She entered the mouth of the cave after one last cautious glance over her shoulder. She had been in the town center when Jacob was punished – they all had. The Elders had made them all be there, had made them all participate. If she hadn’t thrown stones at Jacob she would have been next, and she did not want to die.
But she couldn’t stay away from the items. Jacob had not told anyone about the cave where they kept the items. If only Jacob hadn’t been so foolish, if he hadn’t taken one of the items out of the cave then everything would have been fine. But no. Jacob had always been impulsive, and now the item was lost forever. The Elders had taken it somewhere. Maybe to another cave? She would never know.
She startled to a rustling behind her. Was she followed after all? She had been so careful, even more so than usual. It must have been an animal, or the ocean breeze blowing some beached seaweed. Yes, that must be it.
She moved cautiously to the large rock deep within the cave, keeping a timid eye trained toward the sea. She crouched down to inspect the items they’d collected from the beach over that last year. They were not made of wood or rock, but something else entirely. The Elders called it Devil Metal, and it came in the most beautiful shapes and colors. Smooth, rough, and sometimes both. Black or white, or vibrant colors that overwhelmed the most beautiful flowers nature had to offer. The Elders said that’s why the items are evil, because they take away from the majesty of God. They take us away from each other. The items, so they say, used to isolate us, pull us in with their siren song and force us to leave nature and human contact behind.
Maybe they were right. Maybe these items used to hold great power over people. They don’t anymore. The Elders said that they all stopped working during the Cataclysm that ended the last world and created this one. But still the Elders fear the items. She could never understand why. They were beautiful smooth little rectangles of different colors and sizes, but even before the Cataclysm could they have been that bad? Could they have held any power over people? Could they have held more power than the Elders who had sentenced her friend to death yesterday for daring to touch one of these items?
She found it hard to believe.
She picked up her favorite of the items. She felt its weight in her hand. Lighter than rock, lighter than wood, but still with a healthy weight that made it easy to hold in one hand. It was marvelous. Smooth and white, with rounded corners and small black circles here and there. There was a black box on one side in stark contrast, begging to be stared at. It was cracked like thin pottery, with harsh jagged lines breaking up its otherwise perfect surface. She flipped it over in her hand to inspect the symbols on the back. She didn’t know what it said, and she didn’t think that even the Elders would know. There were many scratches on this side but the symbols were clear, as if the most important thing was those symbols. She could close her eyes and see them, but she drank in their shapes as if they were new to her.