The damp air hangs, creating mists and vapours in the cold stillness. Caught between mountain and pine, the small gully quietly harbours its secrets. The dampness protected from the howling winds creates a microcosm of its very own. A sacred place where bright hues of greens and yellows are created from mosses clinging to its sodden rocks. Where ferns spew through crevice’s that root and ice have split in rock eons ago. Where acrid soil from generations of fallen and rotted pine, pool wherever the granite slinks back into the depths of the earth. It’s acrid smell staining every drop of the cold damp stillness.
In this darkened space, once frozen water still blue with the coldness it carried, burbles, roars and spills through its boulder strewn path. Building pace and energy until it longingly falls over one final granite lip and into the pool at this most isolated of sanctuary’s heart.
My heart paces with the lapping of the water as I place a foot into the coldness of the pool. The gravel below giving slightly as my weight comes down upon it. The coldness quickly bites through flesh and searches achingly for the remanence of any heat within. Carefully I place the other foot down to join its marching brethren and begin to move slowly into the pool; walking past its shallow lip and into the darkness of the plunge pool itself. The coldness works its way through me only to fight incessantly with the adrenalin coursing outwards. The noise of water and tumbled rock quieten to silence as with an increasing certainty, I realise time has left me. That the moon and sun waver above me in repeating cycle, darkening and lighting the world that no longer harbours my soul. With one final deep breath, I close my eyes in the longest of blinks and immediately the energies of this sacred space all focus upon my naked skin.
In this non-space, this out-of-time plain. I can hear the laughing of Fae, of the energies of this place, chattering excitedly. I can feel their trepidation as they flutter behind me; their small hands pushing me forwards, ever deeper into the now still waters. As my senses fail a drum beat forms behind the waterfall. Getting faster. Getting louder. Coming ever closer. The beat incessantly drills into my brain, focusing between my eyes. A heat burns from my chest, hungry and longingly reaching out to touch that beat. All at once this beat bursts through the fall and like the hand of an almighty giant tears me from this reality. Hauling me through the waters of the now still waterfall and down into the darkness and dry sands of another place. As I am torn from my physical form, the last remanence of my left-hand brain gives up disbelieving. As I leave my body I can see the shape of a dark-haired wolf, sitting amongst the pines, carefully cleaning a paw. Its piercing eyes focused on me, knowingly waiting for my return.
Nausea from the tearing of body and soul mixes with fear of that darkest of creatures, that canine that has haunted me for so many years. As I am pulled into the lower world, the waters turn to the softest of sands. The coldness is replaced by a delicate heat created by a thousand generations of suns beating down onto every blonde/yellow grain. I re-open unfamiliar eyes and find myself stepping through these falling sands into a dessert, devoid of the stimuli of that sacred valley behind me. Ahead a fire burns. Its wood, ash-less and desiccated holds yellow flames without crackle or murmur. The light and shadows it creates dance around the hollowed out area I have entered. Sun bleached rock forming its low walls, the yellow sands flowing between them like the sands of time themselves. Mocking my mortality with every lost grain. Above me the stars glare in unknown constellations, casting their own white light against my skin. I take my first breath in this new form, and the fear begins to ebb. This place is familiar and although I do not know why, I feel at home. I look into the distance, into the nothingness in all directions, the cliff behind seems to go for eternity not only up, but to the left and right too.
Movement catches my eye , and without delay my senses hone to its source. Sitting atop a bleached-white fallen tree sits a Jerboa, a long eared, tan mouse. Its kangaroo like back legs holding its oversized frame upright, its smaller front limbs twitching in time with is whiskered nose. I feel hunger immediately. Refocusing my thoughts, I pad towards the fallen tree and perch myself on the other end from the Jerboa. The bark-less log permeates heat through its cracks, out beyond its bleached smooth surface and into my skin. Timeless moments pass as we stare into the flames together. I know I was sent with questions, but for now they have eluded me, and the peace between us seems to sacred to break.
With a scratch of its nose, almost in annoyance, the Jerboa spoke
“why walk so loud?”
Surprised by its nagging tone and motherly annoyance, I replied slowly and carefully
“I do not understand”
“If you do not want her to hear you, why walk so loud?”
retorted the Jerboa in an almost mocking tone.
Immediately my thoughts flew back to that dark wolf, to Her, to the fear that her presence always brings. I quickly tune in my senses, checking around and listening for her silent approach. The dessert sands show nothing even though my eyes now pierce the darkness as I have never known before.
Fearfully I ask the Jerboa,
“Who is she? What is her name?”
The Jerboa looks at me for a long moment, its rear leg tapping as if it is assessing my mood. Finally, and with an increasing level of mockery in her tone. She replied
“To me she is Death, but I am a mouse. Do you not recognise your own kin?”
Confused and still taken aback by this small creature’s mockery I ask her.
Without delay to ponder my question she drives her response sharply at me
“You carry the same shield and your teeth are as sharp. She is your kin”
I look to my side, and pressed into the sands, lent up against the log a shield of leathers, furs and wood rests. On its front the sinews of a dream catcher glisten in the firelight. From its spear like handle, bones and teeth hang like rattles. I realise I dare not reach to my mouth in fear of finding fangs where my teeth once were. Instead I look away from the mouse frustrated. I can feel the fear rising within me again. I breathe deeply and stare into the yellow fire to calm myself. Within its silent flames I see my own reflection. I see my own eyes but now they are piercing and yellow, below them, below the fur lined muzzle I see the fangs of a hunter, of death itself, and I recoil in fear.
The drums return at one with my fear, its beat sounding like creatures running through trees. I try to regain my control before I lose myself to this dream. To the madness, to the fears burbling inside.
Sharply I snap at the mouse
“is she here?”
The Jerboa snaps into cackles of laughter, not unkindly but in sheer amusement of my lack of understanding.
“why foolish child, do you believe she would stalk you here?”
she responds, as a sneer like prey that has led hunter into quicksand spreads across her face.
The drum beat changes, I can feel the dampness begin to surround me again. Memories of a place that an eternity ago I came from begin to return.
Remembering part of my quest I ask
“how do I call you again”
I am being pulled away, the sounds of water, so alien to this place are returning to me. I can feel my mind re-awakening, doubts reforming.
“why would you?” starts the Jerboa through its laughter.
“do you think you have time young one? You have open the gates and asked for its company, now you must live with your choices”
Its laughter trails off as I feel myself once again hauled disjointedly back though the sands, the coldness returns. The shock of icy water forces my soul and body back to one. And in a timeless instant I feel the Fae expectantly waiting for me to see them fully.
Then there is only darkness followed by the first and ceaseless tick of time.