Intersection, Rabbithole’s Rim

April 23, 2009

The pavement did its warped dance under the sun, rippling and contorting just past the streetcorner as Michael ran towards the intersection. His sister Amanda vaulted a good eight paces in front of him several minutes ago, and he had yet to catch up. Her white sneakers thwapped broadly against the sidewalk with each footfall, but the noise became more faint as her speed and distance increased. “Hurry up, Michael!” Amanda brayed over her shoulder.030909walk-131
 
Michael continued jetting after her. The breath pulsed out of his lungs with terse regularity as he brushed and glided past the small phalanx of moving bodies–tourists, wanderers, young lovers, vagrants–that dared to obstruct his path. Young maple trees were anchored at intervals along the sidewalk, and their opaque leaves brushed his forehead and face as he bobbed and wove between them and the people.
 
He saw Amanda rocket through the intersection: The perfectly-timed Walk light enabled her to shoot straight through to the walkway on the opposite end in nothing flat, and as Michael drew closer to his sister’s launch point the placid white Walker on the sign transformed into a blinking red hand. He was gaining on his sister, and as long as he could get all the way across before that blinking red hand went solid, he still had a fighting chance of catching up.
 
Michael’s eyes locked onto the red flash. The sign seemed to have been throbbing for eternity, but he knew it wouldn’t last. And he knew that when that blinking red light turned solid, the entire street would cave in and he’d plummet to his doom into an overwhelming and infinite chasm. Amanda said so.
 
The young girl stopped at the curb just past the Walk sign’s button, panting and laughing at her sibling as he crossed the street towards her. “You’ll never beat me! And the street’s gonna cave INNNN!” A hot breeze played tag with the brown pigtails on either side of Amanda’s head as she waited and giggled.
 
Michael tore on. One-quarter through, blinking red…Halfway through…still blinking red. At the three-quarters mark Michael felt the blacktop beneath his feet shudder strangely. His focus turned away from the throbbing scarlet of the Don’t Walk sign and shifted onto his sister. He saw the smug glow on Amanda’s face gave way to a look of bemusement, then shock. Michael continued running; now he was sure it was for his life.
 
A voice inside him told him to take a flying leap at the curb instead of just sprinting. As he leaped, the street collapsed into blackness below. Michael heard his sister scream.
 
He fell forward, gravity yanking his momentum out from him. His left hand grabbed an exposed tree root jutting from one of the now-loosened baby maples; his right hand barely hooked the corner of the curb.  Michael held on as his body swayed recklessly over the drop.
 
In front of his nose, the layer of sod just beneath the asphalt flaked and tumbled into the chasm. He looked down and saw a faint bit of illumination emanating from below. It looked like the time he was on a plane with his family, when the airplane was at its highest and the white clouds below looked solid enough to walk out onto. Only this time that layer of clouds sported infinite shades of metallic color that refracted and glittered like the compound eyes of a million insects. Michael saw several cars plummet into the abyss, their shiny corpses piercing the metallic layer of incorporeal gas to reveal more blackness below the kaleidoscope of colored cloud cover.
 
Amanda reached down to pull him up, fingers of each of her hands curling around each of his wrists as she tried to pull him up. But Michael’s fingers wouldn’t unlatch from the root or the curb. Ahead he could see irregularity in the underbelly of the asphalt precipice, enough to where he could use his arms to climb along the underside. Then, he thought, he could possibly even find a way all the way down, just by scaling the blacktop’s underbelly like a monkey.
 
“I can’t pull you up if you don’t let go!” Amanda shouted.
 
“Then I won’t let go!” Michael hollered back as he broke free of her grasp and started shimmying out of her view.
 
She’ll never beat me, he thought. And the street’s already caved in.

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