The Divide – Ch. 1
She looked up through a clearing in the forest canopy, deep into the mesmerizing crystalline glow of seemingly endless reflections and mosaic patterns within the komorebi. As its light retreated to the faint sparkling sheen of night, her skin was warmed from the rising red glow of the fire stone. A bead of sweat rolled down her breast and across her neck as she noticed the first gentile breeze of the cool night air. She lay upon the soft moss of the meeting place still warm from the day. Lost in the sound of drums and singing, she searched the shapes and patterns in the komorebi as she had nearly every night from the time she was birthed to Yochi.
Suddenly, she felt the warm breath and tiny hands of one of the youngers who had sneaked up on her from a nearby path. Presumably exhausted from a long day with the elders learning the many names of the plant spirits, he curled up on her arm with his face buried in her neck and was fast asleep.
Comforted by her unexpected companion, she fell deeper into languor, her breath slowed and she slipped into dream time. Her eyes flickered and a tunnel in the darkness of her inner world opened, giving way to a river of brilliant lights flowing like plasma.
Her consciousness dissolved like radio static. She began to feel the presence of others. As if waking from a dream she saw through new eyes, nothing was hidden, all at once she remembered, and the mind of the ancestors was with her. She could feel ten thousand arms shuttling and processing materials along the surface of the vast shell of Yochi, pulsating and flowing like breath, constantly reforming its surface. She could see deep into the extents of the cosmos peering through the endless eyes of the sensor networks.
The warmth of the ancestors embraced her as her curiosities rapidly scanned all that could be perceived, her gaze soon turned to the records and watched as Yochi first arrived at the new star. She watched as she grew from a single cell of asteroid rubble depleted and battered from the long interstellar journey. She watched as one grew into two, then four, then eight and on and on, forming a great ring of stone and ice encircling the star. She watched as pillars of light raged forth from the ring consuming a nearby stone planet, which was soon swarmed by a cloud of processing and retrieval units that further degraded it into a fine gravel for transport back to the great ring.
Slowly the ring turned, growing wider as a cloud of beautiful gasses leached from the industrial systems that coated the shadow side of the ring forming a flowing shroud illuminated in every spectrum, fluorescing and sparkling as it slipped outward like a shining halo into the blackness of space.
She awoke. Dream time faded. She grasped at the memory but it was gone. All but the memory of the warmth of the ancestors and colors she could not explain.
She turned to the tiny pair of eyes at her side, barely awake but dressed with a sweet smile, she reached to tickle his sides but he quickly scurried off, laughing into the bush. The light had only just came into the komorebi, she stayed for a bit longer as it turned from amber to blue and white. In the distance she could hear her little friend splashing in a stream, and the muffled shuffling of the elders who had already made there way to the hot spring.
As the caverns warmed she heard the morning streams as the shallow night ice began to melt and water trickled down from Niflheim. It wouldn’t be long until the ponds would be overflowing with fresh cool water and thick fog would cover the trails filling the forest with dew.
She made her way past the hot springs breathing in deeply the hovering spirit of sweet and bitter herbs, up the primary ascending path winding through the terraced ponds.
Only halfway through the terraces and water was already lightly flowing, with a fine mist beginning to dance on its surface. She sat on the steps, watching as the tiny pond smelt danced in the swift churning of the morning flow. The mist began to rise around her, flowing softly yet growing in thickness until the water could scarcely be seen.
She watched as fog filled the forest, enveloping first the paths and streams and the vines and at last even the palms were covered and soon she too was enveloped in its soft embrace. Sitting for a short moment there in the solitude of the morning she was alone with the sound of water flowing from terrace to terrace.
As the fog cleared she made her way onward through the cool air of the evergreen band surrounding Niflheim. Several of the people were already drinking from the fresh morning springs flowing from its rocky mouth. She knelt beside a stream falling from a nearby rock, pulling back her hair reached her hands into the stream and began to drink. The morning water was always crisp, she wiped the water on her face and shoulders enjoying the sensation of water rolling down her body. There was a faint tickle on her thigh pulling her attention slightly from the refreshing chill of the water drying on her skin. The tickle moved suddenly up her back startling her. As she turned suddenly an unexpected splash of water was in her face, and there was her little companion with a long twig and a mischievous grin, as if his plan long in waiting had finally been achieved. With a giggle he ran past the trees and down the path towards the terraced ponds. Just before reaching the stairs he was quickly snatched up by one of the young men and dangled by one leg behind his back. Screaming gleefully the boy played at struggle, though there was no chance of escape. She smiled as she walked past them both, sticking her tongue out at the little one still dangling helplessly behind the young man as he continued on towards the streams.
