The narrow wooden board creaked and shifted under Amalia’s feet. No way she was looking down. She did not want to see the jagged rocks and broken bodies below.
The rope-bridge spanned the chasm to freedom. The frayed ropes fluttered in the breeze, looking as if a gentle tug would break them. So, she concentrated on inching forward, knees relaxed, and her eye on the goal, the tree on the other side of the chasm. She needed to breathe and just not think too hard about what the servants had said about this bridge.
This was the poor man’s way across the river. Up another mile, a fancy new bridge crossed the canyon. It was sturdy and stone but, it also had officials looking at paperwork. Officials who would send her back to her owner. The town’s magistrate had said she was not a slave, but until she worked off her debt, her situation amounted to the same thing as slavery. She was done with the kind of work the master wanted from her.
The house servants spoke of this bridge in hushed tones: The bridge of retribution. Judgment and justice would be quick. The house servants treated her as if she was unclean and a fallen woman. Her guilt would weigh her down and she too would become one of the bodies that lay broken at the bottom. It would be better to perish on the bridge than continue with her master’s bidding. She’d paid a hundred fold for past sins.
She focused on the tree on far side as she walked, ignoring anything in her periphery, ignoring the clouds that circled closer, ignoring the faces that formed in the clouds.
The clouds pressed in, filled the ravine, bubbled up around her legs, and engulfed her in mist. Her heart thudded and she froze. She stood blind, afraid to move, her thoughts rattling around in her head like the last bean in a can.
“Are you pure?” a deep voice whispered.
She lifted her chin. The master had made sure she was not pure. “No.”
“Are you good?” A dark shape circled around her, partially concealed by the clouds. She kept her gaze fixed ahead.
By good the voice meant did she follow rules. She did not follow the rules. At least not all the time. She did what she needed to to get what she wanted. “No.”
“Are you free from sin?” The bridge shimmied as if something had landed behind her.
She almost laughed. She had come to her master full of sin and nothing had changed under his reign. “No.”
“Then why should we let you pass?” A breath on her neck sent threads of dread down her back and whipped her hair.
“Because I have paid already.” She took off the eye patch and slipped it into her pocket and looked over her shoulder.
On the bridge behind her, the inky blackness formed the shape of a man with red eyes and a silver sword in one hand. A flaming maw opened and sputtered laughter poured forth.
“Not quite an eye for an eye.” The man sheathed the sword and leapt into the ravine. “But it will do.”
The clouds thinned and lifted. The rocky edge of freedom was just ahead.
Once off the bridge, Amalia retrieved her eye patch from her pocket. The eye-sized diamond sparkled from where it was secured on the inside of the patch. This score would set her up for life.