In the Lava Cave

They wait. Gathered, assembled like parishioners, translucent orbs tethered to rock. How can something so solid be so ethereal?

They watch, eyeless, as we pass. The guide remarks that a small earthquake would pass unnoticed in these depths but a large one would shift the rock around us. They wait as we descend, two-legged insects into the belly of the snake. Shut our headlamps off and stare wide-eyed unseeing into total darkness. They do not fear this kind of dark.

They flow, imperceptibly. Drip gently. They are many shapes and sizes, a few contorted, one fetal. Some embrace. Most stand upright, stoic. Hooded figures join the naked smooth. Do they remain as they died? A last kiss entwined eternal, a parental embrace, a desperate pull that couldn’t save them from the depths?

Do they wait to melt? To flow deeper into the earth’s crevices, to join the tides a waterfall away? Or to evaporate, sublimate, like the mist sparkling in our headlights? To float?

One shudder and the snake’s jaws would close upon us all. Would they welcome me? I feel no hostility in this chill. A plaintiveness, perhaps. A few squid-like souls have wrapped themselves around our dripping wooden railing, begging for a ride. The rest just watch, eyeless, mouthless, waiting.

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