She walked out of the cave confidently. Her dress was torn and dirty, almost as dirty as her hair and her face. Her bones were prominent under her skin. The skin on her feet was calloused. But she walked regally, in the filth and wear and wasted away, out from the darkness and into the light.
She walked out, head held high. It had been days, months, years. All that time hiding, away from light, away from the others, away from the ones who had known her by name. The darkness had been full and deep and everywhere. Everywhere she turned in those days and months and years it had been darkness all around, sinking into the walls, sinking into the sky, sinking into her skin. Darkness that followed, that dwelt, darkness that was the only one who spoke her name. For days and months and years it had been nothing but darkness.
But now the days and months and years were up. They had had their say, and God knows they had had their way. But their time was up. Their say had been heard, and it had been answered. The darkness that permeated would stay and permeate and sink, but not into the space in which she would now live.
She stood at the opening of the cave, her mouth spread into a wide smile. The first smile in the remains of the dark.
She stood, tall, sure, eyes clear and mind sound. She stood at the cave’s opening, the one place she had never visited in all her days inside.
When they had brought her there they had taken her far and deep inside. Through winding paths and step climbs and hard, fast, long falls they had taken her, to the very deepness of the cavern. They had taken her and there they had laid her. She had awoken to find nothing but stone and cold and emptiness. She had awoken to find nothing but herself surrounded by nothing. That’s what it had been. The nothingness had been it. The nothingness staying always by her side. The nothingness wading out into the shallow lake, making sure to stay next to her. The nothingness calling her by name and providing her only warmth at night. The nothingness filling her days, her hands, her heart, her mind. It had all been nothing. It had been her surrounded and permeated by nothingness all of her days.
But her days in the nothingness, in the cave, had come to an end. Her days had been counted by a firmer hand than her own. Her days had been filled with nothingness and darkness, but they had been tracked, they had been followed, they had been measured. And now her days had been ended. Her days in the darkness and nothingness were through.
And so she stood at the mouth of the cave, her own mouth unafraid to take in the clear air. Her eyes shone and her spine, bony as it was, stood straight and strong and sure.
This is what all that time inside had been for. Here now was reality and life. All her days and months and years had been leading up to this, and now this was her chance. Whatever shadow had been allowed to rule had now been quieted by the light shining clearly on her face. Whatever nothingness had been allowed to be all that there had been was now ended. It was only her, and the light, with the darkness behind. It had all lead to this, to her standing firm, full of something, with nothingness and darkness left behind. It had all lead to her standing whole in the light.
And so she gave no notice to her jutting skin, or her ashen face, or her dirt. She gave no notice to anything but her stepping into the light and into the clean air.
She stood now in a place in which she could bring the light in. The outside lay at her feet, vulnerable and willing, to be brought down below, just like she had been. The sky and the sun and the clouds and the wind drew to her as though wanting to leave their place in their universe to accompany her to hers.
But it was not the sun ruling, nor the sky. It was not the wind deciding where it would go. For once in her life, it was she walking to meet the world, it was the world, for once, coming to kneel by her side.
And so she stood at the mouth of her cave. Darkness behind, licking at her heels, light before, spreading its arms wide to catch her.
Catch her. During all her days inside, she had always fallen. She had always taken steps forward, unsteady, unsure of whether the ground would give way. The earth would not be steady and there was no light to light her way. All her days inside she had fallen, through tunnels, through caverns, through dark pitches of black. She had fallen to the very end, to the very deep where the demons dwell. She had fallen to the lowest of low where only death lives, and no one had come to catch her.
But now she stood, un-falling, steady, aware, in control, standing sure where the ground would not give way. All her days inside falling had prepared her for this. All her days inside could do nothing but give way to this.
It was light. It was air. It was openness and space. It was moving upward, out of the pit. It was stepping forward with assurance that the space would not run out. She was going into the outside now, and the ground would not give way beneath her.
So she stood at the mouth of the cave, eyes and arms spread wide. The darkness was still clutching her feet. The nothingness was still calling her name, like only a lifelong lover can. But this time was not for lifelong lovers. This time was not for all she had known in her past. This time was for her, and for her free.
“Free”. For a moment she was afraid. But she would take that moment. Against all the days and months and years, what was one moment of fear? She stood at the mouth of the cave, accompanied by a moment of fear, accompanied by a lifetime of feeling nothing but hollow darkness. She stood at the mouth of the cave, shook away the fear, and laughed.
And then the sky spread open, and even more light shone through. She had been standing at the mouth of the cave that was all that she had ever known. She had been standing at the edge of darkness, afraid of embracing the light. But now the sky gave way, and the clouds parted, and the wind was stilled. Now, here it was. Here was true light; here was true life. Now, here it was, all she had come out for.
She stood at the mouth of the cave, not for the sake of leaving darkness, not for the sake of fleeing permeating emptiness. She stood at the mouth of the cave for the sake of seeing herself. It was just her and the wind and the bursting, splitting sky. All her days it had been nothing; now it was her and everything. It was just her and everything more, and everything more she was going to have. In this tug and pull of light vs. dark, of nothingness vs. something, she was going to be the one who would decide.
And so she chose. And so she stood, at the mouth of the cave, with all the sureness the depth of the cave had brought. She stood, choosing. And she chose light.
Song: “Bring the Light,” by The Smashing Pumpkins