Entering the darkness of the mine seemed to have a calming effect on me. After only a few feet I stopped and kneeled down to catch my breath and try to calm my mind. The air smelled stale but there was another aroma that floated in on it. It took me a few minutes to place where I had smelled something akin to that pungent odor before. It finally struck me like a blow to the head, it smelled just like the reptile exhibit in a zoo. This strange pungent smell, it was the enemy, I realized for the first time that I had always faced them in the open, never enclosed like this and to be honest, it was a little unnerving.
I wondered, would they stand and face me, the two at the entrance seemed like they wanted to make a go of it, but still, maybe they was supposed to slow me down. Either way, it didn’t work, I went past them like a breeze.
Easing along the path that had been carved into the mountain long ago by miners searching for coal, it was easy going. The only sound of my passing was the occasional slosh of my boots in standing water, or the sucking sound of mud as I passed.
I paused, thinking how I would love a set of night vision googles right then, but I took a deep breath and realized we have to make do sometimes. My only option was to go slow, rely on my own tuned night vision and just keep going. It seemed as if others came in with me, others I couldn’t see. I thought that in the inky blackness, my mind was starting to get the best of me. Thats when I thought back to the bonfire at home with all those faces staring back at me. Maybe, just maybe, even though I couldn’t see them, they could see me. Who knows, maybe they guided me as I walked right now. Watching with me and showing my way in the darkness that surrounded my with enemies of unknown evil surrounding me.
I tried all I could to not laugh out loud, I did smile from ear to ear. It was no different now than in everyday life before this. We walk into a darkness where we don’t know what’s around the corner, what lay in the shadows for us, but if we calm our spirits and listen, we might just realize as I did at this moment that we always had help if we only listened.
I kept creeping forward, minute after minute, pausing and listening, smelling, trying to pick up any sign I could as to how close I was getting. It was as still in sound as it was as inky black without light.
I slowed as I sensed a drop in the floor, it seemed to have steepened quickly and the air was changing. It should have been getting colder but instead it was warming and become humid. I kneeled next to the rock face, holding the axes in my hands thinking on why and how this could be. After a while, it made sense, reptiles love warmth humidity. It seemed to me that they had made a den of sorts for themselves somewhere up ahead.
I slowly moved my head back and forth using my tricks I had picked up to try and pick any movement or area in the darkness that just didn’t belong. The pungent smell seemed to be growing along with the scent of decay and filth.
Some world the enemy liked. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we are such great enemies, we each need something different to survive and be comfortable. This couldn’t be all of the enmity between us of course, I think, rather, knew that it went back much longer and much deeper than that. It didn’t matter to me now, whatever world they went to after this one, that’s where I was determined to send each and every one of them down here I could find.
I eased forward again, step after slow agonizing step until I was almost getting bored and comfortable at the same time with the dank blackness that surrounded me. I was beginning to think this might have all been for nothing. Maybe they sensed or knew I was coming and wanting nothing to do with me. I should have been relieved with those thoughts but instead I had a feeling of being let down. As twenty more minutes passed I began to think that maybe I should turn around. I started to think that I might have made more of this mine than it was and more of my abilities than I really had. Still, deep down I knew there was more here than what I could see or sense. If only I had a way to see like they did, to pierce the ink that surrounded me.
It was then that the thought occurred to me to ask the All-father for help, maybe this was what he meant to ask when I was in need.
“All-father if your paying attention, you might have noticed I’m in a bit of a hole here, now it could be this is where you want me, blind to all around me but to be honest I doubt you’ve sent me here to stand in the middle of nothingness like this. If there is a way for me to be able to see, now is a good time to show me.” I whispered in my mind. Afraid that even my thoughts would echo.
I sat still for minutes after this little prayer. Nothing, not a whisper of an answer came to me. It figures, it must be one of those figure it out for yourself kind of things, that or he wasn’t listening at the moment. That made me chuckle. I turned and scanned around me knowing that I could feel the old ones with me even though my eyes didn’t see them, my spirit seemed to sense them.
“You guys got any ideas?” I barely breathed as I looked around as if they kneeled there with me.
“Good plan, let stick with that, just wing it; great idea, wish I had thought of it!” I whisper again sarcastically.
It was then that I felt talons grab my shoulder. I turn my head and readied an axe for a blow, all my strength switched into high speed when I saw those two beady glowing blue eyes open inches from my face. My eyes saw the glow of blue light up my face but my brain was taking a second to work out what was happening.
