If there had been more time to contemplate the leap, no doubt she would have taken it. But there wasn’t. Pointy steel in angry hands followed down the tunnel and if she didn’t want to have them thrust into her, she had to jump now and contemplate later.
So with the barest sliver of hesitation to stroke the feathers on her ring, she leapt.
And she fell.
She fell a very long time.
She fell for such a long time she began to wonder whether the chasm had any bottom at all. It was deep and wide, and she no longer had any sense of how far away she was from the side. Down was the only option.
She was thirsty, but didn’t dare reach for her skin lest she drop it into the darkness and lose it forever. She had to plan for the future. She made a fist of the hand bearing her ring, to comfort herself. The future.
She felt the heat, then. It began as slight warmth upon her skin, like an early summer breeze. Pleasant. Reassuring. Relaxing. Then it got warmer, and the heavy travel cloak that was usually a boon in the depths of the earth became a nuisance. Then it became a liability, as sweat ran down her face and into her eyes.
She had been in blackness for so long that it took time to register the returning light, this time from below. From the future. She considered the light with the heat and realized maybe—just maybe—it would have been worthwhile to consider the leap before taking it. If only a moment or two longer. Perhaps angry points of steel in her soft torso would have been preferable to what was ahead (below).
The light became almost blinding, and the heat began to prick and burn. As hot as midsummer; hotter, even. Like the roaring fire of midwinter, when she had tried to warm herself in front of Nonna’s hearth and sat too close. Nonna, who once chased all her grandsons away so her young granddaughter could have her first choice of hearthcakes. Nonna, who began teaching her granddaughter the secrets that ultimately brought her to this place, this moment in time.
Nonna gave her the ring which supplied the time to reminisce and contemplate after leaping.
She thought once more of her Nonna as she rolled over on her back, away from the brightness and the heat, and stared back up into the fading darkness of the past. The moisture on her cheeks was a comfort; she did not wipe it away.
“Goodbye, Nonna,” she whispered. “Thank you.”
Finished contemplating, she removed her ring and fell into her future.
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