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Across the Abyss

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The boy leans across the wide expanse of the chasm and reaches out his hand, his eyes wide, beseeching. He reaches across empty air, the gulls wheeling and circling above and below. A nod, reassuring.

The girl stands, small, white, and insubstantial, on the other side. She shakes her head, no, never. Not at all. I won’t, her thin hand pressing tight against her mouth. The empty air yawns on all sides, the wind pressing within and without her. She steps back.

Hand still outstretched, he creeps forward, staff tucked safe against his side. He leans farther out, his feet perched loose on crumbling stone, crossing the abyss. One hand holds him in place, clutching tight to the rail. His eyes never leave hers. The wind cuts through them, burns.

“Please,” say his eyes. They can’t go on alone.

Hand still pressing tight, she leans, one hand against the rail, nearly falling, swaying. She shakes her head, eyes wet. Can’t. Won’t. Afraid. Stone is cold on her bare knees. She looks at him.

He nods, calm. Slowly, slowly, she stands. She sets down her hands. She steps back, slowly, slowly, hands against her sides, eyes on his eyes. There is trust in his eyes.

Then, she runs, thin legs pumping, thin dress whirling in the cutting wind. At the ledge, she leaps, her figure like a cutout shape against the empty air, a shape of wind and clouds. For a moment, she flies, then drops.

Out comes the hand, closing around her own, his warm hand around her cold one. Pulled forward by her weight, he almost falls. He braces, winces, loops his arm tight around the rail. He hangs on. She hangs, her feet dancing on the empty air, their eyes together.

Carefully, he eases the stick from beneath his arm, and holds it out to her. Swinging, her hand comes up. Her fingers curl around the stick. He scoots carefully back along the rail, pulling forward.

Up she climbs, hand over hand, feet scrabbling on the crumbling stone, as he pulls with all his might. Then, she is up, crouching on the cold stone, on his side of the chasm. She looks up, eyes on his eyes. They’ve made it. They’ve made it across the abyss.