“Calm yourself John, we came but you got to learn to give us a minute, we are over 10,000 years old you know!” Came a quiet giggling voice right into my ear.
It was Munnin! How had he flown up on me without me hearing him, then again, he carried me to the next world and back so I guess sneaking up on me in a mine of darkness was no big deal for him?
“Yeah, John, he heard you but it’s more fun to see if you’ll sit and wait or run off and do something stupid first!” Huginn, whispered from my other shoulder!
I turned and slowly he opened his eyes, or cut the light on that they can emit I suppose but either way here they both sat.
“He heard me, so he sends you two to be my eyes?” I asked a little worried how this was supposed to work.
“Oh, no John, No, No. He sent us to give you something much better than our eyes!” Munnin whispered and giggled.
“What a flashlight?” I asked with a little nervous chuckle in my whisper. They both ignore the comment.
“Look John, you know some lessons cause pain, some cause enlightenment, unfortunately for you this gift does both. I need you to sit calmly and no matter what, don’t let a sound escape your lips. Go with the discomfort for just a minute and then you will be enlightened enough to see the way before you.” Huginn whispered in my other ear.
I wondered what these two Ravens seemed to be mumbling about but then again, they had always done me right up to this point.
“You ready?” They asked.
I nodded because I know they could see me.
“Ok, bite down on one of those axe handles and open you eyes and be very still and quiet.”
I did as they said and bit down on the leather bound wood.
No sooner than I had, I realized I might have made another one of my many errors in judgement. At the same time, with Munnin on the right and Huginn on my left, they slashed in with their beaks, which glowed blue at the moment, just as their eyes did and literally, pecked my eyes. It felt more like ate them to be honest. The searing pain and stinging was almost more than I could bear. I thought I was going to break my teeth on the handle as I sucked in a deep breath to keep from passing out. Blue light seemed to be pouring into where my eyes used to be. The horror dawned on me that I think they just pecked my eyeballs out and blinded me! Swirling patterns of blue light seemed to swirl in my vision, it you could call it vision. A burning stinging, swirl of color. I dropped the axe from my teeth and reached up to my eyes with the palms of my hands and covered where my poor eyes used to be.
I felt betrayed, I felt like I was going to be sick. I waited for the blood that I knew must be there to cover my hands. Betrayed in the darkness, alone, blind, it was hopeless. I screamed in my mind. My breaths came in rapid puffs.
“Calm yourself John, be still and relax. The pain will ease in a moment.” One of them whispered, which one I couldn’t tale, I was focused on the pain.
“You betrayed me!” I hissed.
“Easy John, feel the coolness rush into to replace the sting and burn. You’re almost past the worst part.” I heard the whisper as I felt a wing gently stroke the back of my head as another brushed my forehead above my hands that clamped onto my eye sockets, prying them off.
“Open you eyes John, breath, blink.” Came one of their voices in a soothing manner.
“What eyes!” I gasped. The feathers pried harder on my hands until I could no longer keep them on my face.
“Let go and blink John.” Came Huginn’s voice.
Why not, I thought, black is black I guess. I tried to open my eyelids but the blue light still swirled, it was like staring at a bright blue bulb, tears seemed to flow down my cheeks. As I continued to try and blink past the stinging, a coolness did seem to start swirling with the blue patterns around my eye sockets. I worried how deformed I would look with two empty holes where my eyes used to be.
I continued to blink as the wing continued to stroke the back of my head.
“Blink, John, relax. Clear your tears and open your eyes and look!” Munnin whispered as the wing still stroked my head.
I did as he asked. The more I did, the more the blue swirl seemed to drain into my head. I blinked more and rubbed my eyes to clear the tears. I jumped a little when instead of gaping holes, I felt my eye balls. I ran my fingers over them in astonishment, rubbing tears away as the blueness seemed to drain into my skull.
I glanced around and thought at that moment that I might cry or pass out in puzzlement. Slowly at first but more and more rapidly, the mine opened around me as if it glowed in a soft light of royal blue as I looked around myself. I could see every detail, the light made all shadows open up, nothing was hid from me. I looked down at my hands and could see them in the glow of blue light.
“What did you do to me?” I asked with wonder.
“We took the scales off of your eyes John, now you will always walk in the light. Darkness has no more meaning for you! We picked a soft royal blue because in your mind we could see that was a pleasing and calming color for you!” Huginn whispered as I turned to look at him clearly.
“Well, not that I’m not grateful fella’s, this is amazing, but its going to be a little hard to sneak around in the dark with my eyes glowing like yours do is it not?” I asked still in shock.
