Tuesday, February 01, 2005

~BELOW~ Part 1



I begin to fall behind. The voices of the rest of the company keep getting more and more muffled and the light keeps getting dimmer and dimmer. I get so tired at the end of the day, the equipment starts to feel so very heavy. I stop to rub the back of my neck, my stiff fingers kneading the knotted muscles between the roots of my hair. The lights are moving further away, bobbing along in the semi-dark, but it doesn’t really seem to matter, as my eyes are beginning to rock shut on every other pulse beat anyway. I take off my safety goggles and rub my eyes, shaking my head hard to try and wake myself up. It doesn’t help much. The lights are getting bleary and blurred as they get further and further away. Suddenly they turn a corner and I am plunged into complete blackness.

The thing is, of course, I ought to be terrified. I am not terrified. I am staring into the inky darkness completely calmly. I take an inventory. My heart is not hammering, my breath is not coming too fast. I can’t see anything. I am completely alone. I haven’t a clue where on earth I am. Interesting. Obviously I know something that I don’t know that I know. That would be intuition. Of course it feels much too strong to be merely intuition, but I don’t know another word for it, so I will call it intuition. I am not frightened or alarmed or panicked. I know everything is going to be fine, everything is going to be all right. Except, of course, for the fact that the song that has begun to fill the air, is just a little bit on the flat side.

It is a sparkling song, however, a song that is actually putting small, bright diamond bursts of light into the air. It smells like diamonds too and if I breathe in quickly through my mouth, I can taste it. Wet diamonds. If I didn’t have such a good ear I wouldn’t know it was flat either. I consider: a diamond song really would have to be a little flat, in theory. A diamond just isn’t round after all, not like a ball. Roundish, of course, which is why the song is just a little bit flat. I reach my fingers out and try to catch the diamond sparks that are snapping in the air, but they are elusive. Elusive diamond sizzles snapping in the dark.

When the a new gem enters the air, I actually taste it first. I inhale through my mouth, my tongue against my lips, and find that the clear, sparkling diamond essence has been replaced by
ruby. Not cherry, or strawberry or even just red, but ruby. Umm, I like ruby better than diamond, it has more taste and, truly it’s song is not so flat. Why is that, I wonder? It doesn’t sizzle quite as much, however, nor snap. It seems to seep all over, making everything a deep, darkish crimson color. I can see around the mine a little bit now. I use the thick red light to locate my hat and pick ax. When I stand up, I find myself looking right into a bed of cream colored crystals. Sitting on the bed of cream colored crystals is a quite attractive Fae, about the size of my hand. She is purple and has pink and purple wings. Well. She looks purple in this ruby light anyway.

Now. I am aware that most miners who happened to look into a bed of cream colored crystals and see a purple Fae the size of their hand would probably decide that they had been exposed to some kind of gas leak and were hallucinating. They would immediately lay down, shut their eyes and try and make the purple Fae go away. Consider, however: I have already been perfectly at ease listening to slightly flat diamond music snapping and sizzling in the dark and slurping ruby juice off the air. Tells you something doesn’t it?

I look at the little Fae sitting in the crystals. “Hey,” I say, trying to sound off hand. She smiles slowly. “Straw is cheaper, grass is free.” Then she laughs. Her laughter is worth the stupid joke. It sounds like sweet, clear water tumbling over melting ice in a Spring chinook.

“Are you lost?” she asks me hopefully.
“Possibly.” I say nodding. “My company sort of went on without me and I don’t have any light.”
“Well, that sounds promising,” she says doubtfully.
“Are you supposed to be catching lost miners?” I guess.
“Oh no,” she says shaking her head. “I’m not even supposed to be talking to people who can’t hear me.”
I have to think about this. I look at her carefully. “I can hear you, you know.”
“Yes, there is that,” she says shrugging. She sounds disappointed.
“I take it,” I say, “that you were expecting someone . . . different?”
She squints up at me. “Well, yeah.” She scratches her ear. “A Princess, I think. I mean, I wore my DRESS and I’ve got proDUCT in my hair and everything.”

