Many winters after The Fall, a girl grew up among the people. She looked like them, she talked like them, she sang and danced and played like them. She even felt the same way as them--happy and sad, joyful and angry. Every year when her tribe made their sad, silent march to the tree at the edge of the cliff, the girl walked with them, tears streaming down her face as she bowed her head in agony and fear. Every year, she knelt near the tree and relived the events of The Fall, which became a legend and a warning that the old women told the the youngsters as they played with sticks and rocks in the dirt.
Still, something about this girl was different. She knew it, the tribe knew it, and though she lived among the people in peace and joy, for the most part, her spirit sought a different song. This girl loved to climb trees, or rocks, or mountains. She spent many days wandering the world as she grew older, seeking higher and higher heights to climb. Her tribe feared for her, remembering how the man had died, remembering how the woman's soul had fled at the sight of his body after The Fall. Still, though they feared, the people had not yet been poisoned by Control. They did not warn her of her folly, they did not try to bar her path. They wished the girl well, they sent her off with baskets of nuts and berries, with dried strips of fish, with pretty braided grass for her hair. They sang her songs of love and joy as she left them, they hugged her and cried over her and welcomed her home with fire and dancing when she returned with stories of the great wide world beyond the village.
The girl felt her fear, just as keenly as the rest of the people, but she fought through it, gritting her teeth when the wind tore at her fingers on the highest branches, pushing down that rising knot of rocks in her belly when the snow and the rain howled down from the mountain peaks as she trudged her way up the spine of the world. She did not master her fear, oh no. She did not know how to do that. She just pushed it away, forced it down, choked it off, just so she could see the valleys spread out below, perfect and green in their stillness, and in that moment, get a glimpse of the world as it was before The Fall.
One day, the girl woke up among her tribe. She had lived with them for some time without going a-wandering, and she was restless. Still, a woman was about to have a baby, and the yearly trek to the tree was coming up soon. The girl did not want to leave her people during these important events, so instead of slipping away to some long hike, the girl walked towards the cliff.
She did not ever go near the cliff, except for on that one, sacred day, surrounded and supported by her people. Her tribe had filled her with terror with the stories of The Fall when she was a child, and even though she could manage her Fear when she was far away from the cliff, climbing some steep and dangerous path, she felt the bile rising in her throat as she walked closer and closer to the edge. The vision of The Fall, one all the people shared, played over and over in her mind. Instead of the man, though, she saw herself falling, the ground rushing up to meet her as the ribbon of river grew as large as an ocean in her vision.
With a great gulp of air, with the vision still in her mind, the girl dropped herself onto the ground and swung her lower legs out over the edge of the cliff, as the people used to do before they learned of Fear. The world swayed and rocked, and the girl, dizzy, collapsed backwards onto the grass, staring up at the sky, her legs bent at the knee with her calves and feet dipping down the open face of the cliff.
The girl lay this way as the sun and clouds scooted across the sky, as darkness began to fall and the moon popped out, a little sliver through darkening, pendulous clouds, just bright enough to see through the murk. A chill wind picked up and the sounds of trees cracking and crashing peeled through the canyon. Droplets spattered on the girl's face, on her closed tight eye-lids, running down to the ground beneath her and pooling under her neck. When the thunder began, the rolling drums booming through the earth, the girl, without thought, slipped over the edge of the cliff.
Her wet, frozen fingers clung to the rocks as she stretched one foot down, then another, following with her small, lithe body and face pressed close to the cliff wall. Her terror pounded through her body in time with the thunder, her teeth cracked together with every clap.
Yet, she persisted. Length by careful length, she squirmed her way down the dark face of the canyon, grabbing at rocks, spiky shrubs, digging her hands into places that were soft with sand. Anything that might hold her weight would do. She was heedless of the pain, of the scrapes and scratches covering her body, of the blood trickling down her legs. There was only one way out from under the Fear, and that was to keep climbing down, down the cliff, down towards the ribbon of river, down towards the bits and bones of the man who had started it all.
As she approached the bottom, exhausted, she found herself on a narrow ledge with no clear way down. The sky now thudded straight overhead, and the lightning licked across the blackness, forked tongues reaching down the cliff face, flicking against the wall, showering sparks of rock and sand into the sky. The girl grew increasingly panicked as the lightning slammed into the rock above her, closer each time, leaping in arcs down the cliff. The rocks tumbled through the air and a small, sharp piece struck her face, in the center of the forehead, cutting her deeply. The girl cried out as warm blood trickled down her face, into her eyes, blinding what little sight she had left. The air burned with a strange smell, and the hair on her arms and head felt fuzzy and warm as her skin popped up in little bumps everywhere.
The girl knew she was about to die.
In that moment, crushed in the dark, crouched under the hail of rock, bones and blood reverberating to the tumult of rain and thunder, the girl lost her Fear. It was too much to force down, impossible to ignore. She let it go, let it swirl away into the dark, lashed by the wind. She leapt out into the night, off the ledge and into the unknown, legs pumping, screaming out her name, her life, her love, not falling by accident, not letting the lightning catch her huddling and scared, trapped on a ledge, but choosing her fate. As she plunged, a forked tongue of light struck the ledge she had crouched on moments before, silhouetting her against the night sky, all her fierceness, all her wildness, her strength, her joy, her tenderness, on display in the dark.
She fell, she fell...and she fell, with a splash, just a short breath later, feet first, into the ribbon of river, now not so much a ribbon but a wide stretch of deep, cold blue. The landing knocked the wind out of her and she thought, for a moment, that she was dead. The pain of the cold rocked through her, the water closed in over head and she sank through the depths until she felt, wonder of wonders, the rocks and mud of the bottom with her toes. The water was deep, but it wasn't that deep, and so she came back to herself and pushed off the bottom, head and shoulders breaking through the water moments later, gasping for breath as the rain continued to needle into her scalp, surprised to still be alive.