CHAPTER SEVEN ~ THE CRYSTAL CAVERN
Confusion was slowly drowning him in a deep, dark sea of melancholy which swept over his soul until he could no longer breathe. He was almost choking in despair as the fear of madness and destruction rose up in ebony waves to consume him.
The pillow below him was wet with the tears he had cried since locking himself away, but now that was all fading as his mind found the sanctuary of the peace and beauty that he adored so much.
A wind was brushing against his skin and wiping away the beads of tears that clung to him before slowly blowing away the dark, stormy clouds that had plunged him into despair and cast a dreary confusion over him that had gnawed at his mind.
It was all gone, the fear, the pain, and every single trouble was cast away to leave him filled with happiness. No longer was the fear or confusion about his life haunting him and there was no instability in his mind that made him fear for his sanity. Everything was peaceful now and his head was empty of any thoughts.
Someone was dabbing lightly at his face with a soft cloth and he could feel gentle fingers caressing his face tenderly.
His eyes flickered open and above him was a rich, green canopy through which the warm moonlight glowed milkily in the night sky. Suddenly there was a beautiful face staring down at him with kind, loving eyes that made his heart melt in a delicious wave of burning heat and love.
“Karine,” Brian breathed. His face was suddenly lit with a smile and his heart leapt up in delight inside of his chest.
“Baby you’ve been crying,” she whispered as she continued to wipe away his tears. She stroked his face with her right hand whilst her left pressed the cloth over his eyes to dry them.
He slowly reached up and clasped one of her hands within his own before pressing his mouth against it to deliver a soft kiss full of sweetness.
“I’m okay now,” he replied, shivering as her breath fell upon his face.
She smiled in reply and Brian slowly manoeuvred himself until he was sitting up and felt a spongy, soft substance beneath his hands. He glanced down and found that he had been lying upon a bed of burgundy moss, dotted with miniscule orange flowers that winked in the moonlight while spreading the air with a sweet aroma that reminded Brian of magnolia flowers. Surrounding them about the ground were thousands of pink and white petals that had tumbled from the bright, blossoming trees above to give a beautiful rain shower of dancing petals.
He breathed deeply, savouring the scent of the flowers as they filled his senses. “I missed this place.” He opened them again and looked at Karine. “I missed you.”
Karine smiled weakly at him, one hand still resting on his face and there was relief in her dark eyes as the tears stopped their watery trail. Brian opened his arms out and Karine sighed as she accepted the tight embrace and leaned her face into the crook of his neck. Brian’s eyes closed in bliss. There was no confusion here, only absolute certainty that this was where he belonged. He kissed Karine on the head, his heart beating faster as it burned through his veins, tingling his sense and making him even smile as a great bubble of happiness burst within him.
He sighed and then fell back against the moss again, Karine still wrapped safely within his arms.
“What was wrong? Why were you crying?” Karine murmured as she made herself more comfortable against his body.
“It doesn’t matter,” Brian replied, shaking his head to clear himself from the disconcerting and almost painful sensations that had hunted him in his own world. “It’s all better now you’re with me. I’m just unhappy and confused in my own world.”
Karine pressed a little tighter to him. “Are you sure you want this?” Her eyes were wide and full of regret. “I don’t like you having to choose between me and your friends… Sometimes I think I should never have come to you, then you wouldn’t be suffering. I want you to be happy.”
Brian turned his head towards her. “Please stop saying things like that. I am happy, I’m happier than I’ve ever been before in my life. I may be a little unhappy in my world but here… everything just falls so perfectly into place and I know why I would give my world and my friends up.”
“But - ” she tried to protest.
Brian pressed a finger to her lips. “Shush. I’ve made my choice and I know it’s the right one.” His eyes travelled about the world of the forest with he overhanging leaves and blossoms.
Karine traced his jaw line with a finger before leaning up to seal his lips with her own, leaving a taste of summer strawberries lingering lightly within his mouth. Gently Brian caressed her arm with his hands.
“What about your friends?” Karine asked eventually.
“They don’t matter.” He barely even remembered them anymore, but it did not confuse or frighten him like it did in his own world. Here, everything was just simple and beautiful. The argument with Nick was already fast dissolving from his mind along with the difficult emotions it had evoked. Now he even wondered why he had felt anxiety about his decision to die for Karine. Now he was back with her and he wanted to give everything and more just so that they could be together where he knew they belonged. It still caused a slight pain in his heart to lose his friends, but what he was gaining would be far more valuable.
“I’ve made my choice,” he told Karine again.
She sighed. “If I could, I would make it so that you didn’t have to choose. I’d make it so that you could have everything you’ve ever wanted.”
“I know, but I have to choose and…” He smiled as he clambered atop her. “I choose you,” he whispered as he brought his lips down to kiss her neck.
