She leaned over the side and looked down into the darkness. For a while the dim evening light availed itself to let her see the smooth stone and mossy cracks beaded with what she knew must be water, but soon even this faded from her view as her eyes sought deeper into the heart of the pit. As She stood there, perched over the edge, she had a sensation of being able to hear a faint almost indistinguishable sound of a flow somewhere down below, but she couldn’t tell whether its origin came from air or water.
For a while she stood there quietly, feeling the coldness of the carved stones pressing against her elbows and abdomen. It was soothing somehow. If she moved her hand onto a surface still bathed in sunlight it felt warm to the touch even now as day was dwindling away. It was an odd contrast under her finger tips to the otherwise chilly stone slabs and it somehow made the approach of the night seem a little more ominous. It was easy to enjoy something for what it was when having nothing to compare it to. But suddenly being aware of something else, the warmth, knowing it would slowly seep away in the night without anyone knowing or being able to do anything about it gave it an air of loss in her mind.
She shook her head at herself and almost as if reciting a nursery rhyme to ward off monsters in the closet she let her thoughts skim over the astronomical event of day and night, the movement of Earth and the stars and weather patterns generating anything from blue skies dotted with fluffy clouds to torrential downpours amidst thunder storms. It was an exercise she’d been taught long ago, though she couldn’t remember by whom. It was supposed to help her put things into perspective so they would be easier to handle. She frowned. It wasn’t working this time. Or maybe she just wasn’t doing it right.
Pushing off from the edge she stood up straight and instantly the pit vanished from her eyes and instead she found herself looking at what contained it. Somehow, it seemed very appropriate to her that it should be encased in a wall like this. She crouched down and studied the stones and crevices of mortar holding them together. They were old and weathered and at first seemed impenetrable like an old castle. But as her fingers explored their features and contours she discovered places where it had crumbled a bit and grass and weeds had been able to root and settle. So, it wasn’t perfect after all, this wall. And while it did confine what lay within and deep below, its guard wasn’t completely dismissive to the life outside. She nodded, remembering the slimy moss she seen covering the inside of the wall moments before.
She stood up and walked away a bit as if pondering what to do with this newfound realisation. She eyed the structure thoughtfully. She’d almost considered it apart from this world. Intangible even as it stood there surrounded by it. But maybe it wasn’t so?! Maybe it was just hard to find… or easy to miss…!? Or maybe it was just so easy to turn to that it became an escape… a way to somehow bypass reality in favour of daydreaming. She looked back over her shoulder, recalling the broad downtrodden path through the grass she had been following when she suddenly arrived here. Everyone needed that now and then, she guessed. But did that make it any easier to wake up again afterwards and find that it had all vanished down into the pit? Was it really worth it?
She shrugged, not knowing the answer to her own question and bent down to pick up something from the pile of belongings she had set down in the grass when she first found this place. Looking towards the smouldering horizon at the setting sun she opened her hand and eyed the object she had retrieved. In her palm a small silver coin caught the orangey glow of evening. She held it for a while like that, imbuing it with something unspoken from deep within her, the warmth of her own skin as well as the remnants of the day…. then she turned back to the structure.
Maybe it was her imagination but the shadowed stones seemed even cooler now and the light had almost completely retreated from the mouth of the pit, cloaking all but the very top of its enclosure. She moved the coin in her hand, flipping it over and over with her fingers. Was she really nervous about this? Should she be? Worried she might lose her nerve she held her arm out over the middle and released the coin to fall into the darkness. For a few brief seconds it caught the light as it fell and stayed visible while descending. It happened so fast and before she knew of it, it was out of sight and a sound of something breaking through the surface of water reached her ears. It startled her a little to hear how the little splash echoed around the walls and she withdrew, feeling her cheeks blush fiercely.
She quickly gathered up her belongings, slinging them over her shoulder even as she started back down the path. In her mind she kept seeing the image of the shinning coin dropping out of sight and out of her reach. It was done. She couldn’t take it back now. What if somewhere someone relied on this well for water? Was that why that path had been so worn? Would her foolishness cause them harm? She clenched her hands into fists and reminded herself that it was highly unlikely… that no one had needed wells like this for a very long time. No, it was something entirely different she should concern herself with. She closed her eyes and shook her head, shoulders sagging. The frantic trot slowed and finally she stopped completely, realising that the answer that had eluded her earlier was now painfully obvious in her mind. Vanity makes for careless wishes and rude awakenings…