Caves that once were rivers do not forget.
The creatures that made homes out of them still roam, swimming through the musty air in place of water, continuing their lives in the same unearthly shade of white. You might call them ghosts; they look you in the eye and challenge everything you’ve ever known. Without warning, you’re struck with an awful realization: how are you to prove that you’re the thing in this cave, much further than six feet down, that’s alive?
You run your hand against a bone in the wall and offer up a prayer. You wouldn’t call it that, but you forget yourself. The cave surrounds you. It knows your intentions, every wanton, desperate dream of yours, and accepts your prayer for what it is. You ask for truth, and it hears you.
It takes you back to the beginning. For as long as things have lived here, there have been stories to tell, and oh, how this particular cavern has been waiting for someone to tell them to. Someone just like you, with a heart too big for their body and hungry, hungry eyes.
You see the sun, amidst black clouds and molten rocks that glow with heat, and you are overwhelmed by the fire, the sulfur, the smoke. You understand, in one shining second, where we first imagined hell (there must have been others like you). But you are not there for long; the scene shifts, and again you are overwhelmed, but this time the water is what fills your lungs, not smoke. You can’t breathe, but you find that here you’re not in your body, so you don’t need to. For the moment, you belong to something much, much older. The waves crash against the cliffs, fitful in their inception, and you watch as they carve themselves into the rock, how they make a space for themselves in a place that demands them quiet. You know there’s a lesson to be learned there, but you keep it in the back of your mind to unpack another day.
With the water comes life, as things always are, and animals of all shapes and sizes - still that ghostly shade of white - dart around the cavern, feeding on the plants that have set their roots down there. You gasp, soundlessly, as a colossal whale passes you by, and you swear you can hear the slightest murmur behind you, but you see no one when you turn around.
Absently, you think that it could be the cave itself, and that thought doesn’t unsettle you like it should. All your worries have no space here, and you know it’s ironic that this is the place, surrounded by so much water, that you find yourself finally able to breathe.