Excitedly she entwined her fingers behind his back and drew him to her for a warm kiss. They broke apart and stared at each other for a moment, their eyes sucking up as much of each other as they possibly could.
“Do you want to take a walk?” Karine asked. “I have something to show you.”
Brian tilted his head. “Mmm, but I’m quite comfortable here,” he protested as he continued to run his lips over the soft skin of her neck.
“We could do this later,” Karine said playfully, moving her head to give Brian better access.
“Or now,” Brian pointed out, his body already crying for her touches.
She smiled at him and Brian knew that he had been successful in his seduction of her. She laughed slightly as he kissed her face, teasing her by avoiding her strawberry lips until she grew impatient and pulled his mouth to hers passionately and lovingly. Brian softly returned the kiss, enjoying every moment they were together. He sighed as they broke apart and he ran his hands through her hair, loving the way it easily flowed through his fingers like silk.
“I love you,” he whispered.
“I love you,” she returned as she kissed him on the nose.
Brian’s heart was hammering hard in anticipation as they stared at each other, hands entwining about one another and eyes glowing in love. It was only a few moments before Brian made the first move to kiss her again and it wasn’t long before the kiss led to their clothes being abandoned on the petal scattered ground about them.
Brian savoured every second as they made love, each sighing at the other’s touches and moaning in pleasure with the kisses that joined their burning lips. Brian took his time with his movements, stopping to smile at her and to feel the tingling sensations that spun about his body. She would smile in return as her hands slowly held him close and then they would kiss again…
He loved her. Nothing else had ever made him feel more alive with emotions and sensations. When he was with her, sadness was a distant relative too far away to even brush a ting finger against Brian. No one had ever left him feeling so breathless and so overjoyed with happiness. No wonder the waking world was so unbearable now… He needed her. Her love was a part of him now.
Gasping and sighing in each other’s arms, they fell back against the moss and petals, tired after the long intimacy they had just shared. Karine leaned over and gave him a final kiss as Brian ran his hands over her heated skin.
“As much as I would love to do this all night,” Karine said as she touched his lips with her own. “We can’t.”
“We could,” Brian contradicted as he seized hold of her hands.
“But I want to show you something!” she replied in a singsong voice.
Teasingly she pushed his travelling lips away to stand and retrieve her lilac dress from the ground. She slipped it smoothly over her head and ran fingers through her dark hair to tidy it up a little.
Brian sighed as he reached for his own clothes, but he was helped when Karine decided that she wanted to dress him herself. Brian stared at her and watched her pretty face as she delicately did the buttons of his shirt up and the zipper of his pants before kissing him and taking his hand to pull him to his feet.
“Come on,” she said. “Wait until you see, it’s beautiful!”
She led him down a path of sun-baked earth that nestled beneath the blossoming trees. The path was now coated with a layer of pink and white petals that the wind had carelessly blown from the hanging boughs above. They were soft beneath Brian’s bare feet and it seemed as if the forest were making a natural carpet for himself and Karine. He wondered what it would be like to marry her in a place like this with the moon riding in the sky and the stars watching down on them to bless the ceremony… and Karine would be the one he was marrying. No one else was that perfect for him.
He could hear the chanter of water as they drew closer to the pool where water cascaded in eager dribbles over a series of stone before falling to form a small waterfall that fed the pool.
“What is this thing you want to show me?” he asked curiously, wondering if anywhere could be more beautiful than this place.
“It’s a place silly,” she said. “A place I found. We have to swim across the pool.”
“With clothes or without clothes?” Brian asked devilishly.
She looked at him, amusement in her eyes. “With clothes,” she said, but she suddenly drew him close to her. “But I haven’t decided whether you’ll keep them on when we get there or not.”
“Whatever you want,” Brian said, his voice husky.
She smiled and stroked his face for a moment. “We’ll see,” she said seductively.
Brian grinned, knowing that whatever antics they did get up that they would normally end u with each other naked and in each other’s arms. He never grew tired of feeling her beside him, but that wasn’t the only reason he loved her. He could talk with her for hours while they sat snuggled together to keep warm or sat by the pool and told each other stories. He would lose all track of everything except her when she spoke.
“Let’s go,” Karine said as she strode into the water, not caring that the light garment she was wearing would become soaked.
Brian followed her, shivering slightly as the cold water greeted him with a swirl and a splash. It took a moment for his body to adjust but the water was not too cold, after all the evening was still warm. It seemed to be a never-ending summer in this fantasy world.
Karine sank beneath the surface of the pool to completely submerge herself to become used to the water. When she emerged in a shower of water droplets and her hair flowing about her, Brian’s heart quickened even more.
“You’re so pretty you know,” he said.
“So you keep telling me,” she teased laughingly. She sighed as she stared up at the stars. “I think those are the prettiest things in any world though.”
