Read Part III
When Cassie's head stopped spinning, she was back in the cave crouched down, her face buried deep in the thick fur around Joe's neck. She lifted her head but could only see darkness so oppressively black, she felt like she'd gone blind. Fumbling with her cell, she sent the beam of its flash careening around the blackened walls surrounding her. Chalcietle and the pool of water that She had been standing in were gone. The cavern seemed to be little more than a widening in the tunnel.
After spiraling to before-the-beginning-of-time-and-back, Cassie's sense of direction was utterly lost. She, quite literally, had no idea which way to turn.
Checking her cell, she found her battery down to 50%. She shut it off swallowing hard to keep panic from rising from her stomach to her head. Unbidden images of wandering through pitch black tunnels blindly searching for a way out came barging into her mind. But they were abruptly disrupted by Akasha's cool gray eyes emerging from the recesses beyond time, accompanied by an almost inaudible hum with audio overlay:
"You have to begin by looking within.
See that you are not your body.
The body does that which needs to be done to keep you both alive,
While you, O fragment of conscious buried in matter, barely know that you're breathing.
Neither are you the body's consciousness.
What would you do if it were up to you to make sure your heart keeps beating?
Learn to love her. Be grateful of her.
She will keep you both alive.
Until the day she dies..."
It only lasted a moment before turning to a wisp of smoke that faded again into black.
Fighting back the rising tide of fear, Cassie took a deep breath and tried hard not to think.
All of a sudden, the cavern was lit by a bright beam of light in the hand of someone standing directly in front of her! The beam briefly scanned Joe before it turned to allow Cassie to see her face.
At that point, Cassie was sure that nothing could possibly surprise her...She was wrong.
She found herself staring incomprehensibly into own dark brown eyes. Her face smiled at her with obvious amusement. Cassie wanted to say something but found all she could do was think "What the...?" because her mouth refused to stop smiling, instead chuckling softly, she heard her voice say "I never use words, you know. It does feel quite odd."
"But can you hear me?" Cassie thought clearly and loudly.
"Oh of course," her body responded. "I can always hear you. You can always hear me. That never changes. All that changes is that at some point you'll stop listening." As she spoke the last sentence, her dark eyes shone with a depth of sorrow that Cassie couldn't begin to fathom. There was a lot Cassie would have loved to ask, but right at that moment, the one question that came to mind was, "Can you get us out of this mine?"
"Of course" her body responded, "You already have a guide." She placed her hand on Joe's head, who smiled up at her. Suddenly Cassie felt Joe's massive head beneath her hand as she looked down at him. Joe was smiling back, obviously in on the joke.
"How 'bout it Joe?" she managed to ask, regaining command over her mouth and vocal chords. "Show me the way out will ya pal?"
To her surprise, Joe turned and, without hesitation, trotted towards one of the openings and was swiftly swallowed by darkness. Cassie rushed after him, shining the light ahead as they passed through the tangle of twisting turning tunnels for, what seemed to Cassie like hours, but was actually only about thirty minutes.
But that was all the time she needed for the nagging doubts that were beginning to badger her to take hold of the narrative in her head. How could Joe possibly know which was the way to the surface when they'd never even been there before? Just as she decided that it was not a good idea to keep blindly following him around like this, they turned a corner and there it was! The diffused daylight that the opening spread into the surrounding darkness felt like a huge wave of relief washing over her entire body. She dropped to her knees and throwing her arms around Joe's neck, gave him an ecstatic hug.
"Joe! You did it! Oh my God I love you dog!" Joe just smiled like it was no big thing and turned, trotting a couple yards ahead.
They made their way down the hillside, getting back to the house just as her Mother was rummaging around the kitchen preparing to make dinner. Cassie dropped heavily down at the kitchen table, and taking a deep breath, let the tale of her adventure come tumbling out, beginning with the race against the thunderstorm.
