Hope Springs

“That puff of cloud’s been hanging there for days,” said Rab. “Strange isn’t it?”

“I guess it’s a little strange,” said Sarah. “But there’s always mist in the Valley, like there’s a little factory somewhere in the forest producing it.” She watched the silvery cloud swirling, as if boiling inside a large invisible kettle.

“But it’s only there in the mornings, and clears by midday. The mist is never there all day for three days, love. Shall we go and take a look?”

Sarah wondered if he meant driving up the forestry road and looking down from the mountainside, or hiking into the bush. It was a gloomy day, and she didn’t fancy either. Her silence betrayed her. “You don’t have to come, love,” said Rab. “You can stay in the cabin. I’m just curious about this land we’ve bought. We’ve barely explored it. There could be anything hidden within these 72 acres.” They’d got a great deal and bought it immediately, despite silly stories told by local farmers of it being “bad land.”

“Ok if you keep the monsters away from me, I’ll come along.” Sarah put on her coat and boots. In truth she was as keen as Rab to explore the patch of wilderness they’d bought together, 30 km up the Lucerne Valley Road. It was mainly second growth forest but with scattered patches of first growth. “It’s near that big depression in the centre,” she said. “The one we tried to get to, where you sank to your knees. Feeling brave, Tiger?”

“Is it there?” said Rab. “Are you sure?”

“You’re the one who’s supposed to have great spatial awareness,” she said. “This humble woman awaits your word.”

Rab said, “Watch it love. Not everyone who enters the woods returns.” He made a face like a serpent and hissed.

“Well are you coming then?” said Sarah grabbing a machete and heading out. Rab grabbed the other one and followed her. It wasn’t a tough trail to cut, and within an hour they were at the the rim of the depression. Within it was a large pool of water draining the surrounding area. Then they noticed something that they hadn’t before. The rim of the pool was higher than the surrounding land – so water wasn’t draining into it, it was emerging from it. Something else was also apparent. “Man, it’s hot!” said Rab. “Can you believe this water’s hot! That cloud is steam! Shall we?” Rab tore off his clothes and so did Sarah, and both jumped right in.

Sarah shouted, “We’ve got a forest spa! Yippee!” They spent the rest of the day, and many coming days and nights there.”

They told their friends and soon there were people in the spa daily. They had Roman, Venetian, Atlantis, Titanic, and Amazon-themed parties that went on for days. The pool was 12 feet at its deepest point so all kind of antics were possible, with no neighbours to disturb, and no internet or cell reception to distract them. It was a swirly steaming world as if back in the Chaos of Creation – or at least the chaos before social media updates. There was always nudity, and sometimes debauchery. Rab and Sarah’s spa acquired a reputation. They tried to control usage by putting up notices, but people felt entitled to use what was now thought of as a community amenity, and ignored them all. They also tried fencing it off. Completely pointless. Even the occasional spotting of unidentified creatures did not scare people away. It was assumed that the observers were stoned, which was generally true.

Rab’s friend Loki said that he’d like to live there, but because of the danger of wildlife eating his foodstuffs, or his person, he wanted to build a treehouse. Rab and Sarah agreed. At last, they thought, someone to keep order. He wedged a ten-foot square platform between two cedars, twenty feet off the ground, and built a network of suspended rope walkways around the pool.

One day he came to the cabin and asked Rab and Sarah to follow him to the Spa. He climbed up to his treehouse and along a rope walkway, and then said, “Watch this!” He jumped feet first into the bubbling pool and disappeared. After 30 seconds Sarah was worried. After a minute Rab said, “Oh my God! Where is he?” He stripped and ran into the pool, but couldn’t find Loki. He shouted out to Sarah again and again, “Oh my God! Where is he?” After five minutes of panic, they heard raucous laughter. A soaking wet Loki tramped out of the bush. “Where the hell did you go?” said Rab. “You idiot! We were terrified! What happened?”

Loki said, “Clear away some rocks and there are caves down there, my friend. A huge network running along the Valley. The ones near the river are flooded of course, but the ones near the mountain are clear. There’s endless caverns filled with crystals. You wouldn’t believe it. Come and see!”

Loki took them down into the caves, saying it was a “third world” for them to know. They had enjoyed the Air, walking along the walkways. They had swum in the Waters. Now they toured the Underworld. It was just like Loki said – caverns of crystals, filled with strange light, reflecting itself endlessly. What he hadn’t told them was what these three worlds together represented.

The Upper World, the Middle World, and the Lower World were separated only temporarily. The Cruel Monsters of Hell were just resting a while. Now that the passage between worlds had reopened – as it had when Mt. Negra first exploded two million years ago – they were in the mood for another outing.

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One Response to “Hope Springs”

  1. First Class!

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