Lie of the Light

Santo Tomas 2

Photo © Lars via Google Maps

When I was ten, I followed Mother through new tunnels, navigating by sound. I wrote the path on my inner eyelids, an ever-growing map.

I covered my eyes against a distant glow, until it grew overwhelming. She dragged me around the last corner.

“You must look,” she prodded. “You must face temptation, understand what it means to embrace Mabbadeg.”

Searing sunlight violated the tunnel’s gaping maw. Beyond that: limitless, anchorless nothingness. Why would anyone choose that over our sacred caves? And then…

* * *

After years self-exiled in a world dominated by unrelenting sky, I still get anxious. I cower under roofs and trees, anything to hold me down.

The sun glares accusingly, symbol of my sins: disloyalty, heresy.

Now I watch the entrance, praying for reconciliation, forgiveness.

For a guide.

I cannot venture back alone. My broken heart cannot hear the stone-beat, and when I close my eyes, I see nothing.

Word count: 150. Written for this week’s What Pegman Saw prompt. Thanks as always to Josh and Karen for hosting this fun flash fiction challenge!  This week, Pegman takes us to Santo Tomás, España. The wonderful shot I discovered is in Cova des Coloms — or translated, Cave of the Pigeons. Click the link above to see what images of this gorgeous region of Spain the other writers found to inspire them — and join in if you feel like it. All are welcome!

Note that the title refers to two meanings of “lie”: both the misleading falsehood definition, and the definition referring to position or situation, more often said as ‘lay,” e.g., “lay of the land.”

Worldbuilding note: The various religions of Mabbadeg, a deity of stone and mountain, darkness and earth, secrets and burial, are some of my favorites. One of the teachings of the primary Mabbadeg sects is that in the beginning there was only underground and darkness; the god only begrudgingly gave humans the sun because they were weak and unable to live up to his expectations. Thus the more worshipers can make do in the darkness (especially underground), the holier they believe themselves to be. Few worshipers live underground all or even most of the time — this narrator comes from one of the more extreme factions. And even then, they venture outside at night to hunt and gather. What did he do to exile himself, and why? Hmm, I have so many ideas…


12 thoughts on “Lie of the Light

  1. I’d say you’ve captured well what might be a person’s reaction to sunlight beneath a wide sky, when until then their life has been lived in darkness and twilight. And your world-building seems bang on, since caves formed the earliest (known) shelters, it would be easy to imagine *rock* as the *beginning*, the Mother, as it were. And so we find in many mythologies, Mother Earth

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the great comment, Crispina. I’m so glad it came across that way. I lean more toward fear of really small enclosed spaces myself, so I was trying to imagine the opposite: how threatening all that endless sky would feel to someone who’s always felt safe in tunnels and small caves. And yes, caves are natural shelters! Deeper caves and tunnels are harder to navigate without artificial lighting, but that doesn’t seem to bother those who follow Mabbadeg.

      Liked by 1 person

      • True! But then, presumably they did have artificial light: fire. Which works well in small doses, or with larger caves. But I think most folks wouldn’t want to stay in deep smaller caves or tunnels — which tend to have limited air supply — for long periods while depending on oxygen-consuming, smoke-producing, unstable fire for light.

        But you know this pre-history better than me: my memory is that there were more cave drawings closer to the surface and that those found deep down tunnels were rather rare, no?

        Liked by 1 person

      • The deeper ones rare, yes, but they’re the best. And yes, they would have used fire…. once they’re squiggled through the impossibly tiny passages. But flint miners, and later copper miners worked in coffin-sized spaces (and yes, I have been into such mines)

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve only been inside larger mines, but I’ve seen video of some of those smaller ones and eep, they are claustrophobic! So yes, people go into those tiny dark spaces with fire as light in order to mine much-wanted ores. But it’s horrible work, and such that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Anyway, that’s different from what I was talking about, the idea of purposefully making one’s *home* in such spaces. That might make sense for taking temporary refuge from attackers, but I imagine not that many folk would prefer it on an everyday basis.


  2. How fascinating! The last sentence “My broken heart cannot hear the stone-beat, and when I close my eyes, I see nothing.” is excellent. The whole piece makes me think about the different ways we make mental maps and the sort of trauma that would cause us to lose the ability to do that. ‘Mabbadeg’ is a great name for the religion, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Penny, I always appreciate hearing what others’ favorite lines are — especially when it was my favorite line too! And yes, you have it exactly right, that here’s this person who wanted (for some reason not explained yet) to get away, and is now devastated by the gradual forgetting of the mental map of his home tunnels, that connected him to his family and his people. The more I think about this, the more I want to explore it more thoroughly in a longer story. Hmmm….. (mental gears churning…)


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