After a long descent by ropes, the tall man stood at the pinnacle of the vast entrance of a cave rooted at the bottom of the escarpment. He imagined it the maw of a tremendous leviathan waiting patiently to engulf him. All he need do was step through and begin a journey of torment within the monster’s body. A mild chuckle softly filled his chest as he considered the portent of his musings. Such thoughts would not help him adjust to his last home. The black cat at his feet, sensing his reluctance, purred and rubbed against his calf as if to reassure him that he would not be taking that journey alone.
Birds of every vibrant aspect flew from the mouth of the skulking creature, signaling the arrival of its ultimate occupant. The man scooped up the cat and slowly picked his way through moss-covered boulders the size of English cottages. From the escarpment above fell a sparse waterfall that fed streams at the bottom. He crossed a narrow stream, then another, and another each successful stream widening as it traveled towards the cave, converging into two percolating waterways where they hit a water-worn rock standing like a sentry at the lip of the cave. Here, the confluence of the streams fed a spectacular lake of iridescent, green water, the hue fashioned by a common cave algae and nutrients carried in by the streams . The man stopped and stared at the theater before him. The cat clung to his shoulder, never ceasing its purring encouragement.
Within the enormous dome of rock and vegetation, giant stalagmites rose from the cave floor, while stalactites hung not from the distant ceiling but from cliff edges like icing down the sides of a cake. It was cooler inside the mammoth entrance than out, yet still warm and humid. It would be cooler further in but at the cost of precious sunlight. Once the shield went up at the monster’s mouth, the temperature and humidity, as well as light, would be easily regulated. The tall man and his cat, the cave’s first interlopers, would be its last.
The man was filled with sadness emanating from the cat resting upon his shoulder. Feline and human would be marooned inside the cave for a thousand years, only less, if the fates turned. Forever, if the planet burned as promised. The immensity of the sojourn was dwarfed only by the determination of the tall man and the loyalty of his small companion. The man stroked the black cat, softly whispering– cooing, until the cat was purring once more. The man then spoke aloud,
“Pyewacket. Seal the cave. Please.”
The black cat rubbed its head against the man’s and walked head first, down the man’s torso, dropping to the cave floor. The cat bounded towards the mouth of the cave, leaping from boulder to boulder until finally resting upon a table of rock. The man closed his eyes and moments later opened them to gaze upon Pyewacket. Where once stood a black cat, now stood a young woman, barefoot in a wispy, white gown, with long golden tresses and the rarest of blue eyes. She raised one arm then the other, pointing them, palms up, at the massive entrance-way. Points of crimson light traced the outline of the great mouth and converged at the apex, and with a vacuous hum, terminated in a gentle crimson discharge of smoke. The stillness resulting, enveloped the cave…
It was done. The shield was up. The mouth of the cave could no longer be seen from the outside, yet those inside could see through the shield’s transparency.
“Well, done, Pyewacket.”
“Thank you, M. Shall we have tea now?”
This story is in response to the above National Geographic photo
Once more with feeling #10
word count: 615