No one she had ever known, and she had known plenty of weird ones, ever lived in a cave. To make matters worse, our cave was a forty-five minute hike away from humanity. Long before the historic wave of preppers , her parents knew it was safer and healthier to be self reliant. She guesses, if truth be told, the cave was why she can sit here writing today.
The cave had been discovered on one of their hikes, in one of the most remote national forests. Otac and Majka had decided after a few visits, they would like to live in this cave after college, they had fantasized about a real life there.
It was a fantasy really, both had jobs during and after college and life went on but each year, their vacations and long weekends were spent in the remote cave, exploring, expanding, improving. Dragging in all kinds of weird stuff. They were reading everything they could find about surviving off the grid. It was fun! An adventure! Limited only by their imagination and budget, but they tried so many cool things in the cave.
Caves are dark and cool so that is what they addressed first. Otac had discovered the Jama on a random hike and had lowered himself in and was surprised to find an extensive tunnel system and flowing water within the cave from a lively spring. The downward light only flooded the pit and was quickly absorbed by the rocks and cave walls. Otac decided this would be his first experiment, to see if he could place reflective things along the walls to carry the daylight further into the cave. And very quickly the cave filled up with shiny things. Each visit, they brought as much as they could carry, drag or wheel in and it made a surprising difference.
Full of shiny stuff, from car grills and bumpers, reflective panels used for sun tans, alum foil from many sources all stuck together, mirrors and sheets of metal discarded at job sites, it all became part of the lighting system. Coils of old garden hoses full of water lay above on the surface in the open, being kissed by the sun then lengths were snaked down over the cave walls creating warmth that enclosed them. These things were the first things they tried. Very marginal in many ways but the beginning of a true dream, coming to life.
It was quirky but a fun adventure. As Otac and Majka sat around a fire one evening after a long day of labor. Majka was nervous and restless, she could not stop moving and fussing, it was so unlike her.
Otac worries she is changing her mind about feeling committed to a future life here.
Majka worries that Otac is going to be angry when she must tell him she is expecting their baby and has known this for a few weeks.
Finally she just tells him in a way that may temper the shock by letting him know she is still in favor of the plan. She stops in front of him, takes his hands in hers and says quietly, “Otac I know you have plans and are always very busy but now you must find time to create a small nursery, we are going to have a cave baby!”
Cerka has heard this story many times, about how they came to live in a cave. How they worked hard and how Majka told Otac about their coming baby. She always smiles at this part as Cerka was that baby and has always felt the gentle way her fierce parents treat her and each other. They are a real family. They live full time in the cave now. They have created a weather tight dwelling in the cave and have used scrounged and salvaged stuff to accommodate all of their needs.
The brightest best lighted place held tiny tiered gardens, in layers or shelves going upward toward the light. Most of their food needs were grown here, to be eaten fresh or dried on racks for long term storage. A dry small cave off the main tunnel was reserved for random can goods and freeze dried packets they found at abandoned campsites and dried jerky from trapped animals. Dry and clean and dark. Jars of dried tomatoes and peppers and onions. Just food that isn’t perishable. They discovered two other openings to access the caves. One large one that became the main entrance to the living area, and a smaller opening off a small tunnel that opened on to the river bank. They live here now, as though it were normal. For them it was normal, happy, content normal.
As Cerka became old enough to explore on her own she discovered a much different world. Her parents educated her in everything. Practical and theoretical. She was in love with the natural world but knew math and science, her life was hands on education. Which berries to eat, how to skin a rabbit, or collect wild bird eggs and then time spent with books learning that kind of thing as well. But as she grew, she ventured out further and further on her own, she found a world of meanness, harsh reality, violence and drugs.
She took it all in from the edges of society, she was a silent watcher. It was a terrible world out there and she believed her parents had been right to become so reclusive.
We have always been reclusive but it fit us. Dad, Mom and me. I thought I knew it all, well all the important stuff anyway but I was totally unprepared when I was told we would be four soon, Majka was expecting another child. And then we were four when baby Bije was born. A sister, a tiny sister, but it would take years to become a friend to hike with or explore so it was just a new challenge.
Cerka still spent hours alone. Often prowling the forest like a cunning cat or sitting as silent as a statue watching fish. It was all learning and she was never bored or unhappy.
Returning to her cave home as darkness was settling on the forest, from the corner of her eye she thought she saw a firefly or lightning bug. She settled against a tree trunk to observe this tiny marvel but the night was still and dark, a lonely sounding owl off to her left caused her to turn her head and study the darkness intensely, not even blinking. Again she thought she saw a firefly but as she watched it took the form of a sparkle. Much like a sparkler on the Fourth of July. Then there were three and finally five sparkling forms.
Cerka felt mesmerized, unable to move, but she was fully aware of her surroundings. She watched as four of the forms rose up a bit like smoke and followed an upward draft of air as it rose. She was feeling warm and relaxed as though the most wonderful thing had just happened.
As her surroundings came back into sharp focus and she could again hear crickets and the buzzz of flying bugs in the evening sky, Cerka realized she was full of new knowledge. New information, new ways to improve some of the things her family had tried and failed. She sat very still and tried to sort out her mind, as just after waking from a dream, one must try to grasp it and make sense of it before it fades from one's memory. But this was different, it was all there, in a logical and clear way.
