Aftermath

The boat pulls up onto the icy shore, and you clamber out. You walk along the shoreline, gazing out at the grey skies above the seas, leaving the boat behind. The waves won’t carry it away and there’s nobody present to steal it, so why bother tying it up?

Nothing moves in the wind but your blowing hair and your footsteps, carrying you along the coastline. Only the blue grey waves lap the icy shore you walk along. No vegetation grows on the featureless landscape, all dirt having been swept away by the tides; no landmarks except the shrinking boat note how far you’ve walked. Winding from the beach are faint paths over the ice, twisting through frozen dunes and up to the white cliffs, leading into the caves. You turn your back to the sea as your steps stray, leaving the lapping of the waves and a gentle but bitter wind behind.

Nothing is there in the winding caves to provide illumination, but somehow it is brightly lit, the white icy walls glowing with an inner light of their own. You can see your mysterious blue eyes in the reflection of the ice as you walk on, your own chilling gaze staring back at you. The cave goes deeper into the island than you would expect, twisting and turning until you begin wondering if it ever ends. Have you gone below the surface? How far? You never expected the core of the earth to be cold. Soon those thoughts begin to pass, and you thoughtlessly walk, your tread barely audible.

And long after your quest- for guessing when this tunnel ends- is extinguished, you emerge into a cavern. Other passageways join with yours to fringe into a wide chamber, decorated only by the electric blue of the ice’s glint. A wall leads up to the shelf on the other side, but what means is there to reach it? Then you notice the quiet drip of water interrupting your thoughts, and catch sight of shallow indentations in the wall. Footholds, melted into the ice. They must be recent, if the water drips- could someone else be present? You go to climb the footholds, pausing only to watch a bead of water trickle down the wall. It slides slowly, damming at the lip of a foothold, struggling to stay aloft; the drop then gives up its sinister struggle, falling to the ground with a drip. By the time the water hits the ground, you are already gone.

A path winds up beyond the shelf, and you follow it, not questioning where it leads. Water sits in pools in the trail, and a roaring sound is somewhere ahead, beyond the shadow of the path. For a moment you question whether you should go on; the water could be rushing toward you. No. If it was headed in this direction, it would have been here long ago. But still, the roaring ahead, what could it be?

You cross into a vast chamber of light, the shadows halting at the archway you walk through. The path abruptly ends not far in, giving way to a giant waterfall that occupies the center of the room. Water pours from the unknown above, droplets falling from catacombs in the ice to down below, where the bottom will never be found. As the water surges, the light in the water changes, forming different colors and vague images. A splash of water falls away from the column, and as it bathes over you; your eyes see a different place. The vision breaks then, water dripping down your face, but a truth is whole in your mind. You know the secret of the waterfall, and where it can take you. It takes a moment to sink in, and you step away from the edge, your eyes straying.

Along the walls, carvings are inscribed on every inch; upon closer inspection, you see the carvings of names, names of all the ones that have gone before you. You can see profound, fresh carvings of those that were there recently, the most recent carving sticking out at you. “Nireta”. Older carvings, such as an “N” crossed with an “S”, are more faded, overlapped by the newer names. Finding a chisel, you carve your name onto the wall and set down the tool for the next one who wanders through here.

You reproach the edge, staring deep into the glow of the waterfall with a smile. As the water drops past your platform, you can feel the tug of the voices in there urging you. The desire to follow gravity fills you with anticipation, as your feet are ready to take a step off the edge. Where does this place go? You think. Does it matter? Exhaling, you let your excitement go with you as you jump into the waterfall.

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