As the scroll delicately fell into the pool, a ripple rhythmically billowed outwards, until it reached the edges of the cavern. The girl watched its journey by the glimmer of her candle and at the precise moment that the water calmed once more she uttered the words.
Words that had been passed down to her by her ancestral mothers, never spoken out loud, always scribed. The scroll she had released into the pool had been written by her great grandmother.
The girl’s soft whispers, like the ripple, set off a vibration around her. For a moment, doubts began to prickle her thoughts; had she said the words right?
Was anything going to happen? Was all of this even real?
Without a perceivable breeze in the stillness of the cavern, her candle suddenly flickered, once, twice, then blew out!
The girl was despairingly cast into complete blackness as not a flutter nor fraction of light existed. She was consumed and buried in gloom. Hairs stood on end all over her and she felt the weight of hopelessness crushing in on her lungs. Her stomach boiled with fear as she rose to her feet in panic, arms flailing out into nothingness.
All she had was the smell of candle smoke mingling with the iron-dankness of the pool, to keep her company. Nobody knew she was down here, in fact, nobody knew this place existed. She doubted she could find her way back to the tunnel, nor to the surface, without light.
Perhaps this was it! This Was It! Terror clasped her mind as she drowned in the devouring darkness and flapped around hopelessly.
But then, after half a minute, a calmness began to pour over her and she stilled her limbs, her arms hung by her side. She breathed in…………… and she breathed out………..and submitted her senses to the cavern.
Her mind emptied and her eyes closed, she bent her knees and lowered to the ground. Placing her hands on the cavern floor she crept her fingers forward bit by bit until they found the edge of the water. The surprising warmth from it attached to her and spread through her hands and arms and body, clothing her in a balminess.
The sound of bubbling from the water broke her meditation and instinctively her eyes flew open and her hands recoiled. She reminded herself that the source of the pool was a spring – perhaps it had been air bubbles? But in the hungry darkness, a tiny glow suddenly appeared from within the pool. Maybe a trick of her mind, she focused on the glowing grain.
At first it was illusive, the more she looked the less it felt real, but then the grain of light began to move, turning and fidgeting restlessly, then as it circled it began to grow. With every loop it took it increased in size. More bubbles forced their way from around it, breaking the calmness of the pool’s surface, filling the air with a bitterness and the girl scrunched her nose at the foul smell.
As the bubbles fiercely surfaced, light broke from beneath the water and began to fill the cave. The grain twisted and writhed, quickening its pace, and it looked to the girl like it was eating the darkness, getting larger and larger by sucking up the shadows.
The grain was no longer small at all but the size of a seal and its thrashings sent larger waves scattering outwards. It grew shapes and forms and features and the girl gasped as she began to see what looked like arms, wispy hands and fingers.
A face appeared with a distinct nose, and a mouth and the hair billowed around it glowing and glittering. And then the eyes opened, instantly focused on the girl. The creature calmed its motions. Slowly it began to make its way through the water and as it approached she knew it was angry. Fear began to ball in her stomach once more and she attempted to retreat from the water’s edge. The face ascended above the water and its lips parted, emanating light, as it began to speak.
‘You woke me,’ it said accusingly.
The girl could not respond. She shook as the figure rose further out of the water.
‘What do you want,’ it demanded.
The girl cowered and shrunk as the figure grew in front of her, penetrating itself throughout the cave. Sensing that her time to respond was limited, she finally found her voice.
‘Sulis,’ she stuttered. As she spoke, the figure seemed to soften a little, allowing the girl some patience.
‘Sulis,’ she whispered again. ‘I’m… I’m sorry.’ She paused in disbelief of what was happening. She tried to process everything she had been taught, drawing on all her knowledge and all the words her mother had spoken.
‘I had to wake you.’
The figure hovered, auspiciously regarding the girl.
‘Then you must be a priestess,’ it stated.
‘Yes Sulis. The last that I know of.’ They both lapsed into silence, the girl awaiting further questions, the figure pondering.
‘What is the need?’ It finally asked. The scroll the girl had placed in the pool reappeared on the water’s surface and bobbed to the translucent fingertips. ‘You need my help,’ it said without looking at the inscription.
‘It is Gaia,’ the girl replied. ‘She is dying.’
The figure immediately approached the shore of the pool and as its feet touched the stones and left the water, they began to take on a solidity and the body hardened like marble.
Its hands raised and gently came to the girl’s chin, cupping it tenderly. ‘Show me…. Please.’
They linked hands and the girl began to lead the Goddess from her forgotten pool, to show her the state of Mother Earth.