Dark Shadows and Crystal Pools
by Melanie Loveridge
The grass crushed beneath her feet like soft green velvet and the sweet smell of the earth’s perfume scented the air. The young girl stood, transfixed, her violet eyes wide open in wonder. Ahead, amongst the trees, a large deer raised his majestic head and sniffed the air. At once he felt her presence and smelled her strange scent. Frightened, he shivered and bounded across the glade.
Sunlight streamed down through the thick canopy of trees and reflected off her long auburn hair, making it glow as though it were on fire. Turning, she walked unsteadily towards the large pool of water that had filtered down through the rocks from a small stream nestling further up the valley.
Her legs felt weak and, unable to go any further, she lowered herself carefully down onto a small flat slab of rock by the water’s edge. She reached out and skimmed the top of the water with her delicate fingers. The water rippled and sparkled like broken crystal in the sunlight. Startled, she snatched her hand away and, holding her breath, watched as the water fell from her fingers. Slowly she began to laugh.
A small rabbit scurried through the undergrowth, alarmed by the sudden disturbance. She saw the flash of white and, jumping to her feet, she watched as the small creature disappeared down a tiny hole underneath a large oak tree. She sighed in wonder and shook her head. Closing her eyes, she began to sing. All around her grew silent as if the very earth itself were listening to the strange but beautiful sound.
After a while an awareness crept over her and, uneasy, she stopped singing and lowered her gaze. She was being watched. She could sense it, feel it, and this time she knew it was no animal. Her heart beat faster and she raised her eyes.
There, in the shadow of the trees directly in front of her . . .
Holding her breath, she waited, unsure of what to do. She wanted to run and hide, but her legs felt numb and she was unable to move. She heard a sound – deep, guttural. Someone was speaking in a language not unlike her own.
“Toby. Come on boy. Where are you?”
A young man peered through the long grass, trying to catch a glimpse of his small dog, a Jack Russell. Normally Toby stayed faithfully by his side, but today he was acting strange. Jumpy.
“Damn it Toby. Come back.”
Impatiently he kicked a small stone and sent it skimming into the water. Watching it sink, he suddenly realised that he wasn’t alone. Violet eyes were watching his every move. Startled, he smiled.
“Sorry. I didn’t see you there. I don’t suppose you’ve seen a dog run this way, have you?”
He looked friendly, so, relaxing slightly, she answered, “A dog? No I don’t think so.”
Her voice sounded strange, song-like. He thought she looked confused.
“What are you called?” she asked curiously.
Unsure of what she meant, he hesitated. “Oh. You mean what’s my name?”
“Yes. Your name.” She sounded uncertain.
“Marcus.” He smiled. “What’s yours?”
“Do you live around here?”
Marcus glanced around, certain that he had never seen a house this deep into the woods.
And he was sure that she didn’t live in the village nearby. He would have noticed her a long time ago.
Laya smiled. She turned to look at the water and whispered, “Come and look.”
Intrigued, Marcus moved beside her and watched as the girl knelt by the water’s edge. She leaning forward, skimmed her fingers across the surface, and giggled.
There was something strange about her. Marcus began to feel uncomfortable.
He wondered if maybe she wasn’t quite right in the head. He looked more closely at her clothes. The blue of her tunic seemed to glow with its own inner radiance and her eyes. Those strange, violet eyes. They were unlike any eyes he had ever seen before.
Startled by his thoughts, he stepped backwards and stumbled. The sudden disturbance seemed to break the spell, and the girl looked up. “What’s this called?” she asked softly.
At first Marcus didn’t understand. Then he realised that she was referring to the pool. He turned on her angrily. “Is this some sort of joke? Because I’m sorry but I don’t find it particularly funny.”
Seeing his anger, Laya stood up and turned to him. She reached out her hand and touched his face gently, like the wings of a butterfly. Her touch was electric. Marcus shivered. He felt his body respond. He looked into her eyes, so large, so beautiful. He could see no madness, only uncertainty and maybe fear.
