“Amber left. There is nothing here for you now.” Finally, I speak words that matter to her.
She freezes, sniffing the air again. Amber’s presence in the outer-cave has been fading from her senses. She hasn’t noticed the shift before this moment. The medicine has done its job. Her self-absorbed obsession with her own safety has distracted her from recognizing the change. Now, between the water Amber has been drinking and the smell of the beef, she realizes she cannot sense her host. She would love to run past me and see if Amber is truly gone, but she cannot see me yet. For fear of a trap, she remains stationary and confused.
I must convince her before she recovers her courage. “I know of a place through the end of the cave, where you can be free. I think you’ve probably seen it. It is a special place, in a grove of trees. It could be your new home. There is no cave there, no darkness. You can see the stars at night, and there is plenty of food, like the food you smell now. It is a safer place than staying here, but you must let me take you there.”
Finally, the hope overcomes the fear, and she speaks. “Why should I trust you?”
“Because,” I say, as I walk through the doorway, “you have no one else.”
She tenses a bit at the sight of me, but her eyes move quickly to the plate in my hand. She is so hungry. She forgets I am the enemy.
I don’t keep her waiting. I hand her the meat and sit on the rocks across from her. She picks at the meal but doesn’t eat it, not yet. She is releasing the predator within her, and her desire for meat is gone.
“Would you prefer something else?” I knew she would.
Pulling an apple from my pocket, I hand it to her.
She eats the medicine while I continue, “I know he is gone, and you are here alone. Without his direction, you will not survive. You need a new direction, new guidance to follow.”
She eats slowly and listens. I hand her water, drawn from the falls, which she takes greedily.
“Don’t you want to be free? I know you love the outdoors. You don’t need to spend the rest of your days in here, torturing yourself.” It is a risk, but I reach for the last and final straw with my next words. “I can’t stay here forever. Eventually, I must leave. When I do, you will be left alone.”
Like any child, she is unnerved.
I continue quickly, asking, “Will you at least walk with me and look?”
She agrees ‘to just look,’ and we head deeper into the cave.
There is only black until we near a bend at the end of the passageway. Here, pale light leaks around the corner, and she quickly grabs my hand.
“Tell me where we are going.” She says, shifting now. She is like a child on her way to a surprise vacation.
I tell her. “We are going to a beautiful world, where there is no pollution in the sky or the mind. When we get there, all of your thoughts will be clear, and you will understand things you have never understood before. There is so much love in this place, sweetheart. You will never wonder where it is because it will always be right before you. Someone is waiting for you there, someone who loves you very much and will always take care of you.”
“Aren’t you going with me?” She asks, suddenly fearful of who might be there. Like a stray dog who has been fed after months of hunger, it is me she trusts now.
“No. I can’t go, my love. It is not my time, but I promise, you will always be able to see me from where you are, and you can come to visit me anytime.”
I stop near the bend and turn to where she stands. I crouch in front of the little girl now holding my hand, and I look directly into her eyes as I speak to her. “I need to talk to you before we go any further. Before you can move on, I need you to tell me something. I know you are afraid, but you must trust me and know you are safe now. I will never let anything or anyone ever hurt you again. Do you believe me, Amber?”
She looks into my eyes, and I see the soul of the ancient one as she answers, “Yes. I believe you.”
“Then, I need you to tell me, honey, where is he?”
She looks a little anxious at the mention of him, but she trusts me now. So, she leans forward, and she whispers in my ear.
Now, I must move quickly. He has heard her betrayal, and I must prevent his re-entry. Together, we walk around the corner to an opening in the cave wall. Outside, it is beautiful and lush. The greens and yellows are deep and rich beneath a perfectly blue sky. Night has lifted to welcome her home.
Beyond the cave opening, there is a field of wildflowers, where brilliant blooms of every color blend with long green grass. The grass is pale and light and forms a small meadow just beyond the flowers. The grass in the meadow has been cut short to create a nearly perfect circle. On the far side of the field, there is a grove of trees. It banks the edge of the grass and continues to the right of where we stand.
A horse looks up from its grazing to meet our eyes. He stands next to a log fence, erected to be about four feet high. His posture is so loyal; one might assume a tether exists somewhere between the horse and the fencepost, but none does. He remains because it is where he belongs. It is where he wants to be.
The child recognizes the horse immediately and throws her arms around my neck, crying, “Thank you. Thank you.” Her voice is no more than a whisper in my ear.
I kiss her on the cheek and send her through the door. As I watch her run through the field toward the horse, an angel of a woman with long, blonde hair stands from the porch. Turning, she sees her child self running towards her. Amber sweeps the child up into her arms, and for a moment, like a special effect from a Hollywood film, she and the child blend into one before coming apart once more.
I stand to leave.
Amber waves and mouths the words, “Thank you.”
I mouth, “You’re welcome,” in return, but I don’t believe the words. I turn to find my way back through the tunnel, speaking silently under my breath, “I’ve not finished yet, Amber. Do not thank me until I’ve met my promise.”
Before returning to the cave, I pull sage from my jacket pocket and turn to smudge the door. During the final moments before my retreat, I watch the woman and child go into a small log cabin. The cabin rests opposite the fence on the other side of the field. It’s warm and homey against the fading light.
I stand for a while, gazing upon a scene that reminds me of puzzles I assembled as a child. The sky darkens until the only detectible feature of the cabin is glowing light from two small windows. They cast a glow on the horse, and I am suddenly amazed by the night sky. There are so many stars shining down upon the grove it seems as if night hasn’t come at all.
I continue to watch until the last light in the cabin goes out. I smile as I imagine them retiring to bed. They are safe here. I can continue my work.
As I begin to smudge the opening in front of me, it gradually fades to black and seals itself back into a cave wall. We will never use this door again, so I continue to smudge the path as I return to the main cavern. With each step, the passageway closes behind me.
I stop for a moment in the room where this child lived and smudge it until every last light goes out. When I have smudged my way back to the cave where the final fragment of Amber sleeps, I know my work is through for the night. I watch as the opening to the passageway seals itself into a wall, and I return to my sitting position. I watch Amber as she sleeps. So silent before me, this woman will be the last piece of Amber’s tattered soul to return home. Until the time she is ready, she will stay here and be safe with me.
I lower my head and pray. I call on Spirit Guides to hear the words of this child, “Go and find all of the traces of this man. Go inside of homes and inside of the people in those homes and root him out. Find him, every last trace of him, and return the man to his maker. Please, Spirits, wrap yourselves around him and carry him to the other side. Please, do not stop until the task is complete, not until all the planes of this world; of this existence are free of him and his influence.”
I take one last look at the peacefully sleeping Amber, and I know the real work now begins. I must gain her trust and then convince her to release the family she loves so that she can move on. I must break the ties of anyone keeping her here, and I must help her to find the path to the other side. Her love will make this the most challenging task of my career.
“Great Spirit,” I whisper in one final prayer, “please guide me to the steps that will help me guide Amber home.”