make sure that you return here alive. I do not wish to lose you for a stupid reason, do you understand?”
“Yes Leader, I shall be careful.” I said leaving the room. Most of the assembled stood around, talking in hushed whispers. I noticed that many of my friends were not there.
“Brother! Mike,” one of my friends was standing with a group.
“Brother!” I called back approaching him.
“How goes it?” I asked.
“Fine, fine. What did the Leader speak to you of?”
“Important matters, Brother Mike, tell me, have you seen my lover?”
“Not yet.” He looked at me for a moment. “Where have you searched for her?”
“Deep in the caves, my blood brother is dead now, eaten by a creature we do not know of.”
“That is terrible; he was good in all he did, where did this happen?”
“In the Place of Shadows.” I explained.
“I have not been there for some time now. The leader,” Mike shook his head as he whispered, “Has been speaking to all the Elders. What do you think of his plan?”
“We spoke of it now and I agree with him.”
“You do!” He said, somewhat surprised.
“Why do you agree?”
“We must think of us. We must somehow survive, if that means leaving here, to a place that has more possibilities, then we should.” I said.
“I feel that we should stay. There are other dangers besides from Those-We-Can-Not-See.”
“Brother Mike, a change is perhaps what is needed to improve us.” I pressed.
“I have my own private doubts.” Mike retorted.
“I realize that, but think further, what if Those-We-Can-Not-See are making plans to attack, to continue the attack until all of us have perished? What use is this place to a race that is dead? That is what I believe will be the only outcome. I truly do not wish to be amongst those dead. I wish for a better life. Who amongst us wishes to live in fear! When last did you see the blithe glow?”
“I never have.” He answered.
“I have, once, it was like nothing one can describe, and it is something that can only be experienced. It is so big, open and free.”
“I know what you mean brother.” Mike looked down.
I looked around, seeing that some of the assembled had left.
“I wonder if the gas has dispersed yet.”
“Let us see.” He suggested.
We walked to the Thin Place’s entrance, were the attack had taken place. It was one of the warm places we knew of.
Mike stared into the Thin Place, after a few moments he looked at me.
“I do not see any danger.” He announced.
“How sure are you?”
I looked into the Thin Place. Mike was right; it appeared that the gas was gone.
“What is that?” I asked nervously.
“Crystals formed by the gas; ever time the gas comes it appears; it can kill you if you touch it, but after a few hours these crystals have vanished.”
“How do you know this?”
“I have seen a few touch it and die shortly afterwards.”
“This is unbelievable, how many know of this?” I asked.
“Many, as you know we have the rule not to come to the Thin Place for a day after an attack. I am surprised that no one has told you about it before, it is disturbing; you are one of the senior elders amongst us.”
“Perhaps they have not informed me for a good reason. Come; help me look for my lover.”
“Yes, but we must be quick about it.”
“Agreed,” I answered.
We walked into the Thin Place starting our search. Mike on one side. There were many dead. We were careful to mind the crystals; I took note of the murdered ones to tell the survivors.
“Here she is!” Mike shouted. He was ahead of me.
“NO!” My heart screamed as I ran to where he stood.
“Well?” He asked.
“I… I… do not know what to say.” I answered.
Mike turned returning for the Cave of Belonging.
“Hurry, the leader will call us soon.” He said as he walked.
“Yes.” I called back watching him disappear. I looked at my lover. Even in death, she was beautiful.
“My love, will I ever find someone like you again?” I asked her. If I were not here staring at her then I would never believe that she had perished in the Thin Place. It was like a second home to her. Had she known about the move before I had? It was possible that she had overheard it. I did not want to continue thinking along those lines. I remembered the first time we had dinner together, when we had met.
“I will miss you,” I told her. Then for the last time, we dined together.
* * * * * * * * * *
The two bartenders, Richard and Shane sat down at the booth next to the fish tank.
“So how much did you make tonight?”
“Enough,” Richard answered. “For tonight.”
“Beer?” Shane asked.
“Yes, do you think I get beer for free here or something?” He answered with a laugh. Shane was always in good humor, even after a busy shift like the one they had just had. While he got the beer, Richard looked into the fish tank. He could see the cockroaches moving between the wall and the glass of the tank. His boss had told him that he planned to get a mirror to put into the tank.
“What is up?”
“Those disgusting things are still there.”
“What disgusting things?”
“The cockroaches! Do you think I was talking about the fish in the tank? I sprayed some poison earlier on. To try and get rid of the little buggers.”
“You forget how quickly they bred.” He said.
“What do you mean?”
Shane sat down passing Richard a beer.
“When you poison then,” he explained, “They lay an egg. These eggs have between forty and sixty little ones.”
“That is a lot from one egg! No wonder they are so difficult to get rid of!” Richard lit a cigarette before continuing, “Do they lay an egg when they are poisoned?”
“Yes,” Shane answered, “The reason why they are between the wall and the tank is that it is warm there.” He explained
“That makes sense,” Richard said as he continued to stare. “Look at that!”
“What?” Shane asked staring through the glass trying to see what Richard was referring too.
“One of the roaches is eating another one. Disgusting!” He exclaimed.
“Maybe it is eating its former lover!” Shane replied with a smile.
The two laughed at that thought. Cockroaches with lovers indeed.
by Zarin Thomson
Copyright © Zarin Thomson 2009
The right of Zarin Thomson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1998.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.