This was the first of many meetings. Cerka felt she was getting to know this sparkle, their minds became one as they sat quietly in the dark forest. Cerka named her new friend, Jewel! They met often for these mind sharing times and Cerka wondered if they, these mind sharing moments, were warnings or guidance through stories. Who knew their friendship would be their salvation. Cerka also knew it was time to share these times with Otac. He could utilize the new thoughts shared to improve their life.
Cerka just asked her father to walk with her that evening, a short way into the forest. Otac always felt he did not spend enough time with his daughter so he agreed even though he had dozens of other things to do. They walked in silence and Cerka took his arm and led him to the large tree she often sat against. She asked, “Father, no matter what you see, please just wait and we can talk about it later.” He looked at his daughter and all he could think was how the time had flown, his daughter was a young woman now. It made him a bit sad.
Within a short time, Jewel came sparkling through the trees, stopping just short of joining them. The hesitation was a way of sensing danger or friendship. Friendship emanated from Cerka and curiosity from Otac. Jewel came closer and the warm feeling enveloped the three.
Otac blinked and shook his head slightly. What had just happened? But that question was quickly overshadowed by a dozen answers to problems with the cave he had been wrestling with but could not solve..until now. He looked at Cerka who was smiling. She said, “I’m not sure what my sparkle friend Jewel is, but I always come away with good thoughts and good solutions. Sometimes the stories sound like warnings but I haven’t figured that out yet.”
Otac said little as they walked back through the deepening night. He too felt one of the impressions the sparkle had conveyed was of a warning but he could not understand it, but it did convey an urgency.
Life continued this way, each of the family growing, some growing up and some growing old. The only constant was the cave home continued to be more homey and more efficient. Unique ways to shut out harmful elements while letting in the necessary light and occasional sunshine. The sparkle being was always welcome.
Until that day….the day it all changed...
Our ears could hear a loud roar, our senses felt a deep vibration,a violent shaking of the earth.
Repeated concussions and explosions!
Over our head in the vertical shaft the sky was orange and green and purple, roiling and churning and debris filled.
Whatever was happening Otac felt it was cataclysmic!
Majka was out in the forest when the roar and the wind came!
The rocks falling from above sealed the main entrance. Otac and I ran to the tunnel that became a tiny opening by the river bank. We went out and Majka was just struggling back.
We brought her inside. Majka was injured and very sick.
She was gone the next morning.
Otac and I bound her in skins and took her to the river. She floated away with a small piece of our hearts to accompany her on what ever journey lay ahead..
The next two days and nights were in a haze and fog in our minds. Our loss, the perpetual crying of Bije and the ever changing sky we could see overhead through the clear panels. Explosions of color and smoke, sparks and streamers of smoking colors. The noise deafening at times!
And then eerie quiet. Otac wanted to go out and investigate but a nagging story he remembered from the sparkle being made him doubly cautious. “We will wait longer,” he uttered. “We must keep our house in order!”
What he suspected was that all of their quirky ways of living was now a necessity. He suspected everything on the surface was contaminated with something. The life of the destructive elements was unknown. His worry was, how long could they stay enclosed in the cave! Could they outlive the apocalypse?
Almost morning of the third day Cerka thought she saw a faint sparkle in the light above.
She ran to the small tunnel, pushed aside the boulders and Jewel was there waiting with three other sparkle beings. Drawing them in, we resealed the tunnel.
Jewel was battered and weak. Dim pulses of light only. She didn’t know how to help.
The others disappeared down the multiple arms of the tunnel, some of which went deep underground and were unexplored.
The time passed slowly watching Jewel slowly become stronger. The family spent its time trying to decide how to ration or stretch the food supply. Daily they studied the sky exposed in the area above the pit. Every few days they might see a small patch of blue clear sky and this is how Otac was determining the quality of the outside air for humans.
Cerka marked the cave walls with marking for days passed. Jewel took the small lump of coal and drew scenes of charred remains, destruction of bridges and buildings, the drawings ominous enough to complete the picture they all had in their minds.
Cerka and Jewel spent hours together sharing every thought and memory. They felt a strong bond. It was a warm and satisfying friendship. Until one day, a shocking realization came into Cerka’s mind. She was pregnant! How can this be? What is this thing that has happened to her? She understands nature and the ways of reproduction, she has not experienced or enjoyed anything like that. She is not at all unhappy, she is delighted but she is just totally confused.
Cerka looks to Jewel! Jewel is sparkling the brightest she has ever seen. Jewel looks all puffed up and double sized...like a proud new papa, and Cerka understands, she was a cave baby but her baby will be a sparkle baby. It feels so unreal but cannot be denied, only their minds have touched but a baby is coming some time soon! She must ask Jewel how this can be? How is it done?
Enough time has passed now, we live in the days after.
Bije has grown to be a lovely young woman and Cerka, is the mother to Twinkle. Twinkle is in her tenth year. She is a unique mixture of Jewel and Cerka. She looks much like Majka or myself but if she opens her hands, palm out, she can smile and produce a shower of sparkling dust or particles. We don’t know the value or reason for the dust but we are confident that it’s meaning will be shown to us as time goes on.
We have noticed one of the other sparkle beings comes more often from down in the deep tunnels. It spends time, sometimes until late at night with Otac but also it always has time to shine its light on Bije.
Otac is quite old now and talks often of going in search of Majka but Jewel comforts Cerka with the warm glow of his knowledge that she needn’t worry for some time yet.
Cerka no longer prowls through the forest all day learning and looking, she is very content. Well as content as a Mother can be who has a child who can make sparkling dust that none of us understands... just yet.