Jill stared into the black opening at the base of the wall, searching for some sign of how far it went back. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the dark, until she could see the memory of water in the dark coating on the stones. The top of the water had been higher than she could reach if she stood.
Here, in the well, there was light, if only a little, but no way to escape. There before her, the opening might lead… somewhere, but it was dark. So dark. How could she leave the light and go groping in that narrow crawl-way? How far could it go before it stopped, or worse yet, grew so narrow that she became trapped, gripped in the bowels of the earth, unable to be rescued.
A sharp sting of betrayal jolted through her heart. These were no strangers who had thrown her down this well. She knew every last soul in this village, and they knew her and her mother. The pain of it flared into fury, and Jill got painfully to her feet, her heart pounding so hard she thought she could hear it echoing off the walls of her well-prison. She shouted to the blue-white circle of sky overhead, called out to the villagers by name, begging them to let her go.
No one appeared.
At last, Jill’s voice gave out, and she sank down with her back against the wall, curled up with her arms around her knees, and wondered how long it would take for her to die.
A faint breath of air brushed her arm, pulled at her hair. It smelled of water. Jill raised her head and faced the low opening again. The movement of air tickled her cheek, and then was still. It had come from the hole, like an invitation, a beckoning. This was no dead-end shaft, it went somewhere.
Jill took up her shawl and pulled it around her shoulders. She still had one spool of thread in her pocket. She took it out, looking for something to tie the end to. She found a loose rock in the dry dust and knotted the string around it, then rolled the spool ahead of her as she crawled forward into the darkness.