The sky was bright, the ground was encrusted with desert brush, and the air was fiery hot and dry. The only sounds were the crunching of Al's feet through the vegetative skeletons and the rasping of his breath as it passed slowly in and out through his parched mouth. The branches scratched his bare legs and the dust mixed stickily with the sweat that covered his body, but he ignored them, focusing single-mindedly on his goal.

Finally, it phased into view in front of him, off in the distance, visible only as a faint line on the landscape, a clearing of the brush. Step by step he ground off the distance between. The line grew gradually, slowly gained definition, until finally he was there. He was at the top of the Great Rift.

Behind him and to either side spread the solid desert, but in front of him was only empty space reaching off to each horizon, like a vast, deep river of air. The bare rock walls of the rift sloped down sharply for hundreds of feet, then curved slowly away from the vertical amidst an increasing carpet of dust, then gravel, then rich green vegetation, then barren beaches, and finally the thin, dark thread of the river barely visible at the shadowed bottom. The leeward cliff's shadow loomed massively, visible in the dust that billowed down from Al's feet.

Alan took a deep breath, backed up a few feet from the edge, then ran and leapt into the gorge, twisting his body into a head-down dive.The sun flashed out as he swept down into the gorge's shadow. The walls raced past as blurs, faster and faster. He held his eyes open despite the force of the wind and tried to shout, but the air in his lungs couldn't make it out past the rushing air below him. Rotating slightly, he plummeted. As the floor zoomed up at him larger and larger, Alan's mind raced through thought as if hours were passing rather than mere seconds. His entire body pulsed with horror, with energy transcending horror, with life. As Alan's mind awakened unused tiers of consciousness, opened unseen windows of insight in its search for escape, and as Alan's body shook itself fully alert, pulsed once more with the most primal, urgent instincts in its attempt to fight for its life, Alan achieved in one blazing insight a complete, total realization of himself as fully potentialized being, one glimpse of himself, through himself, of all he was, all he could be. All of Alan's being was struck with a glory beyond comprehension that was the result of comprehending all his glory, filling himself with himself, beyond the brim, spilling out into new spaces above, around himself, expanding, growing, transcending, like being squeezed, stretched, inflated out beyond one's limits by the full force of the hand of God.

An instant before he struck the rock, his lungs found the strength to scream.