By Martin Falatic
She reached the summit as night began to fall, the long shadows stretching over the edge of the drop-off behind her. She watched the sun setting under low, thin clouds, and smiled to herself. She made camp, and slept soundly through the night.
Morning came quickly. The clouds were more dense now, a patchwork arc across the northern horizon. She didn’t care to think about the coming storms; soon it wouldn’t matter. The dawn colors were breathtaking, the clouds painted in mute pastels, copper, gray, lilac – the colors of emotion, of the heart’s inner light. She had prepared for this moment for many years, rising above her own fears and the worries of those around her. The sun crept over the horizon as she finished her preparations, loaded her backpack, and buried the campfire.
She looked out over the cliff, facing the drop-off that her shadow explored the night before. In a way, she was sad that it had finally come to this, that life could never be the same again. She also felt joy now that the pain would be over, the fear gone forever. The sun sat halfway over the horizon and beckoned her – jump! The forests and fields below were only patches of color at this height: for a moment she hesitated. There would be no turning back this time. She closed her eyes, and found the courage deep inside. She took several steps back, and began a lazy jog to the edge…
She didn’t think as she stepped off, didn’t dare to look down. Her stomach twisted as she fell in a languid dive, arms outstretched, the world coming up to greet her. The fear was gone, the pain released. She felt the tears on her cheek, blown cold by the wind. She watched the sun as it rose above the distant horizon and continued her flight of destiny. The air became warm, and for a moment her fall was slowed, then stopped. The thermal lofted her higher, and she soared as the birds she’d once watched and envied from far below. She rose up, up, up again, until she was as high as the faraway cliff she left so long ago.
What were only minutes to the world seemed a lifetime to her, as she sailed the open sky. Vulnerable, yet in complete control, she became one with the fragile-looking airfoil above her, hands firmly gripping the aluminum rods. She finally came home, in a quick jog across the back-forty of some nameless farmer. The flight was over; she removed the harness, and began breaking down the hang-glider. A part of her died when she took that last step – she returned as a new woman, reborn.