Author: Lin Edwards
She knew she was close, and her heart was racing.
She’d been on the catering team of the dive expedition all those years ago; young, inexperienced, excited just to be part of it. They hadn’t let her go down into the cave system or its tendrils of flooded tunnels opening out into watery cathedral-sized chambers. But nothing would stop her now.
She parked, and killed the engine. The disability mods had worked well, but long hours of driving had exhausted her. She opened the window and listened. There was no traffic this far from anywhere, but she could hear the caves breathing. She smiled.
Memories flooded back of lying on the ground listening to the blowholes and gazing up at the billion stars splashed across the black sky.
She opened the door and dragged her legs out. She had not returned a moment too soon — any later and the disease would have consumed her. She waited for the pain to subside.
The breeze picked up, and a willy-willy appeared out of nowhere just as it had that fateful night. It had been a warning then, but they had gone into the caves, and so would she.
“Come willy-willy,” she whispered.
The willy-willy passed harmlessly overhead, and she looked in vain for an olive green snake. The few divers who had got out alive said a snake had followed them into the cave to warn them. Looking up, she saw a Min-Min light, or something like it, in the distance. Theory has it that Min-Mins are a Fata Morgana — like the mirage of a ship that seems to be floating in the air — but this light was moving erratically, almost as if it were alive, and approaching rapidly. Its edges looked fuzzy. She felt suddenly, incomprehensibly, calm.
As she dragged herself out to stand by the car, the light reached her and sped over her head, buzzing, then stopped and hovered, as if waiting for her to follow. She obeyed, using her sticks to stumble towards the light and the cave entrance she knew must lie beyond. Every time she moved forward the light moved on and then waited.
The fuzzy edges broke up into distinct, tiny circles of light, and just as the light shattered into a million pieces, she reached the cave entrance.
She stared down into the dark reflections in the water below. If she fell or jumped, she knew she would never get out. Not that she wanted to. She’d been planning for months, perhaps much longer. The divers’ disappearance into the caves had haunted her dreams for years.
She stood on the edge for some time savouring the sounds, the violent sunlight and shockingly blue sky. The Min-Min, now a shimmering mass of individual lights, waited patiently and then dropped beneath the lip of the entrance. She leaned over and peered in. Half-way down on a small ledge, an olive-grey snake lay watching her. She dropped her sticks and allowed herself to collapse and fall, and follow the lights deep, deep down into the crystal clear water.
The lights separated and the tiny circles surrounded her, each moving independently like miniature manned space ships. She felt herself being tugged and pulled, deeper down into the water and then along into a narrowing tunnel of almost blinding light. Around her the caves echoed with haunting music and she smiled. She had come into the caves at last.
A terminal slice of life, rendered well.