Sure enough, she is wearing a really cute, really little, little black dress and her black hair is spiked up on top quite carefully.
“Yeah,” I say nodding, “you look really good.”
She smiles. “Yeah?”
“Uh hu. Did you do you own hair?”
“Well, like, I DID it, I mean I didn’t CUT it, but I DID it you know?” She smiles again. “Your not a Princess, though?”
I shake my head. “I don’t think there is much doubt of that.”
She looks disgruntled. Then she looks thoughtful. Then she looks calculating. Then she looks crafty. Then she looks resigned. Then she looks delighted. This all happens very quickly, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
“But you CAN hear me?”
“Oh, yeah.”
“Very good.” She jumps up on the crystals. “You are elected. OBViously you are THE one. I mean, I don’t know why you are wearing such weird clothes and all, but, hey, that is not my problem, you know?”
“OK,” I say. “What am I elected for?”
“Well,” she says carefully, “I’m going to take you Below and I’m going to show you how things Are when they are Backwards. This is important so listen: Once you understand how things Are when then are Backwards, then you can go back up topsides and tell everyone and they will understand and soon everything will work out better up there because they will understand and things will begin to be Backwards up there too.”

My eyes narrow slowly. “Rrrrrright.”
She takes hold of the end of my index finger and begins flying, pulling me along the mine shaft. This feels exactly like you would expect. Like having a butterfly attached to the end of your finger. “Comon.”
We might go over that part about hallucinations and toxic gas again, but, we are just going to assume that you have figured out a few things about me by now, so we can skip the part where I ought to be examining my sanity and move ahead to the moment when we come through the low shadowy mines to a find the long, long drop of an empty mine shaft. The pale reddish light of the ruby is still filling the mine around us. There is another kind of a light coming out of the shaft. A creamy, pearly light that leaves a shaft of swimming golden motes glowing above the mine shaft. I look down, but I can’t see the bottom. I mean, the mine shaft is lit all the way down with the same pearly, gold glow, but I literally cannot see the bottom, it is too far away. I look at my friend on the end of my index finger. “Below?”
“Yeah. Below.” She scratches her ear with her other hand. She looks me up and down. Her lips twist. She puts her head on one side. “Hummmm.” She chews on a purple thumb nail. She lets go of my finger, flutters over and looks down into the shaft. “I suppose you wouldn’t care for the idea of sort of . . . free falling?” She finally asks.
“Well, that sort of depends on what happens at the bottom.”
“I’d . . . I’d get down there first and catch you,” she says. “In theory.”
“No. I’m afraid I couldn’t go for free falling if it’s just in theory.”
She nods absently. “OK. How do you feel about wings?”
That is another story entirely. I smile. “Oh, I could DO wings! Is that possible?”
She looks at me critically. “Yeah. I think so. You are going to have to do some . . . shrinking and, I think you’re going to have to take your . . . shirt off.” I’m about to ask her who we might be going to run into “Below” when I decide I really don’t care. For the experience of flying, I’ll arrive where-ever topless if I have to.

I unbutton my work shirt and shrug it off, letting it fall on the ground. My sports bra goes on top of it quickly. She looks at me and blinks. “Tattoo. Wow. Cool.”
She flutters over in front of my face and forms her hands into a triangle, her thumbs together, her index fingers touching. Then just as if she were blowing a big bubble, she starts to blow slowly and softly on her hands. I hear a sound something like a harp arpeggio and I suddenly I start to itch really badly between my shoulder blades. I’m reaching my hand back over my shoulder to scratch when I am struck by several things all at once. One is that I am sort of hovering in mid air. The next is that I’ve put my hand, not on my shoulder, but on something that feels more like a maple leaf. The third thing is that I am still looking at the tiny Fae, but she isn’t tiny any more, she has grown to be the same size I am. All at the same time, I realize that none of these things make any sense and suddenly I come down with a rather large whomp on the floor of the mine, sitting on my work pants which seem to be big enough for the Jolly Green Giant.

The purple Fae alights next to me and sure enough, we are the same size. She smiles and nods indulgently and points over my shoulder, “Wings.” I twist around. NOW my heart is hammering and my breath is coming too fast. Spread behind me are the most beautiful pair of wings I have ever seen in my entire life. Well. I don’t know if they actually ARE the most beautiful pair of wings I have ever seen in my entire life, but there is no doubt that they are attached to my back, which automatically makes them the most beautiful pair of wings I’ve ever seen before in my entire life. I can’t see all of them, but I can see that they are blue with black veins. Yes. They are beautiful.

She is scratching her head. “Kinda . . . small.”
“Are they?” I look over my shoulder and end up turning in a complete circle getting hit in the face with a soft swish of wing at the end. They are smaller than hers. They just cover and rise above my back, where hers are big enough that she could wrap herself up in them if she wanted to. She walks all the way around me with her head on one side and one eye closed. “Temporary,” she finally concludes, “serviceable and . . . veeeeery attractive, if I do say so myself, and I do.”
“Yeah?” I can’t quite believe how pathetic my voice sounds.
“Oh, Yeah,” she says, nodding, “they’re gorgeous.”
We stand there grinning at each other rather foolishly for a moment.

