Author's Note: I read several years ago that the events surrounding the Myst games were close to the turn of the nineteenth century, and the idea has recently appealed to me. I can only imagine how shocking (and freeing) such an existence could seem towards a proper young lady, especially one who has only been recently married. What if the protagonist was really a female at this time? What would this mean to her?
Yes, I know that Tomahna is on Earth as well as the Cleft, and that technically no one could link to it from on Earth. However, for the sake of the story I'm fudging just a bit, just as I am for timeline and for the sake of the character. At the moment this is only a one-shot, though I have grown fairly attached to the character and am very tempted to continue her story. Please, enjoy.
(And no, I do not own Myst. *sigh*)
I have been here before.
The fence is only a suggestion, and I pass through the gate with only a glance backwards to ensure that no one is passing. This is a ridiculous thought, as the closest settlers are miles away, but I can only imagine what they might think to see a woman in traveling frock and hat crossing the desert. I have no escort, nor do I want one.
I am not aimless, but move as quickly as I can towards the small wooden shed in the distance. I know from experience that beyond it lies an oddity of a skeleton, whale-like in nature, and that a volcano shelters what matters most to me in the world.
I reach the shelter of the shed and pause, already fumbling at the buttons on my shoes and the garters that hold my woolen stockings up. Finally, garters are undone, woolen stockings discarded to reveal pale skin unblemished by the sun. There is nothing proper about this, but there is no matron around to chide me or gasp scandolously.
Though the ground scorches my feet, I dig my toes into the dirt, relishing the heat as though the world is speaking just to me. I want to kick at the ridiculous shoes, to tear at the buttons on my frock that take ages to fasten, and all for the sake of fashion. Instead, knowing that eventually I will have to return, I set the heeled shoes aside carefully. My husband would not approve.
Skirts follow the way of the shoes, layers of crinoline and silk and cotton that all rustle. I unpin my veiled traveling hat and toss it with a burst of childish laughter, where it floats for only a moment on the wind before landing in the dirt. And it is a relief when I finally reach under my shift and unfasten the corset that society dictates I wear. My chest expands on its own, my lungs feeling with such clean, clear air that I feel lightheaded for a good long moment. Freedom! I laugh aloud for the sheer joy of it all – for standing in the middle of the desert in only my undergarments, hair fraying from around its pins.
Without high-heeled boots or skirts, the steep path into the ravine is surprisingly easy to navigate, though my feet are unused to going bare and feel raw and sore after only a few minutes. I care not that my feet are soon splattered with mud and grime, because in the shadows of the high walls I remember the precious resource. Water!
Like a child I splash into the shallow stream, kicking up droplets that soak into the hem of my chemise. Here I can jump about and shriek with laughter and no one will threaten to tell my husband, or my mother. There is no gossip column here in the shade of the volcano. I gulp clean water and touch the rocks with my wet fingertips to make dark spots and gasp at the icy water when I fall backwards.
Finally, panting and muddied and entirely undignified, I move to the small cavern that once sheltered Atrus and his grandmother. A plain set of boots and dress await me as Katran had promised, but there is no corset to be had. There is no lace to be torn or hems to be altered constantly as fashion adjusts itself. I tug dress and boots on, tie the scrap of fabric that is a sash, and reach with arms bared by short sleeves for the book that means everything to me.
I close my eyes against the brief but powerful sensation that is Linking, hating that black moment of nothingness. When I open my eyes the sun is shining, down through the green that blooms overhead even against the backdrop of harsh desert. Reaching up, I finally tug free the comb that binds my hair back, letting the unruly curls fall where they will. Not for the first time I am tempted to crop it all off, but remind myself softly that eventually I will have to return. My husband would never approve.
I am so caught up in the revelry of hair and sunlight brushing against my shoulders and of bare arms that I do not hear the door to the study open. It is a surprise when I turn to find Katran there, as beautiful as ever with her long hair that has probably never seen pins or hat before.
If Katran thinks anything of my crazed appearance, of the red earth dusted liberally over overlarge boots and my bare arms, she says nothing. "Emma." She says warmly, opening her arms to me as though I am her own child. It is with relief that I step into them, only realizing belatedly that I am getting dirt on her. She realizes it too, for she laughs softly and brushes at my shoulder. "Was your journey easy?"
"It was wonderful." I tell her, more truthfully than she could ever imagine.