Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Seven

  1. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part One
  2. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Two
  3. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Three
  4. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Four
  5. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Five
  6. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Six
  7. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Seven
  8. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eight
  9. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Nine
  10. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Ten
  11. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eleven – Finale



Part Seven: Grasping at the Veil


Praise be to those above. Praise be to those above who have lashed and tethered the great ones beneath the rock. Mighty are their works and vast is their reach across the stars. When we awoke in the beginning, we knew not their presence or their ways. Our foolishness soon was brought to light. They rescued us from the terrors of the deep. Our ways have been set by the great ones, and we will call on them forever as the deliverers of our survival. May they see the works of our hands and smell the aroma of our sacrifices.  

Jeffrey pulled his eyes away from the page for a moment, reflecting for a moment on the text’s strangeness. The following pages detailed the sacrifices and practices these early people desperately clung to in hopes of securing their existence. Human sacrifices, spilling of blood into holes in the earth, and song and dance to “appease” the great ones in the stars. He came then to the recounting of the event which spurred this praise and specter of worship. 

Under our feet the earth moved, shaking and churning as the behemoths turned about in their uneasy slumber. Their long sleep came to an end, awoken by the great stones falling from the sky. The smell of fire in the air came from the stones, too hot to draw near. The trees and the fields withered, death overtaking both the plants and the beasts. A season passed, death and decay consuming the very land around us. Then opened the great voids in the land, rock splitting and revealing the dark caverns far below our feet. From the time we awoke in the gardens of the land we had not known of those beneath the earth. The great cosmos had awakened the sleeping ones in the deep.

The aroma of the watery depths poured forth from gashes in the rock, and we freely breathed the poison that would become stifle us. Before our very eyes we saw the frightful world around us. The veil was pulled away and we could see the stars now as steppingstones for the great ones. Madness ignited among the people. Our very souls were broken upon the rocks, and the frenzy spilt blood into the caverns. The terrors below now moved toward our world above, heaving their great mass to the openings in the ground. And we could then see those too abominable to fathom.

Jeffrey had dozed off as he read, desperately tired from his many sleepless days. His dreams were of the usual ilk, full of frightening images and the growing shadow behind him, lurking just out of sight. It was only when a hand nudged his shoulder that he pulled his head from the table and started up in surprise. The manuscript still lay before him, but across the table sat a girl about his age looking inquisitively at his odd demeanor.

“You okay, buddy?” she asked with a sly grin on her face. 

“Uh- yeah,” Jeffrey stammered as he collected the papers in front of him to avoid the curious eyes of his new table mate. 

“I thought you might want a heads up before you started drawing too much attention. You were making a racket,” she continued with a smile.

“Sorry about that, guess I fell asleep.” 

They batted around small talk for a bit. Jeffrey had nearly forgotten the manuscript and the cave and Alan for a few minutes while he spoke with Lila- having learned her name after an awkward pause. His hands rested ever on the papers, however, as an odd sense of possessive compulsion had attached him to the manuscript. 

“So, what’ve you got there?” Lila pointed at the pile of papers under his hands. 

“Oh, uh- just an old text I had one of the professors translate for me,” Jeffrey replied, trying to hide his blatant reluctance to discuss it. 

“An old text, about what? How old?” Lila sat forward, clearly intrigued. 

“Well, about as old as they can be, I think,” Jeffrey freely disclosed, surprising himself with his own willingness to share. 

“Woah! Maybe there’s some fame waiting for you,” she joked.

“Not so sure about that, but who knows.” 

“So, what’s it about?” Lila returned to her line of questions. 

“Earth, I guess? I haven’t made it far yet.” 

“Big thoughts floating around here, eh?” she teased.

“Maybe… I think maybe-” his thoughts trailed off with his sentence.

“Go on, pal.” 

“I think there’s more to this planet than we’re aware of…” Jeffrey answered in a moment of clarity that shocked even himself. 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lila could tell his demeanor had shifted, and his sudden realization had piqued her interest.

“I’m not entirely sure, to be honest with you. I just think that- I just feel like what we see around us isn’t quite all that there is.” Jeffrey struggled to find the words as his thoughts were finally piecing together the past few months’ puzzle. 

