How to Get There from Here 5.8.16
by Jade Crystal Harmon
Smoke stings my eyes. A grinding roar fills my ears. The tunnel is narrow, glowing dull orange, getting hotter. I shuffle through the dimness, feet crunching over hot, brittle stones. My companion pulls me forward, down into the darkness and the heat. I can see the rough outline of his small body ahead, pulling me on doggedly, fearlessly.
We turn a sharp corner. Heat blasts my face, sulfur stings my eyes. I squint through the sudden brightness and flinch backward against the wall, pulling him with me, protectively. For a moment we cower on the edge of a stone shelf, inches above a boiling river of molten lava. My heart races; I smell my hair burning.
The volcanic river is too wide to jump, but there are slick obsidian slabs jutting out of the lava. On the other side I can see a tunnel leading upward. He points – it’s too loud to hear – wildly excited to reach the other side. My whole body aches for that opening, for cool air, space and light. I am terrified, but I nod.
I watch him balance on the edge, sweat pouring down his face, his eyes mapping his route. When he jumps I cry out, though it’s swallowed in the hot roar. He lands on the black stone, my son, my baby, separated from me by a river of liquid fire. I leap.
I land, feet skidding on the smooth rock. The heat is scalding, but I’m so charged with adrenaline that it feels distant. He is already three stones ahead, and I leap after him, laughing crazily. Then he is on the other side – he’s made it! and I have one jump left. The ground shakes. I waiver and vertigo tips me. I fall. And as I fall, I reach to him, ashamed. Through the rank air, the smoke, I can see him smiling.
“It’s okay, Mama” he says sagely, reaching for my hand to pull me off the pink bedroom carpet. His feet are carefully balanced on a bed pillow. “You’re wearing lava-proof socks.”
Amazed, unhurt, I stand trembling at the entrance of the tunnel. He’s already pulling me on, and I can see that the path ends abruptly at a towering waterfall that we must go over, sliding down each carpeted stair on our bellies and onto the raging cataracts in the living room below.