The links on my chain strained against the cuff locked against my ankle, and my other arm was stretched as far forward as it would go.

She stood in front of me in the midst of the glow of the lava below. Waves of heat made her thick, shadowy hair flutter, and specks of fire floated into the air around her and upwards. The only sound was the inferno of lava beneath her. Both of her small feet stood together at the edge of the precipice, just beyond my longest fingernail.

I could feel the single metal cuff grind down my ankle as my body screamed to stretch forward, but I knew I could never reach her. I lunged over and over, screaming her name into the silence that consumed it. No one else, even she, could hear it.

Liquid warmth seeped from my ankle. Fuck it. I’d cut it off if I could, if I only had had a knife with me. I’d rip the limb out of the link if my bones would let me. Just let me go a foot further, to hold her tight. To move her away from the edge. I’d sacrifice my own beating heart if that would move her away from the fire. I can only scream and reach forward every time I see a piece of the edge fall. Watch as it disappears into the magma. I can’t watch as the sparks singe her hair, but I force my eyes open. A little further.

I watch her in the stillness. This is where she stands, and I can never move her. Just a little further. Only an inch between us. She doesn’t turn her head, but she knows I’m there. I don’t know if the precipice will give way. I don’t know if she will jump. I don’t know if I could ever reach her. If it crumbled, maybe that would give me the angle to reach her in the weightlessness. I can never wish for that. I may not reach her in time. I can see her suffering on the ledge, burning where she stands. She can’t see behind her.

Behind me is the cool, solid stone I’m attached to. In front of me is the love of my life amidst the scorching heat. I fling myself forward as another chip of the precipice falls. Where is a fucking knife? My body is taut, and my hand is outstretched as far is it goes. Sharp, silent tears catch in my throat and chest as the tightness holds me back. Just a little further.

There she stands.

She turned her head forty five degrees to the right. I wrenched forward as hard as I ever had, screaming silently. Turn your head. Look behind you, the cool breeze. Away from your suffering, as scary as that walk would be. Turn your head. Away from the borderline of life and death