Night has fallen on the planet of light, and the air is crisp with the winter cold. Two youthful figures walk under the vaults of the high-domed ceiling, into the hall of white marble. As they clasp hands, they offer their experience and their confusion to the teachers of this temple, for they wish to understand what they have seen. And they listen to the wisdom of their teacher:
“In the depths of the cavern burns a candle, but this candle is not straight. Its flame flutters in the breeze, and wafts its way through the cavern, moving gently, constantly moving, its wax dripping upon the floor, for the candle is not straight.
“Off of the ceiling of the cavern come droplets of water. They fall about the candle, but they do not put it out.
“Into the cavern comes a creature, and this creature has a mind. And the mind is aware of the candle, which it does not understand. Water droplets fall upon this creature, and this the creature understands. But it does not understand.
“It looks into the cavern, and sees the candle, and hesitates. The gentle breeze wafts the creature and the candle, and the flame flutters in the cavern. And with this fluttering, shadows dance across the walls.
“Out of the floor of the cavern comes life, in the form of moss, which grows in very slight profusion. And the creature has trodden upon this, and felt it under its footpads. And it understands, but it does not understand.
“But into its environment has come the alien, and this alien burns with its bright flame, and its wax drops upon the cavern floor, falling upon the moss, coating it with its waxen surface.
“But courage builds within the creature, and it creeps forward, trying now to determine the essence of the intruder. But it does not understand. And yet it does not seek to understand. For its mind is transfixed by the flame burning brightly in the darkness.
“And closer comes the creature to the alien, out of the darkness, out of the dancing shadows, out of the wetness, across the mossy surface. It approaches the alien, and it looks into the flame, and the flame is all of newness, and has depth and meaning.
“But yet the creature does not understand, for it is not accustomed to such an intrusion. And it holds fear within its heart, for it does not understand.
“And while the creature is transfixed by the flame that holds it immobile, into the cavern comes the beast. This beast falls upon the creature and brings it death. And the candle flickers, and the images dance across the walls, and the creature is devoured. And yet it did not understand.
“The beast stands erect, the life-blood of the creature dripping from his jowls. He looks steadfastly into the candle, and he laughs aloud, his laughter echoing through the cavern, causing droplets to fall from the roof and wet his fur. He walks over with his red eyes fixed upon the candle, and with one quick motion snuffs it out.
“For he understands. And he laughs his laughter, which echoes once more through the great cavern. For he is wise. For, once more, he has used the Creator’s light to serve him. And it has served him well. For the substance of his prey now acts to give him strength and life. And he is fat of belly and satisfied, his task and trickery complete.”
The two bright beings gaze long into the golden light that hides their teachers’ forms, eyes held in an inward, searching look as they absorb their teachers’ parable.
The delft white girl moves first, kneeling softly upon the temple floor, “We have gone, and attempted to serve,” she says, and pauses, gathering her thoughts. “My own self, the one known as Esmerelda Sweetwater, has brought me back from a place I think might have been like the cave of which you spoke. Or, beloved ones who offer your wisdom, do you mean to suggest that my friend’s planet is like the cave?” Again she pauses.
Golden swirls the light as one of the teachers moves towards her. “My child, learn well that all may use the light, both those of love for others and those whose love is for power over others. We leave our lesson for your learning, and would not take that opportunity from you, for you have seen much. We ask you now our question: Is the power of the beast stronger, or is the power of the one who uses light to save the victim of the beast stronger?”
The man kneels before the teacher too, again grasping the girl’s hand. “We know the light of Esmerelda’s love for my sister was greater than all that held my sister in thrall. We know that the universe is full of love. But in that place—on that planet—”
“It is an unusual planet,” agrees the teacher.
“But have we served, then?” asks the girl, her eyes almost gray with concern.
The teacher rests a hand upon each blonde head. “In love and light were you sent forth, and in the same love and light you have returned. Yet you have been touched. Think you then that you have not touched others? Now rest, and heal yourselves, and learn, my children. “ The two bright beings walk slowly outside the temple and find again the garden which they had visited what seemed a long age ago. Still clasping hands, they sit upon the soft, living grass, and begin to meditate.