Tear-stained eyes, bright and wide open, cast about the darkened cavern nervously. Shadows make monsters on every wall. Drips of water sound like thunder in the silence.
“Is there any…body…h-h-here?”
Her tiny voice whispers, then quietly echo into the space bouncing off wet bedrock walls and stalactites. Hugging herself closely, she huddles in the corner, cold and wet. The threadbare cotton tunic is stained with unmentionable filth and muck; through the holes, the scars are readily apparent on her skeleton frame.
“I am all alone. No one can save me now.” The realization hits hard; her entire body begins to shake furiously.
Her face reddens and grimaces, the little lips press tightly together to try to hold in the cry that will eventually escape in a force of pent-up emotions. Hot tears come fast and furiously, though she presses dirty fingers into her eyes to stop the flow. The ugly, muffled moan of terror begins.
All hope is lost. No one is coming. Ever.
Darkness envelops, swirling around her and taking her deep, deep into the abyss.
Suddenly, a soft light warms the cave and moves slowly toward the little girl. A gentle voice issues from it.
“Are you here, Little One? I’ve been searching for you.” The voice is lyrical and reaches her ears, drawing her into the light on all fours. There is a man dressed in white standing close by. Looking up through ratted locks of hair, she dares to steal a look at his face. His eyes are so bright, they are like fire. She shields her eyes, turning her head to the side. Though his face is glowing white, she immediately trusts the hand that reaches out to her.
“I’ve come for YOU. Take my hand and I’ll help you.”
The back of her dirt-encrusted forearm wipes the snot from her nose. She dares to have hope, to wonder if this is real. She inches forward only to see the scars on his feet first.
“What are those?” His presence gives her the courage to ask.
“Those were for you and for those who have hurt you, ” he replies, squatting down to her level. “Although your mother and father and others have forsaken you, I receive you, Dear Child. You are mine.” Holding his hands out, he beckons her to come to him.
“What are these?” She points to the scars on his wrists, the shiny-silver-gold flesh glinting as the light hits it.
“These were the cost of your freedom, Beloved. It’s how I was able to find you to bring you home to me.” She looks once again and can now see the man through all the fire and light. His face is tender, eyes soft, mouth smiling. He seems familiar and safe and trustworthy.
“Come to me. You are weary. I will give you rest.”
The moment she touches him, she is transformed. Warmth floods her entire body as if she has been immersed in water. Looking down at her hands, they are supple and clean, not a spot of dirt is left under her fingernails. She gazes in wonderment down at herself, finding her filthy smock is now brand new, white as snow, and soft against her freshly cleaned skin. No longer a tangled veil, she reaches up to touch her hair and finds soft ringlets of curls that feel like silk between her fingers.
“I make all things new,” he says looking into her questioning eyes. “You never have to fear again. You have a new future and never have to return here again.”
As she stands up, she feels his strength flooding into her frame, like light from the brightest star filling her entire body. She stands to her feet and shyly smiles into his kindly face.
“I’m ready,” she says, grasping his hand tightly.
“I will lead you. Follow me and don’t let go.”