A response to Swedish Valborgsmassoafton, a tradition where large fires are lit, and the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland.
Tak held her daughter's hand as they wended along a path through green fat-leafed jungle that descended towards a flat gray expanse of ash scarred with lines of white. Tak studied the unnatural valley empty of life and wondered at the juxtaposition of life and death here where the earth's crevice thinned. It had been four years ago, and she had been so innocent then. Coming out here with a boy, she couldn't even remember his name, who had thought to impress her, perhaps even surprise her, but he had been naïve and never understood the powers he taunted. Her daughter, who had disappeared around a switchback, scrambled back, black dirt skittering under her heels.
"What is taking so long?" asked the daughter.
"Just remembering," said Tak.
"Come, mama. You said you wanted to get down there before it got dark. It's getting late." Yes, Tak did want to get down there before the souls awakened. When Tak began to descend the trail, her daughter ran back towards the switchback grabbing a flower bespeckled bezalia branch and stopped. "We will get to see papa, won't we mama?"
"Yes, dear." Tak had been trying not to think of him, even though she knew she was getting closer to him. What would it be like to see him again? Her life had changed so much when her daughter had arrived. Yet, she'd promised him.
Tak's parents didn't like Dale, whispering behind her back and finding ways to keep her busy and away from Dale. Yet, they can't be everywhere and Tak felt her heart beat, pitter patter, as she held his hand and they ran through the jungle in the middle of the night. A dark moonless night where one couldn't see by the light of the stars, dim weak things hidden behind wispy clouds that stole the stars' light. The path they followed stopped descending and they moved across a flat surface.
"Where are we?" asked Tak.
"It's a surprise, come on," said Dale pulling her forward as she smelled something burnt, and she realized that there was no longer the life of the forest squeezing around them.
Tak's breath rattled in her throat as they ran across the impossibly barren space and Tak wondered what could have killed off this place and why hadn't she heard someone talk about it? It wasn't more than a ninety minute walk from the village.
Dale stopped and Tak opened her mouth to ask a question when the ground exploded in light. Blinded, she closed her eyes and felt warm streams flow over and through her. Her skin flushed with the pressure of the wind and light running over and around and through her until she felt a caress. She opened her eyes, yearning for this presence she felt over her body. As her eyes adjusted, she saw a yellowish pink light washing up from the ground and arching through the heavens in thick streams that flickered before becoming dots that were hundreds of times brighter than the stars. Tak had forgotten about Dale. She didn't know how long she stood there, but she heard a chuckle as she realized the light was alive.
"It is all dead," said Tak's daughter. "Why is papa down here?"
Tak didn't want it to be as much of a surprise as it had been that night. The light hadn't fully fallen yet, he'd be asleep. "See those white marks there," Tak pointed at chalky white lines that crawled across the ashen floor. Her daughter nodded. "That is where the souls -- your papa -- live."
"Why isn't papa with us now?"
"He sleeps." Tak hoped he'd talk to her and not just get to know the daughter that Tak had promised to bring to him on the daughter's fifth birthday. "He will awaken once the light drains away." Tak chewed her lip.