I ran.  I ran barefoot up the crest of the slope.  I ran until I thought that the burning thing inside me would shatter against my chest—and shatter it did.

Eighteen inches from the edge of the cliff, I stopped, the stone hard and cold against the tender pads of my metropolitan feet.  White and childlike they looked in this wild place above the world, where the brush crept through what crevices is could.  The wind whipped my hair into a whorlstrom around my head and turned my own skirt against me.  The cotton clung to the front of my legs, but the back hem floated out behind me, a white sail protesting against its mast.  A shiver rippled across my forearms.  I wrapped my arms around me, the better to keep my heart inside my chest, and rubbed my hands against my upper arms.  My veins were still pumping blood, hard and fast, to my palms, and my skin felt cold where the wind had chaffed it.  The damp, earthy scent that rose from the bracken and lichen further down the hillside held the promise of rain.

My abrupt appearance startled a skylark out of the fernbrake.  It soared, straight as an arrow, toward the horizon, until is was lost to my sight in an aurora of magenta and burnt umber.  The mile-high clouds parted for the westering sun, its warm fingers stroking the crests of the valley far below.  Another shiver wracked me, and the sky’s canvas, fast deepening to crimson and royal blue, seemed to be tinted with my own life’s blood.

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