Her mother was distractedly poking through the kitchen cabinets, only half listening. Although when Cassie got to the part about the entrance at the mine caving in, she turned and raised her eyebrows, all she said was,
"Is that right?" before handing her daughter a knife and cutting board and telling her to wash her hands so she could cut up the potatoes for french fries.
Continuing to shuffle around the kitchen getting dinner together, Cassie's Mother occasionally glanced at her daughter, dutifully slicing potatoes while the story she told got more and more fantastic.
By the time Cassie finished talking, she stood with her hands on her hips and a skeptical look on her face.
"That's quite a story Cass... And the water and that woman were both gone when you woke up?"
"Yes" she responded, realizing how crazy the whole thing must sound. It was sounding pretty crazy even to her.
"Only I wasn't really asleep." she qualified unconvincingly.
"But Sweetheart, you can't possibly believe that you met two Goddesses in an abandoned mine this afternoon! It must have been a dream!" her mother insisted, gently ridiculing the story.
Cassie was beginning to have doubts about it herself. She looked at her mother's amused face and didn't know what to say. Could she really have dreamt the whole thing? She wondered.
Placing napkins and silverware next to her, Cassie's Mother deftly swept the potatoes into a metal basket and lowered them into hot oil.
"After you set the table, why not go call your sister and brother. Dinner's almost ready." She said, as she rushed over to the frying pan on the stove that had suddenly started to sizzle loudly and splatter the walls and counters with a halo of hot greasy speckles.
During dinner that night, Cassie sat eating quietly, but that was hardly unusual. She was the youngest and, typically, her older sister, Isabel, dominated the dinner conversation and her father's attention, while her brother, Jessie, did his best to interject comments whenever she paused long enough to make that possible. Cassie's Mother kept looking at her youngest daughter, but, much to Cassie's relief, nothing was said about her afternoon's adventure to the rest of the family.
Later that night Cassie sat out on the porch swing listening to the barrage of tree frogs and locust all shouting at once in a raucous, resounding, endlessly repeating loop. Her Mother came out and sat next to her on the swing. Sliding her arm around Cassie's shoulder she pulled her close.
"So you all by yourself out here?" she asked conspiratorially.
"But Mom, it was so real" was all Cassie could think to say.
Her Mother pulled away, turning to face her. Voice clearly exasperated, her vehemence took Cassie by surprise.
"Cassie, you're not a child, you're old enough to know what's real and what's not, and finding a Goddess hiding out in an abandoned mine is obviously fantasy!
We all have crazy dreams sometimes" she went on angrily, "Clearly that's all this was!"
She stood up and headed inside without giving Cassie a chance to respond. Reaching the door she added, "It's getting late why don't you get to bed!" before thumping back into the house.
Up in her room, Cassie sat at the edge of her bed. Confusion, anger and resentment swirled through her. Her Mother's ridicule had ripped off a scab revealing the raw cut that never seemed able to heal. As the youngest, it constantly felt like she was being dismissed or ignored altogether. Everyone else's opinion mattered, but no was the least bit interested in hers.
Throwing herself back on the pillow she was desperately trying to get her head straight, but angry tears made it impossible for her to see things clearly. The problem wasn't really whether her mother believed her. The question was whether she believed it herself. Did any of this even happen?
Just then the door to her room unexpectedly pushed open. Cassie bolted up, backing against the head board.
Joe stepped into the room then paused. He stood assessing the situation for maybe a minute before bounding up on the bed to lay down between Cassie and the wall.
"My hero" she said softly, stroking his big head. As all her anger and confusion melted and drained away, Akasha's words rose into the light of consciousness;
"Anytime you need me, take a deep breath. Send it spiraling down through Mother Earth. You will find me there at the bottom. I am always the first rung of the spiral."
Cassie took a deep breath. As she exhaled, she sent herself spiraling down into the earth. Cycling smaller and tighter the lower she went, round, round, round, down, down, down, till everything came to a sudden stop... and she heard a familiar hum.