They both laughed, not loudly but enough.
“No John, you eyes will not glow, as a matter of fact, to others, they will see no difference, only you will know of this gift you have been given, well, unless you decide to tell.” Munnin whispered.
“Time to act John, get up and go your way. We will leave you now but don’t worry this is all you need form us anyway. Just know he heard you but answers when he wants, sometimes as a joke, sometimes like this when the time is right for what you need.” Huginn whispered on my other shoulder as I looked from one to the other as they rose and flew straight up into the rock and out of sight.
I just sat there for a minute, staring at my hands, my feet, glancing all around me. Just amazed, that’s the only way I could hope to put it into words.
I finally eased up and for the first time since I entered this forsaken hole, and just started walking. It wasn’t for long however, when not more than 30 yards away, I could see ten of the enemy sitting around what appeared to be a stove of some type, a stove like nothing I had ever seen before, that’s for sure. I froze at first but then thought, why not make a game of it and see how close I could get without them seeing or noticing me.
I got down on all fours and started the crawl I had become so good at. The distance faded in no time until I was just inches outside red glow that the stove they huddled around emitted.
I slowly stood and just remained motionless, only my chest moving with the breaths of fetid air that I took. It seemed as if I stood there for minutes. Occasionally, one would sniff the air and seemed to lick the air with his tongue, just like the serpent would. Finally, one turned to look right at me, I knew the game was up but remained motionless. He sniffed and licked the air, moving his head and neck back and forth like no human ever could. I tensed to strike but stood still, waiting to see what the reaction to me being here would be.
He turned back to the stove. They can’t see me yet, I was barely three feet from him! I thought to myself. This is almost cheating! As I stepped a little closer I guess I hit that invisible line to where they either saw me or sensed my heat maybe like a snake would. They all jumped up and appeared to be confused and scared I noticed.
With that, I raised the axes and went to work. The ones that didn’t fall out right within the first few seconds seemed to realize what was happening and they tried to scatter and hide in the corners of what they must have seen as dark shadows but not me, it was all bathed in blue.
As I finished the last one, I could tell he was in shock that I could see him in the inky blackness, he didn’t even really put up a fight, I would say he had a look of surprise in his eyes but all I could still see was a silver shine looking right at me. I thought this is how a snake must feel when it’s trapped in a barn by a farmer and hunted down without mercy.
It was over quick and I stood, looking at the area around me. The filth and decay led me to believe that these things must have lived down here a long time. I couldn’t stand the air any more and turned and started at a slow jog out of the old mine shaft.
It wasn’t long until I neared the opening and I slowed to a stop to let my breathing ease up. I just stood, listening for anything outside that might not be too happy that I was walking out. After a few minutes, I decided it was clear, well clear enough and just walked out into the night air and took deep breaths to clean my lungs out of the stink of that hole.
I looked up at the sky and gasped with the view. I could see star upon star, a solid blanket of lights looking back at me in that shade of blue. I then glanced up to the ridge I had last seen Culsit and Vali on and sure enough, still there, they saw me and came at a run. I could see every detail, all the while amazed.
It was then and there that I decided to tell no one but Vali of my gift, she deserved to know. Well, you know, in case she was in her unmentionables and thought I couldn’t see her, which might get me hurt. That made me laugh, as fun as that would be for me I don’t think she would find it so funny.
As they reached me, both grabbed me in a crushing squeeze, I think they were truly shocked to see me.
“Are you ok?” She asked as she felt on me for wounds.
“Not a scratch!”
“Didn’t find any enemy down there?” Culsit asked as he tilted his head and looked at me with more than astonishment.
“Whats this look like?” I said as I held the axes up.
“Oh, Oh, that’s nasty!” He jumped back.
“Yeah, got to clean these up and get ready for round two!” I chuckled.
“You’re twisted little brother!” And for the first time since I met Culsit, in the dark of the night, I saw not just his teeth shining back at me but his whole face.
I just slapped him on the arm and laughed. I could see now, it was time to pay him back for all those times he stood just inches from me when I couldn’t see him in the dark until he smiled. The next time he tried that I think he would be in for a shock.
I just had to think of an excuse about how I was seeing him when he tried it next time. I know I would tell him but I wanted to have some fun with him first. It made me laugh even harder thinking about it.
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If you liked this chapter, you might want to head over to Amazon and buy yourself a copy of “The Enemy”. The exciting first book in this series so you can see how our friends got into this kind of bind.
all photos courtesy of Kathys Kreations™