Chapter Thirty Seven
For a time, the two lovers lost themselves in the act of making a new home for themselves in the crystal castle.
First they brought all they needed up into the caves that dotted the natural wonder, creating living quarters for themselves in various levels of the spire. For ease, they prepared food and spent their days in the lower caves, while they slept in a cave nearer the top for safety.
The endless grasslands that spread out beyond the towers were ripe with grain, bulbous flowers that dripped sweet nectar, and thorny bushes with plump red and purple berries on them. An assortment of furry animals also called the area home, and had evolved to be small enough to hide from predators. Because of this, the only dangerous animals that visited the grasslands came from the sky above.
And indeed, all variety of flying creatures came to the fields daily to feed, swooping down to try their luck at plucking up a critter that scurried and burrowed under cover of the tall grass.
Once they realized the grassland animals were mostly foragers and grazers, Adam and Emma became comfortable hunting again. Growing far above their heads, the grass provided perfect cover, and they found they could travel undetected for long distances, hunting and trapping small game and bringing it back to their caves late in the afternoons to clean and cook.
While Adam skinned the animals they caught, Emma would arrange bundles of grass for smoking. When the grass dried, she used it to weave skirts to protect their legs and tender parts from insect bites. She also made wide brimmed shade hats to protect them from the hot daytime sun. They laughed and pointed at each other when they tried them on. Adam pretended to be the captain of a transport ship, bowing and standing at attention. They fell into each other, wheezing and sputtering with laughter. After everything they’d been through it felt good to laugh again.
Despite their good fortune, their new life was a struggle for Emma at first. Still suffering from stomach pains, she was often sick after eating.
Adam was worried at first, but after two weeks her sickness seemed to fade until she said she felt normal again, and they retuned to sharing their bodies in all manner of ways that were pure and good and, for the first time in their young lives, made them feel like natural creatures on the moon and not visitors. In these times they were as wild and free as the animals that lived, roamed, and died in the jungles and vast ocean.
Life for Adam was near perfect. Emma was back, and had brought paradise back with her. They had found a new home and a wonderful rhythm with each other. They never bickered like children anymore, and he found he was more in tune with her wants and desires than he’d ever been before.
Still, he was struck by a nagging fear. And the more he felt he had everything he wanted, the more he worried about keep it all. He knew he needed to control of their environment at all times if he wanted to keep everything as it was.
To that end, Adam kept a vigilant watch from the top-most cave of the crystal castle, which he made their lookout. Four times each day, he ventured up to scan the horizon, looking for any sign of ogres marching through the jungle behind them, or large animals that could catch them unawares in the grasslands in front. And every day his watch was met with nothing but the occasional bulbous slider hunting far in the distance, or not-bird flock breaking above the tree line to undertake their daily dance.
He didn’t know why sliders and ogres never seemed to cross into the vast grasslands but, as the weeks wore on, he found he became more confident that they had found themselves someplace free of danger.
But even at his most confident, Adam couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that Emma had been forever changed by the ogres at the cliffs. Oh, she had emerged radiant to him. More radiant than he could express. Every smile of hers was a paradise, and when they kissed, her eyes shined brighter than the sun in the day and the stars at night. But she had grown quieter too, and lived an internal life he couldn’t understand. She worried and fussed more than he’d known her to do before, fretting about the state of their surroundings and keeping everything clean.
Stranger still, since neither had ever known shame, he didn’t understand why she had started hiding her body from him.
It started when Adam had noticed her changing. He poked her and told her she was getting lumpy. Even though she looked wonderful to his eyes, she became upset, and disappeared to a different cave to spend the night alone. After that, Adam refused to comment on the changes to her body, even as they grew more apparent in the following weeks.
And the more she changed, Emma found she couldn’t hunt or forage for long periods of time anymore. She became too exhausted and needed to sleep, and soon Adam was left alone each day to sweep the plains for game and supplies.
One day, when he returned home full of the thrill of a successful hunt, Adam heard sobbing from inside the cave above him. Fearing for Emma’s safety, he quickened his pace as he climbed. When he reached the cave, he pulled himself up and saw Emma sitting against the back wall. She had covered herself in grass blankets and was distraught, her eyes red with tears and worry.
Adam ran to her as soon as he saw her, kneeling next to her and running his fingers through her hair to comfort her. “What’s happened?” he asked. “Are you hurt?”
Emma looked at him hopelessly, her face bursting with concern. After a moment, all her silent worry exploded and she cried, “Oh, Adam! They did something horrible to me!”
Adam cradled her, letting her rest her head on his chest as she continued.
“What are you saying?” he whispered close to her ear.
“They gave me poison,” she said. “That witch… She forced me to drink something and now…” Emma’s voice trailed off.
“Now what?” said Adam.
Emma looked at him with red, wet eyes. Then grabbing her grass coverings, she moved them off her body slowly, revealing her stomach, round and distended. “I don’t know what’s happening to me. Am I dying, Adam? I don’t want to die.”
Overcome with emotion, Emma buried her face into Adam’s chest. He held her tightly and said, “I don’t know. I thought I saved you. I thought I had you back. Maybe it was too late. I don’t want you to die, Emma. Please don’t leave me here all alone. I don’t think I could bear it.”
After that they held each other closely and cried as the sun set, and the glimmering cave became dark all around them. They fell asleep that way, hopeful their dreams would take them away from their troubles for a time. Maybe even forever.