As she descended the path she stopped at several aquatic morning glory patches, grabbing a bundle from each terrace to add to the morning meal at the meeting place. Along her way she also grabbed a trap from the water in a lower terrace with several larger smelt ready to go to the harvest pond, and a handful of rambutan stems full of ripe fruits, stopping to eat a few along the way.
When she arrived at the meeting place the pot was already boiling atop the cooking stones. She emptied the trap into the harvest pond, placed her offering on the altar and sat waiting for the rest to arrive. A couple of elders were carefully tasting the water adding various vegetables, dried fish, herbs, ferments and the refined salts carefully constructing the life giving stew that would sustain them for another day. Soon enough the meeting place was full, and the broth was passed, its rich smell filled the air. She waited for it to cool as clouds of protean settled in the bowl around the pail translucent white and deep greens and reds of fresh morning glory and bamboo shoots, she drank it down enraptured by the deep flavor of every sip. Next a bowl of mashed fruit and zamita powder made its rounds smelling of bananas, seeds and sweet spices, there were faint beautiful blue speckles from the sacred soil fruit which gave a rich depth of flavor that could not be missed. After the meal finished, many herbs, spices and vegetables remained, but were quickly shuffled away to various fermentation’s or racks for drying near the cooking stones.
She sat for a while amongst the brightly painted people and their chatter, but soon a sharpness of vision filled her and the forest seemed to reach out for her. She was off to wander for a while, before meeting the other young women in the steam of muspell to wipe away the sweat of the night.
As she wandered through forest a sudden sense of curiosity entered her being, she began to go deep into the bush outside the well tended forest gardens, towards the edge of the shifting cavern that she had lived her life. A butterfly emerged from the bush and brushed her cheek hovering just out of reach almost as if to bid her follow. It wasn’t long before she heard tiny footsteps moving quickly between the bush, out from behind a palm emerged her new friend, who at this point was more like an impish shadow, he ran forward and snatched her hand holding a half eaten banana in the other. She looked at him wondering how he had found her yet again, although she was amused by his persistent attachment.
They passed by several minor streams overgrown with moss forming a wet green beard on its rocky edges. She felt a breeze flowing to the wall as she walked, it was an unfamiliar sensation, the butterfly at once dove for the wall and disappeared through a veil of vines. Startled she pulled back the green revealing an unfamiliar passage, the boy tugged on her hand and stared curiously at the new cave they had discovered.
They both walked forward in unison stepping through the vines into the dim path, lit only by the light filtered through the vines behind them. They walked on for some time, across what was oddly smooth ground. In the distance they saw another light with a familiar breeze this time coming towards them as if they had turned around somehow. some time later when they reached the light she peaked her head through the vines. It looked very similar in nature to where they started yet somehow different, there was a different scent in the air. It was silent as if everyone had gone to the meeting place, no chatter no sounds of rustling through the forest or splashing from the pools. Her curiosity now consumed her. She stepped forward still grasping the boys hand, they moved through the bush for a time but there were no paths, and the trees seemed to be untouched, no sugar taps and an abundance of fruit, everything full and inviting yet somehow seamed untouched, as if this section of their world had been completely overlooked for a life time. The butterfly returned landing on her shoulder and flew off into the trees, a very peculiar behavior for these usually distant creatures. They wandered on for a while until they came across a stream which lead to a familiar scene, not unlike the meeting place they knew there was a fire stone and an alter, yet there was no one to be found, and no markings or paints anywhere.
A strange rumbling could be heard in the distance and an uneasy feeling came over her. She grabbed the boy and started retracing her steps, back into the bush moving along the wall until the smell of burned plants filled her nose. As she approached the portal through which they had entered this strange new place she could hear a strange muffled rattle. As she moved closer she noticed the vines that had covered the hole where gone, there ends had been singed and the rock wall where the passage was glowing like the fire stone. She could feel its heat on her face from where she stood. All at once she remembered the divide, a sacred vision the elders had shown her when she was small, of when their elders, elders first arrived in the shifting caverns. Grabbing the boys hand she began making her way back to the meeting place knowing everything had changed.