Frozen LakePosted: June 5, 2014
Calcification had been building here for aeons. Stalactites and stalagmites, and dripping pools of limpid water that never seemed to evaporate. I continued exploring the caverns and rooms, always wondering what I would see around the next bend. What I saw was slowly breathtaking – I actually did hold my breath when I realized what I was looking at. I wound around the tunnels and caverns, seeing that the calcification slowly had begun to crack away from what was apparently the massive body of a living thing.
Chunks of off-white, crusty layers that smelled astringent and desiccated were everywhere in piles now, and the walls had begun to breathe. That’s right, I said breathe.
What looked like limestone walls were, upon touch, pliable, smooth and expanding and contracting rhythmically. Slow expansion and slow decrease, I wouldn’t have noticed had I continued exploring the way I usually do, looking forever for the next turn in the road to satisfy my wanderlust. How to wrap my head around this stunning find? What WAS this body? What was breathing and slowly dropping hunks of what kept it firmly in place for so long, like shedding a dry, constraining skin?
It had been hours now, and I knew that I had to choose to stay here overnight or turn around and head out into the waning twilight. I chose to stay.
I went another fifty yards or so and found a large pool in a large room. Here, most of the encasement was already dropped to the ground and I could faintly hear a slow swooshing of air being brought in and expelled, from where I didn’t know. I decided to light a small fire and make a meal then try to sleep in this miracle of a place.
As I moved toward the water to put some through my water filter, I was surprised to see that the liquid was frozen. Perfectly glass-like on the surface and hard as rock to the touch. I chipped some out of the pool, hoping that there were no contaminates or radioactivity that I needed to worry about. As I put my small hammer to the work, the rhythm of the breathing walls all around me start to accelerate.
I put the chunks of frozen water in a small pan and waited for it to melt. The rhythm seemed to maintain the faster pace. In five minutes the ice in the pan had fully melted, I dropped in the freeze-dried food and waited. As the fire crackled I thought I could hear a cracking noise. I wondered if the last of the calcified skin was going to come down around me, but the cracking was coming from the pool of frozen water. I turned to see cracks lengthening and pings of sound now moving all through the large cavern. I wondered if my fire had caused this thaw.
By the time I was finished with my meal, the pool was completely liquid. The breathing of the walls was continuous, steady, and I was lulled into a deep sleep I hadn’t known in many years.
When I awoke I was clearly in a different place. None of the calcification remained on the walls of this big room. There was only the rhythm of breath in synch with my own breath. I felt as if the walls were a bellows, causing my lungs to open and close through no effort of my own. I sat quietly in this entrainment for a long while, not really wanting to move, much less begin my journey back to the outside.
The walk back out of the caverns was a sad one. I realized no one would believe what I had witnessed. I would keep this place and this experience a secret, a moment out of time, for my own contemplation and the sanctity of the large body who’s breath caused my own to be so effortless.