Brian raised his head to receive a clear view of the heavens above, an endless sea of midnight velvet with the little stars sailing in the vast expanse.
“They’re different in my world,” he said.
“How? Stars are stars!” she said.
“They’re in different positions,” he explained.
“Oh, that makes sense,” she replied as she treaded the water to stay afloat. “Anyway, follow me.”
Brian watched her slender form begin to swim across the smooth pool towards the trickling waterfall where the splashes glinted and sparkled with the light of the moon at the far end. He began to swim after her, loving the way the cool water soothed his skin and body.
“Where are we going?” he called.
She smiled daringly at him as she approached the waterfall and then she disappeared amongst the cascading water.
Frowning Brian swam over to where she had just been but he could see nothing except the roaring water from above, noticeably noisier now that he was right beside it.
“Karine?” he called, raising his voice to be heard over the sound of falling water gurgling as it reached the pool. “Karine?”
He stared about him and then back at the waterfall for a second. He took a deep breath and then slowly swam beneath it, arms outstretched searching for a tunnel or cavern where Karine had gone, but his hands found only wet stones.
He ran his hands along the wall, feeling among the cracks and crevices where tiny lilies had managed to grow, eagerly tickling his hands with their petals. Suddenly his hands found a narrow gap but one that was large enough for him to crawl into. Carefully he pulled himself up into it and found himself surrounded by darkness. He stretched his arms out and noticed that the walls were very, every close either side to give a claustrophobic feeling to the tunnel. It was only just big enough to hold him. He tried to raise his head, but that proved to be a mistake as it came into contact with the ceiling.
“Watch your head!” Karine’s voice said from further ahead. “It’s very small.”
“Small? Tiny is more the right word, Karine!”
“It’s not my fault you’re such a big lump!”
“I am not a big lump,” Brian protested, his head coming up again and hitting the rocky ceiling again. “Ow!”
Karine laughed in the darkness.
“Karine, is swear you’re gonna pay for this!” Brian said as he crawled through the dark on his hands and knees, feeling the damp ground beneath him. “And I am not a big lump!”
He heard her moving ahead of him. “Then why are you too big for this tunnel?”
“Because it’s made for very, very tiny people!”
“I am not tiny!”
“Then why can you move perfectly well in this cramped space?” Brian asked grinning in the darkness.
“Brian Littrell, stop teasing me this instant!”
“Or what?” he said, unable to avoid another gentle tease.
“Or I’ll get you back!”
“Sounds interesting…” Brian’s mind was already beginning to imagine the ways in which Karine could get him back as he crawled along after her in the tunnel, although none of them actually seemed that unpleasant.
“Stop imaging me naked!” she came back with from the darkness ahead.
“Because we’re in a dark tunnel and there really isn’t room for that kind of activity!”
Brian laughed and then suddenly frowned as he realised that he could see light ahead of him and the silhouette of Karine. He froze for a moment and watched as she clambered out of the exit to the tunnel and into some kind of cavern beyond… but there was light there from the looks of it.
Curiously Brian crawled forward and then peered through the exit hole and gasped in delight at the cavern beyond.
The walls were made of glassy crystal substance which glowed and shone in a thousand different hues from the pale blue to the rosy hues akin to that of a rose. The colours constantly changed and flickered playfully across the surfaces of the walls, almost like spirits were trapped within and taunting strangers with their beauty. In the centre of the cavern was a small pool of water and high above that in the arched, shimmering ceiling was a hole which allowed the light of the moon and stars in to dance upon every sparkling surface.
He clambered out of the hole, only a few feet from the ground which looked shiny like glass but was not nearly so slippery so that he could easily stand and gaze abut him with wide eyes.
“Wow,” he whispered.
Karine was smiling and standing beside the pool of water. “Do you like it?” she whispered.
“It’s amazing,” Brian said honestly. He slowly pressed a hand against one of the glimmering crystal walls and the surface glowed beneath his fingers to change into a brilliant violet which faded to blue.
“A crystal cave. You can find them in this world sometimes, but they are very rare. This one can be just for us,” Karine said. “I never want to share it with you.”
Brian slowly and calmly approached her. “Really?” he asked.
“Only you,” she whispered.
Brian as now standing before her, his breathing deeper and more shallow. He reached out his hands and clasped hers to pull her close in an embrace. They did not have to say anything to express their love and they simply held each other, her head resting on his shoulder.
Brian could feel her breathing against his own and he smiled contentedly as he closed his eyes. Everything felt so right here… and the more he saw of this world, from the angels to the dazzling walls of this crystal cavern, the more he wanted to stay and never have to brave the waking world again.
But why then in his own world did it all feel wrong when everything here was so perfect and clear? He stared down at Karine, her wet hair trailing in locks down her back… his choice was more than clear.