As the sun set, shivers set in. We had just surfaced from a dive in the Ballroom and the damp neoprene and soggy booties weren't doing us any favors.
A cloudy, grey night obscured the moon, leaving no hope for any stars. But we knew where to find them.
For now, we had them bottled up. The stars, that is. The back of the car glowed until Bre took the bottled up stars and tucked them into the pocket of her drysuit. We geared up and headed for a new galaxy - but instead of heading for outer space, we plunged into the depths of the aquifer.
We each found a safe spot amongst the limestone boulders in the vast, underwater cavern and signaled large circles with our lights to let each other know that we were okay. With the flick of a switch, the last light was extinguished and total darkness ensued.
Before the stars emerged, it was impossible to tell if my eyes were open or closed. There was no distant city glow, no moon faintly shining through a thin layer of clouds. There were no dim streetlights, no headlights. Simply no light at all. Somehow, the darkness was comforting - it wrapped me in a black, watery cloak and suspended me, weightless in an empty room.
But just as soon as my eyes come to terms with the total and complete darkness, a glow emerges below. The stars have been released.
A colorless cavern is transformed into a glowing, otherworldly landscape. It's a mix of the Milky Way and a giant cloud of fireflies. The invisible water flows furiously from the cave below, carrying the shimmering stars like a swift night wind.
In this galaxy, shooting stars are too numerous to count. They ride the current and dance in our bubbles, some staying suspended in what appears to be thin air and others falling to blanket the sandy bottom.
I reach back and squeeze Greg's arm - sometimes I dream I can breathe underwater but this appears to be real. He squeezes back, but there are no words underwater. We hover, speechless but not silent - each exhale pushes a stream of bubbles that grumble like thunder as they push through the limestone crevices in the sky. Soon, the stars fade, as if storm clouds followed the grumbles of thunder and extinguished the underwater stars.
|Shooting stars are too numerous to count.|
|Stars streak through the cavern and settle to the limestone floor. A tiny diver's silhouette is dwarfed by the cavernous underworld.|