Part of the cave’s stone ceiling finally gave way. Rocks rained down, smashing onto the ground and chipping away bits of the massive crystals growing below.
“Into each life a little rain must fall,” mused Hird. Her crystal striations were smooth, even where they had broken through the roof of the cavern. Layer upon layer pushed into each other, pressure building then flowing along her seams. She luxuriated in her accretion. The waterfall that flowed into their subterranean area was rich with minerals, and her hexagonal structure had grown steadily.
She heard her southern neighbor, Rorel, muttering. “I feel fragile. My width is appropriate, my length is circumspect, but I worry that I have missed something. A flaw, a hidden, unseen schism.”
Rorel was the older of the two large crystals in their cavern. She was mammoth, with a girth that spanned a third of the cave floor. She had lost half her height in a quake twenty thousand cycles ago, and the grand old dame had been shaky ever since. Before her toppling, she had grown tall enough to touch the ceiling, a feat which had taken her several hundred thousand cycles. Most of her lost mass was still scattered on the floor around her, slowly growing into new beings with their own ideas. She had little interest in them. Their conversation centered around chemical saturation levels as they angled themselves with aching slowness to catch the nutrient-rich water vapor.
The cave rang with a cracking sound as Rorel lost another bit of her flank. It fell into the pool at the base of the waterfall, to be ground down by the churning water and seep into the caverns below.
“Pull yourself together, Rorel,” murmured Hird. “Let us help you endure.” She directed the infant crystals near the base of her neighbor to grow closer to the aging monolith. Eventually, their facets would merge with the ancient crystal, allowing the younger ones more support as they grew, while the elder became more stable.
Rorel trembled slightly but gave no answer. The infants focused their efforts and within fifty cycles they were touching her reverently, bolstering and steadying her. Their flat faces pressed into her sides and the cave settled into a few thousand cycles of calm.
Hird and Rorel were the only ones that had lived through the quake. Hird was grateful for Rorel’s endurance. The rest of their neighbors had rung with the stresses of shifting internal planes and then shattered, exploding outward to spread their fragments across the cave.
“We are too close to the surface,” Rorel had explained. “There is not enough bedrock to keep our cave stable when the ground shifts.”
Hird had despaired. “What is the point then, of our existence? Why have we come into being in a cavern so close to the surface? Half the minerals from our bodies are dissolved and swept down into the caves below us. We are constantly infested with biological beings that insist on wandering noisily through our peaceful home. To add insult to injury, we’re more at-risk during quakes.” Hird let condensation roll down her facets in frustration.
“But here, near the surface, we have the best of both worlds,” responded Rorel. “We are able to enjoy the damp air and dark mysteries of our cave, but we can also grow up into daylight. Those down below us, mired in bedrock, have no chance to stretch into the light.”
Rorel had shared her secret dream with Hird that day. Half tumbled down, stress fractures whipping their way through her core, the older comforted the younger, telling her about daylight and the warmth of the sun. “You are in a more stable spot than I am. You are solid and unharmed from the quake. You could reach daylight.”
“But, how?” asked Hird, distracted by the new idea. “What do I do? Just… grow?”
“Yes,” replied Rorel. “The crystal that told me about daylight has long since dissolved, but she said just keep growing up until you reach it. Share my dream, Hird, and you will be living hers as well.”
“How do you know it’s real though?” asked Hird. “Daylight.”
“She promised me it was,” answered Rorel. “ As she had been promised, by the one that told her.”
Hird focused on vertical growth from that point on. She was the first in millennia to make it past the cave roof, her pointed crystal top slicing easily, relentlessly through the rock, and then the subsoil. In a few thousand cycles she would break through the soil and into the light.
According to Rorel, daylight was incredible. “It’s warm, like the gusts of air that come from the lower part of the cavern. And it’s bright. Not like these pitiful mossy lumps on the walls, with their sickly green luminescence. Everything sparkles in daylight.”
Once she reached the subsoil, Hird reveled in the strange texture of the dirt. She absorbed new chemical components and sent them down along her striations, forming an arched extension along her southern side that eventually bridged the gap between her and Rorel.
“Oh my. That is an interesting taste!” The aged crystal savored the different particles that Hird shared with her, musing about their source. The young ones that ringed her reached out greedily towards any condensation that slipped from her facets.
“What is it? What is it?” they clamored. “It feels purple!”
“Hush now! Let Hird work in peace,” came Rorel’s reply.
It took another two thousand cycles, but Hird finally broke through. The weight of soil on her topmost point had been growing steadily lighter, so she wasn’t surprised when she felt an absence at the very tip of herself. She felt air, and there was light, but everything was gray and dim and cold. The ground was flat and there was a small river rushing nearby.
“Hird? Hird, are you close to breaking through?” Rorel’s voice drifted from below.
Hird frantically searched for the promised warmth, the expected brightness. She tried to find anything good to tell Rorel about this upper land. As she fretted, the greyness above shifted, and a beam of daylight shone down onto the ground nearby. Hird felt the heat of it radiating towards her as it moved closer.
“I’m here,” she whispered to the light, relief flooding her cell structures. “I grew here for you.” Wonder filled her, and wild exultation. “Rorel! I made it! I can see daylight! I can feel it!”
The greyness above retreated further, and the beam grew wide enough to include Hird. She felt its warmth and saw the ground around her burst into color. Joyful, brilliant light cascaded down her clear core and illuminated the cavern below. The young crystals froze as daylight flooded over Rorel, reflecting her internal fractures and making her sparkle and angle beams of light every which way.
Rorel glowed and felt the warmth of the promised light. Beautiful, glorious daylight.