The Line Is Drawn

The desolation was absolute. Nothing poked up above anything else, not so much as a pebble, not one blade of grass, so that everything was simply flat. Finally, after nights of watching the plateau for signs of change that never came, Zero turned back toward the cliff. She put out her leg and stepped off into the air. The last thing she saw before she fell was a crow circling high over head. She woke in her bed with the certain knowledge that she had fallen to her death. The next night, she stepped off the cliff again.

Some nights she did not fall when she walked off the edge. She took one step out into the open air, then another. On these nights, she saw a dove wheeling above her when she looked up. Zero hesitated, she felt the pull of gravity tugging hungrily upon her heels and the tips of her toes, and as she watched the dove turned as black as if a pot of ink had been poured over it. With a great caw and a flap of its wings that broke the silence like a clap of thunder, it descended upon her and in the moment her feet fell out from under her. She tumbled, the clouds below the cliff sped at her, and then she found herself in the darkness of her bedroom. For weeks afterward, she stayed on the cliff. Once she had worked up the courage to step off again, though, she never stopped. Some nights she saw the crow, others she saw the dove. Most nights she saw which ever she most expected to see.

Zero lifted her face toward the wind that ruffled and teased at her hair. She did not remember this wind in her dreams. It whistled and hummed across the plateau. Blowing from somewhere beyond the clouds, it carried with it the scent of freshly harvested fields, the smell of warm summer rain, the cool fragrance of mossy creeks, and the dark, sharp aroma of cities she could not see. Zero closed her eyes and took another deep breath, leaning back against the trunk of the tree and resting her hand against its bark. To her surprise, the bark crumbled away when her fingertips touched it, and opening her eyes to see, she realized that the entire tree was dead; decaying so gradually into dust and dirt that she had not noticed it was rotting. She backed away from it.

In all of the dreams she had ever had about this place, Zero had never felt any revulsion toward it. As she looked around her now, though, she saw that the grass that grew on the plateau was dried and yellowing. Even the pebbles were slowly breaking down into powder and grit. This was not safety, not contentment, it was its own kind of danger; a cancerous, stagnant growth. Made of hopelessness, it mouldered before her eyes.

The End

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