I move my shoulders experimentally and the wings lift and close. When I move my shoulders a little bit more they lift me right off of the ground. Whoa! I look at the Purple Fae, “How do you . . .”
She shakes her head, “don’t think about it.”
“Don’t THINK about it?”
“Uh hu. You gotta just not think about it. Like, doing the Watusi, or riding a bike, or . . . yeah, you know. Just don’t think about it.”
I look at her with slightly narrowed eyes. “You do the Watusi?” She shrugs, “I can fly.”
OK.” I say, purposefully blanking my mind and subsequently rising up into the air.
“Very good,” she says, smiling. “Take a whirl around the mine.”

While I am flying there is a gem change. Because of that, flying will always be green. As green as the cucumber crisp menthol mist of mint on the tongue of summer, as green as the touch of cool dew damp grass and deep, wet, jade moss, as green as the ultimate, luxuriant, lush sound of emerald.

Fifteen minutes later I return to her side. I know that my eyes have changed. I know they will never look the same again. She looks at me, and her own eyes soften. “There will always be dreams,” she says wistfully.
I smile. “Fifteen minutes,” I say. “It was worth it.”

I have realized, of course, that I am not wearing any clothes. That didn’t matter either. She looks at me now, however and says, “I think we’re gonna have to cover the tattoo. Sorry.”
I smile and hold out my arms. “Have at it.”
She blows again, this time through just a circle made by the forefinger and thumb of one hand. There is very short sound like the single hollow note of a wooden flute. I look down to find that she has given me a rather terrible prom-thing with a big poofey baby-blue chiffon skirt.
“Oh, honestly! Are you trying to pull off the Princess thing here?” I ask her.
She shrugs again. “I thought it was worth a try.”

I swish the skirt around a little. “It matches the wings anyway,” I comment.
“Yeah,” she says modestly, “I’m really good at that.”
I look at my hands. “The gloves are a mile and a half beyond cheesy.”
“I like the gloves!”
“If you were going to go to all the trouble of blue gloves, you might have untangled my hair.”
She looks at the snarled rats nest of my curly blonde hair. “I like your hair!”
I snort through my nose rather too loudly. “Uh hu. Well, let’s go. You’ve got me looking like something short and fat right out of Sleeping Beauty here.”
She giggles. “Yeah, you kinda do! you know? You look just like Fanny Weathertinkle or whatever their name was. And the dress will all poof out when we go down too. So dainty.”
“Oh, go jump down a mine shaft.”

We don’t actually fly down the mine shaft. It is more like floating on the golden whatevertheyare that are slowly drifting up as we are slowly drifting down. It feels like falling through champagne might feel; really dry champagne, I mean totally dry, the bubbles sort of tickle all over as they go past, the way champagne bubbles tickle your nose. It seems like we are in the mine shaft for no time at all, and yet, it also seemed like we are here for eons of soft, slow, golden time as well. Nothing happens in the mine shaft. I could easily stay here the rest of my life.

We land gently and my skirt does, indeed, puff out. The purple Fae laughs her beautiful laugh again. “Bibbbybobiedwhatever,” she giggles.
I scowl at her. “What IS your name? I can’t keep thinking of you as “the purple Fae.”
She snickers. “It’s Fay.”
“It is NOT!”
“It IS!”
“And what is your name?” She asks, smiling.
“It is NOT!” She throws her head back laughing; crystal water singing over melting ice.
“Actually, it isn’t,” I say dryly, “It’s Yekaterinanna, but that is kind of a mouthful.”
“Wow!” she says, “it IS! I can’t even SAY that!”
“Fine. Call me Kaija.”
“Kaija,” she repeats, “and you can call me Fay,”
“Fine,” I say again, “as long as you are not going to tell me your first name is Purple.” She smiles slowly, but she doesn’t say anything.

(Here ends Part I, of BELOW)


At 5:53 PM, Blogger Believer said...

Hi Winnie,

I'm getting a kick out of your unique mining experience. I hope I bump into you and Fay while I'm down there. Strange thing about the dress, though, both you and Heather--well, I hope I don't get stuck with--that is--oh, I really didn't mean to be rude, you've been so nice to me. Well, have fun and don't worry about it. Humm. You don't suppose there's a curse against women miners, do you?


At 3:52 AM, Blogger Alexandra said...

I enjoy it a lot. Can't wait for second part. Love Fay to. She seams like a good companion, very interesting I might say. I wonder what Kaija and Fay will find in the mine?


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