Eldnium, p.19
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       Eldnium, p.19

           Enoch Pyle, Jr
 
When morning came, Landon woke to see the fire burned out, little wisps of smoke slithering through the wind. He propped himself up on his elbow and noticed immediately that Li’an was gone.

  He pushed himself to his feet and looked around.

  “Li’an?” he called.

  There was no reply.

  He kicked some dirt over the remains of the fire and walked to the edge of their little camp, where a large, single-petaled flower grew among the ferns. The petal was shaped like a pitcher and full of water from the morning dew. He gently put his mouth against it and tipped it over, taking a drink and rinsing his mouth. He used the rest on his face, rubbing his eyes until he felt refreshed.

  “Li’an?” he called again.

  Still nothing. And now he was a little worried.

  Their camp sat just on the edge of a small wood, and he let his eyes scan the trees for any sign of where she might have gone, as he could easily see that she wasn’t in the field on the other edge of their camp.

  “Where are you?” he whispered, and he found himself needing to make a decision. He could either wait for her to return, knowing that she could be in danger and never return at all, or he could go and search for her in the woods, knowing that she may return, miss him, and head back to village without him. Both choices seemed to be simultaneously the right choice and the wrong choice.

  After a few minutes of anxious decision weighing, he decided to seek her out. So he started into the trees, scanning the ground for any sign of her trail.

  It didn’t take long, however, before what had once seemed to be a small wood had suddenly become a thick forest, the trees unimaginably tall with massive trunks, and the vegetation increasingly exotic and colorful. He noticed, however, that he was on a rough trail, which seemed, obviously, to be what animals used to pass from here to there. And it wasn’t long before he heard the rushing sound of water.

  “Li’an?” he called. But she didn’t respond, so he pressed forward, deeper into the trail, with the sound of water growing louder and louder until he recognized it as a waterfall.

  Eventually, he came to the edge of a river, and the trail ended. He called out to her again, but still got no response. He decided to follow the flow of the water and made his way along its edge until the rushing sound was overpowering and the flow of the river furious. Then, he saw it. The river crashed over the edge of a cliff, and as he drew nearer, he could see just how far the water fell. At the bottom, it splashed into a huge and sparkling pool surrounded by sand and ferns, a light fog hovering over its surface. Within it, swimming around contentedly, was Li’an.

  She spotted him just as he spotted her, and she waved him to join her. But Landon couldn’t see a way down. “JUMP!” she shouted over the screaming falls.

  “YEAH RIGHT!” he answered, and she waved again for him to join her. “There’s no way,” he said to himself. “That’s gotta be seventy meters.” And then he remembered something she had said back at the cliffs on the shoreside…about not being able to look back at your accomplishments until you’ve actually accomplished them.

  He put the tips of his toes at the edge of the cliff, stretched his arms out to either side of his body, closed his eyes as tightly as he could, and leaned into the air and started falling, feeling the wind rush through his hair, through his fingers, filling his body with energy and release. He felt light as a feather for what seemed like the longest time until…

  SPLASH!

  …into the water he went.

  It was shockingly warm. Heated, almost. He swam toward the surface, and as his head poked out of the water, Li’an shouted ecstatically, “WHOA!” and swam over to him.

  “I made it!” he said, shocked that he had actually survived.

  “How did you do that?” she asked, placing her hands against his face, as if checking to see that he was truly in one piece.

  “The same way you did it,” he said. “I just…jumped.”

  “Are you crazy?” she scoffed, astounded. “I didn’t jump! I came down over there!” She pointed toward a series of trees that stair-stepped down the side of the cliff.

  “What?” he asked, shocked. “You waved me in! Why did you wave me in? I could have died!” His legs were beginning to tire as they tried to tread water in the deepest part of the pool.

  “Come on,” she ordered, and she began swimming toward the sand bank.

  “You waved me in, and I jumped,” he said, climbing out of the water, now less impressed with his feat of bravery and feeling completely foolish, reckless, and slightly embarrassed.

  “I didn’t mean for you to jump,” she argued defensively. “I never thought you’d jump. You JUMPED! How am I supposed to know you’d jump?”

  Landon let out a cough, suddenly aware of a little water that had run into his sinuses. “You told me to jump…” he said.

  “Well, you’re alive anyway,” she said as they each sat on the ground. “How did you do that, though? How did you slow down your fall?”

  “What are you talking about?” he asked.

  “As you fell,” she explained, using her hands to illustrated her point, “you fell slower and slower until you splashed down. I thought you did it on purpose.”

  “I didn’t.”

  She gave him a skeptical glance and fell onto her back in the sand, breathing heavily, and Landon did the same.

  “This is the Oasis,” she said finally. “If we follow the sun from here, we’ll be back at the village in a couple of hours.”

  The fog from the water drifted over the two of them, rippling in the gentle breeze created by the waterfall.

  “Give me a minute,” Landon said. “I just…I just need to breathe.”

  And the two of them laid there, catching their breath, until the panic wore away.

  Crash Landing

 
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