the short story project


A second chance

They let me come back to life. But on the condition that I lost fear, and that I grew strong. 

It’s pitch black. I’m falling, tumbling, trying to protect, to shield. I’m plunging down some kind of smooth flume and I’m going so fast I don’t know how to stop or where it will end. I reach out, try to find something to halt this drop, something that might break my fall and I’m afraid but I will not let this break me! 
What feels like stone beneath me is changing, it’s getting softer. My heels are starting to dig in to…mud? I’m slowing, it’s oozing, I put out my hands and cup the slime. Thick and heavy and smells of earth. Have my eyes adjusted or is there now a faint green and gold glow? I’m getting slower and slower and finally, I’m still. I close my eyes and scan my body, there’s no pain, nothing feels wrong. 
The stream of water that’s deposited me here is now just a trickle, its deafening din is replaced by a throb of vegetation and it allows me to think.
Even before he married me I feared him, everyone did. He ruled with a heavy hand and a heart of stone. But when he took my life he went too far. 

All I can see now is dark green, but it has an epicenter, that faint golden glow, it seems to pulsate. I get on all fours, squelch between my fingers and toes aware that I need traction, I need to be able to spring, to leap and kick. My muscles are taut, feet arched. I’m feral. I run my tongue over my teeth, touching the point of my incisor. I breathe this fecund earth in, this is my land now. 
The closer I get to the glow the louder the sounds become. I can pin point them now, there are high pitched whistles and cries, deep rustlings and growls. But no breeze, no air, just the stagnant density of a jungle and the vibration of a million living things. 
Light is dawning, it touches my skin and I feel my exposure. I lower my chest to the mud to cover my scent. I rub it on my stomach and roll on my back and return to all fours, ready. I’m no longer afraid, I hear my breathing and I slow it down. 
As the light creeps closer the jungle reveals itself. Something moves through the shrub towards me and I’m ready to pounce. A small nose pokes out of the undergrowth, it sniffs the ground and advances, followed by two beady eyes and then a head and a body of bristles. The bristles aren’t sharp but thick and spongey, like succulent grass. It sees me now and rolls into a ball, terrified. Have I become the predator? 
They cried when I died, I saw them as they carried my body to the cave. But the gods gave me another chance. ‘How would you live again?’ They asked. ‘Afraid?’ 
The answer was no. 
Above me trees disappear out of view, their pinnacles towering to dizzy heights. Shafts of golden light now spearing the ground around me. Birds with colours so brilliant fill the branches, their calls to one another a glorious symphony. 
The light brings a much needed warmth and I move faster towards it. The sounds of the jungle a comforting hum now, but as day breaks and I cover more ground I hear a new sound of rushing water. As I step out of the trees the land before me opens and the birds take flight, their huge wing spans soaring over a cliff drop. 
I stand up and scream with elation over the thunder of the waterfall that faces my precipice. I can feel my power, the blood racing through my veins, every cell of me charged. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I will fight for the future. I rub my belly and my baby responds with a kick. We’re alive.     


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