LIska lingered by the embers of the fire after family story telling ended. The stories had invoked long told remembered images of light. Stories remembered for generations and cherished by the Elders who passed those stories along to the young ones. Liska pondered. She asked herself, so what is light? Why do we miss it so, even now that it has been gone for so very long? No one in her family, not even the family Elder, had ever actually seen any light except fire. Fire was their source of warmth and it enhanced their food by heating it. After all, she thought, darkness saved the people from the Terrible Time of sickness and ever-lasting winter, or so they had all been taught. Those Terrible Times drove the people into the sacred caves for shelter bringing with them what they could carry and glowing fire embers. These thoughts crowded into Liska’s mind every day, ever since word reached the deep caves that the cave-door guards had seen light in the darkness Outside.
Liska had lived all twelve years of her young life in the deep caves where the only light came from small family-made firepits that were tended carefully keeping light alive and nurturing the hope that one day light might return to the Outside, a place she had never known except in stories and the wall-art inspired by those stories.
The stories told of stars and the moon. They told of starlight and moonlight shining over great spaces filled with water called lakes that were ringed by trees. She loved the stories and the feelings that flooded her heart and mind as she listened, but she never once thought that one day light would reappear Outside. It just seemed impossible. Yet, if the cave-door guards’ reports were to be believed, and they had never been known to lie, the light was indeed coming back. The mere thought of that happening was exciting and a daring plan began forming in her mind as she crawled into her sleeping robes, humming her dreaming song, and allowing her dream-mind to continue working out the plan as she slept.
She awoke suddenly with a start and listened but she heard only sleeping sounds from others in the family. She threw off her sleeping robes, slipped into regular attire, and made her way through the darkness of the caves following the light from glowing embers of banked family fires. She steadily made her way closer to the cave-doors until she reached the resting place considered the boundary beyond which most never ventured because it was so close to the Outside. In the stillness, she hardly breathed and listened with her whole self. Silence filled the space all around her.
As Liska stood there considering whether to move forward, the darkness around her lessened as a beam of silvery dim light shone through. She was transfixed. She had never seen such a light.
A voice spoke with authority, “Who approaches?”
Liska gulped and answered, “It is I, Liska of the deep caves.”
“Why have you come?”
“I heard the word of the cave-door guards that light is returning,” she paused, “and I had to see.”
“How many years have you?”
“Twelve,” she answered and then boldly queried, “Who are you?”
“I am one of the cave-door guards.”
“What is your name?” Liska asked, even though she knew it was forbidden to ask the names of the cave-door guards.
“My number is thirteen but I cannot reveal my name.”
“I know. I’m sorry I asked,” replied Liska.
“You are a brave girl.”
“May I come closer, Thirteen, I wish to see the source of this light coming into the darkness.”
“The source is the moon Outside.”
“I so wish to gaze upon it, even if just for a moment, please,” Liska begged. As she finished speaking, the light disappeared, and she gasped.
“Fear not, young one,” the guard reassured her, “something has covered the moon and obscured the light. We have observed this before. It will reappear. The moon is still out there in the night Outside.”
“Isn’t it always night Outside?” Liska asked, somewhat puzzled.
“Yes, for now.”
“Do you think day might come again like in the stories?”
The cave-door guard chuckled and said, “There are some who think so.”
“Remember the old saying, where there is a little light, there’s hope for more.”
“I remember. That’s why we tend the family fires to keep hope alive,” Liska replied.
“Exactly,” Thirteen emphatically responded. “You should return to your family fire now.”
“May I share what I’ve learned with my family?”
“Not yet. The Elders are continuing to observe these light changes. Word will come to all when it is deemed safe to venture Outside.”
“Venture Outside!” Liska was both startled and enthused by the idea. “I will await the word.” She turned to leave to go back to her family fire when she remembered her manners, and
called out, “Thank you.”
Silence was her only answer.
Years passed and then, one day the Word came to the deep caves that daylight had burst through the night darkness Outside. Families were told to choose a representative to venture with a trained guide Outside to explore.
Liska had never told anyone about her experience when she was younger with cave-door guard known as Thirteen. She was never actually sure it was a real occurrence or a vivid dream that seemed real. So, she hadn’t spoken of it. That night everyone gathered around the family fire to see who would become their chosen representative.
The family Elder called each family member’s name and asked the same questions of each one.
“First, do you wish to represent our family?”
If the answer was no, the Elder moved on to the next person. But, if the answer was yes, she asked the second question which was, “Why?”
When Liska’s name was called, and the first question asked, she softly answered, “Yes.”
Then came the second question. She answered sincerely, “I believe it is my destiny. I have long held hope in my heart that light would one day return.”
No one else answered yes after that. There were two others and Liska who had answered both questions. The Elder asked them all to stand. She walked around each one scanning each with her powers of intuition. When her intuitive knowing was solid, she spoke to the family saying, “It shall be Liska who will join with the other family representatives and bring back to us what she sees and learns through this exploring of the return of daylight to the Outside.”
And thus, it came about that Liska was among the first group of representatives from all the families to step through the cave-door Outside into the grey light of a misty morning. Life changed for the people after that day.
Later in life when her hair was as grey as that long ago misty morning, Liska would tell the story of her first sight of daylight and how its power entered her heart and mind lifting her spirit beyond the confines of caves and darkness. She spun tales of stars and starlight, the moon and moonlight, but most of all of the sun and sunlight, which had brought daylight to the people who then lived on with grace and plenty embraced by the power of sunlight during the day, as well as starlight and moonlight during the night.
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