“Well, of course,” Lila retorted with confidence that took him aback. “I know there’s more to this world than what we can see.” 

“How so?” 

“I mean, the spiritual can’t be seen,” Lila explained as she sat back in her seat. “Anybody who denies the spiritual is just living with a blindfold on, right?” 

“I don’t think it’s spiritual,” Jeffrey replied. “I think it’s hiding all around us. I think it’s something we aren’t ready to see.” 

“You know, it’s times like these that I realize how disconnected we are from the spiritual realities around us,” Lila continued in her own thought. “You’re so certain it has to be right here in this world. Being in the middle of all these people…” Lila leaned in toward Jeffrey after gesturing around the room, “it really makes me think about how many people are out there seeking fulfillment.” Her words were slow and deliberate. “When I look at the world, I sometimes feel as though my own efforts are fruitless to awaken even myself, much less others, to the fact that there is so much more to life than the material.” 

“I think there’s plenty in the material world we still need to see before we should worry about the spiritual, to be quite honest,” Jeffrey responded with skepticism as his vision now began to grasp his true position in the universe. 

“But that spiritual fulfillment- it won’t come from you finding something in this world. That happiness will come from the spiritual world,” Lila fired back, pushing away his skepticism. “What really matters is how you feel each day. That’s what creates your reality.” 

“Sounds like a placebo if you ask me,” he argued. “Glossing over reality to jump into some spiritual world without even trying to understand the ground under our feet?” 

“That’s the thing, though… isn’t all of life just a placebo effect?” Lila rhetorically asked. “Everything we work for- the comforts, the things, the stuff, the labels- it’s all just a placebo to make us think we’re happy.” 

“I’m not so sure I know what reality is supposed to seem like anymore…” Jeffrey had now come to the point where his confusion drifted into dread. He no longer was unsure- he was certain that what he thought he knew was far from reality laid bare. 

“Reality doesn’t have to be anything,” Lila reassured him. “It can be whatever you make it. The simple truth is that our experience is what makes our reality.” 

“Then reality isn’t real? I think there’s probably only one reality, Lila,” Jeffrey answered his own question. “I just don’t think we can see it. And I don’t think our blindness is an accident.”

“Sounds like a conspiracy, then?” Lila teased him with a sly grin. “Who’s blinding us? Who’s got the bag over our head?”

“I don’t….” Jeffrey paused for a moment, contemplating for the first time the question she posed jokingly. “I think we’ve evolved not to see it.” In a moment of what felt like revelation, he looked across the table at Lila with a nearly dumbfounded expression. 

“Like, natural selection or something?” 

“We know life adapts to its environment, with species altering the very characteristics of their physical forms to survive…” Jeffrey pondered and searched for his words. “If we can change our anatomy to survive, couldn’t our perceptions also evolve to help us survive?” 

“Welcome to freshman psychology,” Lila retorted with mocking tone. “We’ve been doing that for millennia.” 

“But what if our brains have evolved to hide something from us… to keep us from knowing something that would otherwise jeopardize our survival.” 

“You mean keep us from being literally scared to death?” Lila’s tone sobered slightly as she tried to help coax Jeffrey to coherently share his thoughts. 

“If there was a truth so terrifying that it would drive you to madness, would you still want to learn the truth?” Jeffrey looked down at the text on the table in front of him suddenly feeling lightheaded, then back at Lila not expecting her to answer as she did.

“Nope. I’m happy. Why give that up for a bit of truth?” The smiled had reappeared on her face. “If you ever want to chat about more existential crises, give me a call,” she said with a wink, writing her phone number down in the upper margin of the translated text. “Time to study.” 

With that, Lila stood from the table and departed the tavern with a wave. Jeffrey sat for a moment without taking his eyes off the door, his hands still resting on the manuscript. After trying to begin reading again, he gave up when the dizziness returned, and his strained eyes blurred the words on the page. Stuffing the manuscript into his backpack, he left the tavern and made the perilous drive home with head spinning and thoughts swirling in a disillusioned fog. 

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