I hid the chamber because it was dark, but it was not always that. It was never that until I dismantled my world and engaged in war. The chamber was once a green land, covered in ancient forests, mazed with rivers. After the war, the land stopped growing. Temperatures froze after toxic gasses left a corroded sky absorbing pollutants. Deathly fungi grew from the soils until foliage turned to stone ropes spreading across the land in a densely woven shroud.
The dry ground cracked and split from quakes creating deep crevasses and valleys. Everything was buried in rubble, petrified under black resin sap, morphing nature into hard statues. The land was barren, and any remaining survivors were lost. Failure hung over every attempt to find something living. Light was scarce, oxygen thin. Decay and ruin swept through the land, and this was the beginning of my chamber.
I lived high on the far cliffs hiding my eyes from the dried, poisoned land, retreating from the desolation. There was nothing left to save, not a blade of green, nothing to inhabit. Here I sat, watching over the slow growing chaos that left every home abandoned, and secret places forgotten. There were no animals, no cries for help, or the clasping of human arms. There were no trees, or plants to bring life to the air. It was a dark, silent, lonely wasteland.
I stood in the middle of my destruction, and in my frailty watched the great volcano of the west destroy the rest of my falling world. The rumbling shook me to my knees. There was a quaking, and a growing cloud of ash spread above my head. This was something, at least. Finally, I felt something. I gripped the ground, pressed my ear against earth’s crust, and listened. It wasn’t long until it was hard to breath. Nothing could be seen. I crawled deep into a cave and for many, many days, slept.
Months passed before the lava rivers cooled. New valleys hardened. It was a blanket of black slate, with lakes of molten that toppled over the timber land. The chamber was morphed into black and grey shrines of stone. I searched the metamorphic terrain for anything that lived. Across dry, dark scrambles, high on the ridge line, low in the valleys, wandering for months upon ledges of dark pumice, digging under, scrapping, and turning over every rock, but found nothing alive.
There was an emptiness, day to day, starring at the dusty sky, captive beneath sulfur rich gasses and violent clouds. I was as thirsty as the land. I slept. I rose. I hibernated. I awoke with the memory of an old legend. There was an ancient place, called the land of the living, surrounded by a ring of gold, a place where fields grew food, and trees held massive palaces in place. Colors said to be too intricate to behold. It was a place forbidden because those that sought the land never returned. The legend was a common bedtime story, no one believed the barrier ring of gold existed.
I had to go in search of this place, so that I might live, so that my land might live. This was the last place to search, the last known bridge to a world other than my own. I set out to cross the hills, beyond the high country, across the desert wilderness, and through miles of tunnels and mountainous country. The known instructions were to stay west and follow the mountain passes though the canyons.
Time drifted away. There was only pulling, pushing, grabbing, sleeping, scrambling, walking. Then one day, there it was. There was a moving, transparent gold river, floating just a few inches above the ground. It was the barrier ring. It was real. It’s bright gleam pulsed with warmth. My gaze was captivated. I was here, at the gateway to the land of the living.
The ring of gold was only waist high, but looked as long as the entire sphere. It had no ending horizon. Its presence was a dynamic power of invitation, possession. It was made of a substance like water, suspended and moving in fast circles. There was a vivid change in the atmosphere above the ring, stretching up in a paper-thin film, in a never-ending dome, but I could walk right through, just a step through this magnetic wave of sort, and I would be among the living.
I walked through and ducked behind the shimmering veil on the other side. My cheek firmly pressed against the grass. It was real, living grass, and never did I smell the color of green so perfectly. The grass was full, lush, adorned with seeds. Right then, I yanked a handful of grass from its place, roots and all, and shoved it beneath my coat. This was enough to bring life to my land. No one knows I am here. I could get back before it’s too late, before I went missing.
The journey back was effortless, even as months passed, even while cradling the small clump of roots and grass in my carefully lined bag. My pace was urgent, desperate to reach my chamber and get them planted. I was back in my dark lands sooner than I could stop regretting not taking more time in the land of the living. My curiosity became relentless. I would soon plant the grass and slowly weld my lands back to life. This would be enough.
In the middle of my land, I planted the seeds. I stood by them, slept by them, and created structures and condensation. They were still alive. The small mound of life was spreading. I dreamt of lush gardens and food. I would go back to the lands of the living and find more plants. Though since my visit, I was concerned with a second moon that still hangs in my sky remaining close to mine and unmovable.
This second moon was a soft gemstone green, wrapped in a clear enchanting power, shifting faces in a shadowed glow. I was alert, trying to catch a glimpse of anything that would explain this moon. One night, I noticed a shifting shadow around a beam of light that stretched across the entire valley below, a majestic moving structure took form. I ran to a high cleft, and watched this shadow disappear around a cliff.
Not long later, I heard a low voice from behind me say, “I saw you in my field.”
I closed my eyes. His voice was brilliant, pleasing in my ear. I let it resound and for a moment did not want to look, dared not too, I was suddenly afraid of answers, but I had to know, and so forcibly turned around, and questioned, “You have seen me, but I have not seen you?”
Our eyes were locked. His, a soft, deep hazel lit with a green fire like the moon. “I imagined what you would be like long ago,” he answered. “I imagined what anyone would be like. I haven’t beheld a person since the smoke from your wars burnt my skin. It changed my eyes to red, as it did the dirt I buried all I knew.”
“Your eyes are not red, nor your skin scarred,” I defended.
“No,” he paused, “My eyes are green and my skin is gold, as is my land now. See I have suffered, but to only have more than I need. Please,” he urged, “Show me what is now yours, what is growing in your lands here.”