Laya spoke. “Take me into the sparkle.”
Marcus looked at her. “Water,” he said softly.
“Water,” she whispered.
Taking his hand, she turned and stepped carefully over the rocks to the water’s edge. The sunlight torched her hair to flame and Marcus could only watch as she reached up and pulled the tunic over her head. Naked, her body glowed pale in the sunlight.
Turning to Marcus, she smile and beckoned. His breath caught in his throat as he looked at her. She was so beautiful. For a second he thought he must be dreaming. Then hands were undoing his shirt, pulling it from his shoulders. Soon a small pile of clothes lay on the bank beside them.
Stepping off the rock into the cool clear water, Laya carefully went deeper and deeper until the water covered her shoulders. She tilted her head back and her hair streamed out behind her like a silken carpet. Her face showed an ecstasy that Marcus had never seen before. She seemed to drink in the sunlight and air and water as though she were memorizing it. As though she would never see it again.
Marcus began to see through her eyes the things he had always taken for granted. The heat of the sun, the deep green grass, the cool sweetness of the water. He swam slowly to her side, reached out, and stroked her silken hair.
Laya turned her violet gaze upon him. Then she gently pulled him to her warm, soft body. He tried to resist, but an overwhelming sense of wanting took over. Tentatively, he steered her towards the bank, helped her to step out of the water, and embraced her.
The ground felt cool and damp. Marcus opened his eyes and yawned. The sun hung low beyond the trees and caused shadows to flicker over his body. His head felt muzzy. As he tried to collect his thoughts, he heard a whimper and looked up. Toby ran across the clearing and launched himself at Marcus.
“Hi, boy. Where have you been?”
He nuzzled the dog’s neck and groped for his lead. Suddenly he was aware of his nakedness. Puzzled, he looked across to where his clothes lay in a neat pile on the grass.
“I don’t remember going for a swim,” he muttered.
He rose slowly, stiffly, and made his way across the clearing. As he retrieved his clothes he felt something niggling at the back of his mind, just out of reach. Something he couldn’t quite recall.
He shook his head. “That must have been some dream. If only I could remember it.”
And then, dismissing the thought, he whistled, “Come on boy. Let’s go home.”
Laya slowly opened her eyes. Violet orbs took in the cold metal dome above her head. To her left a pale shaft of orange light seeped through the window and slanted across her bed. A small hand emerged from under the blanket and three crooked grey tinged fingers reached up to wipe away a small drop of perspiration from her brow.
Her smooth shiny head gleamed like polished marble in the light. Her mouth felt dry and sore. Outside she could hear the sound of hissing and crackling as the giant electrical storm gave vent to its anger.
When the storm had nearly passed, Laya dragged her weak, shapeless body from the bed and staggered to the window, hoping for cooler air. The sky was lit with blue and silver streaks which intensified the electrical heat.
Laya sighed. “These dry storms are the worst.”
Once again there would be no moisture to collect from the small drums placed by the elders just outside the town. Every week the small community gathered for their meagre rations – one pot per household. The moisture was always cloudy, grey, and tasteless, but they needed it to survive.
Now the drums were running low, and this time there was to be no solace from the sky. Sulphorous red dust rose up in spirals from the dry ground.
Laya looked up at the two moons hovering above her world, her mind still trying to shake off the vision that she had seen so vividly in her dream. The green landscape, the animals, the water, Oh, the water, so clear, clean, and sweet. Maybe there really was a world out there beyond the moons that hadn’t been destroyed by wars and greed and self destruction.
Not ruined like her world. Maybe her own planet had been like that once. She smiled at such nonsense. Outside, the air glowed with electricity. Had the electricity somehow brought together two parallel worlds, so alike, yet so different. Had two dimensions touched? Overlapped? Had the invisible become visible?
Laya smiled as she thought of the handsome young creature who had given her just a small taste of paradise.
“Only a dream.”