“Of course,” I replied, knowing he meant the seeds, the patch of green. He knew where to go but drifted a few steps behind. For a moment, I felt guilt. I wanted to excuse my chamber but did not. I had no excuse, and I knew he saw, and I wanted him to see.
“Here,” I said, gesturing to the ground.
“It is growing well,” he smiled.
I folded my arms and asked, “So, what is the land of the living, and why is there another moon here, is that yours, why are you here?”
“The living lands gravitate around life cycles. The land absorbs destruction, and when having consumed enough, dismantles it’s collection of waste into new life. When you harvested the forest, cleared the plains, animals and vegetation came to the living lands transforming its habitat. The land is always regenerating, our lands are merging even now.”
“Merged,” I interrupted.
“Yes,” he repeated, “Remember when the water drained from your lakes and reservoirs. They flooded my lands, rich biodiverse waters. You’ve been invading my world all this time.”
“I have yours, you say, but where have you been in mine? Why didn’t you come before?”
“I found the land of the living when I was young. I came from a chamber like your own, it was a place forgotten. The living lands were abandoned when a plague swept through the settlements. I survived, and was immune. I waited for years. I have been alone. It wasn’t until you crossed over the barrier, and I gazed on you that I beheld my dreams. Then I followed you back here. I waited and knew.”
“Knew what,” I asked promptly.
“That I’ll never leave your side. I don’t want to go back. I want to be here with you. I am here.” He slid his arm under mine to pull me close. He kissed me, kissed my temples, kissed my head, kissed me, a saving kiss, a kiss that made me weak and surrendered. We fell as silent as the land, as if the earth released a thousand years of grief and now rested, as an ocean crashes over rugged stone, or moments under a falling white sheet. That evening, we lay there watching the curious sky, and our fortunes were bound forever.
Rapid changes occurred in the next days. Our two moons grew closer together, close enough that his crescent green, and my yellow star were forming a solid blue mass, one moon, shifting into a clear and transparent light. Reflections of the night sky settled against red dust lines over mountainous silhouettes, carved from cascading clouds in the sky‘s purple haze.
The earth tremors, rumbling deep and quiet. Pigments in the ground changed from solid black to ash and brown. Rivers formed and lakes flooded. Mere days passed before muddy waters rose to our ankles. A storm was here. The currents were strong, and we needed to get on higher ground.
We climbed and watched a great river bearing down on the valley. We climbed quickly above falling sediment. We climbed to the top of the chambered lands, to look down and see it buried under dark waters. Hills folding upon each other, crumbling in the wash, a world crashing down under us.
We watched from the heights, “I didn’t want this. I didn’t want everything to fall apart.” I stated.
“Our moons, they are pulling on the west,” he said.
“Maybe we should separate,” I said.
“How can we,” he asked.
“Look around, what if we would have stayed in our own lands? I wanted to bring life to my chamber, not death.”
He held my arms, “You are bringing life, we are. This is the beginning. You could have stayed in your chamber if you wanted, but you didn’t. I didn’t stay in my land either. We’ll begin again. We’ll create. We’ll learn. There is a lot more than just you or I that contributes to the failure of a world, my dear.” He smiled again.
He took my hand, “The great storm will shift the face of this land forever,” he said, “We’ll come back. For now, let’s journey back to the land of the living.”
I agreed. We crawled down a steep slated staircase and into the wilderness.
On the journey, I gave up on the chamber, and found a new life with him. We were inseparable as were our moons. By the time we reached the land of the living, we entered a greater storm than we left. The land was crumbling, undergoing chaos driven atmospheric winds. The great barrier ring was scattered into pieces, embedded in trunks, grafted into branch and vine. The downpour of rain was without escape, giant mudslides broken hillsides. We watched the storm’s feverish bolts of burning light flash through the sky.
“This is where the water is coming from, “I said.
“Yes, here and everywhere by now, the sky opened its floodgates,” he answered, and then sheltered me against a tree for the night.
At dawn, we hiked over great stretches of unstable ground. We were caught in the rush of spiraling rock formations unearthing. Large landmasses drove us down the mountainside to the valley floor. The valleys were piled high in fallen debris and new earth. We followed the fall, dragging ourselves onto different island turfs. With luck, the river would lead us into calmer lands.
Our patch of turf carried us through the majestic exhibit of natural disaster. After many months, our island set a slow drift behind the storm, mounting itself against a beach of untouched earth. The grounds were ancient and unmoved. We explored boundless wild fields, amber grasslands, forests deep and thick. The ground was solid, and soft, and strong. There were creatures scampering from one tree to the next. There was a calm vibrant energy in the land, safety in all that was living. This was a refuge. The air carried fragrences of blooming fruits and suckles, old oaks, and ancient sequoias. This could be a new home.
Our moons were fully merged, and hung happily across from the red sun that casts a silver light around all the stars in the day. The sky opened and became translucent. We found remains of stone buildings once built from the earth in great undying sculptures. In the center, deep caves were lined in ebony, sapphire, even emerald. Rooms were carved out of the walls into large open halls. Meadows were layered in moss and clover. Trees were lined in ivy providing canopies of growth. He took my hand, we knew we would settle here.
We worked the land, formed communities as people gathered, hollowed homes out of marbled cliffs, carved dwellings from the cedar and maple. We traded skills, and here again, we were all here again, building more, creating more, forming systems, and weaving our web, that will end in chaos, destruction, war, chambers, and then hopefully-life again.
I remembered the war that lived in me, the war that brought the storm, the storm that buried my chamber, and the man from the land of the living that brought me life.