Hour of Despair (a very short story)
This is a very short story I wrote a long time ago, originally published on Ubersite on August 25, 2004. I was going through a lot of stuff back then, not the least of which a whole lot of drinking and failing. I think a lot of that is captured in this bit of fiction.
Beads of sweat rolled down her face, stinging her eyes as she reached a dried, cracked and bleeding hand high above her to feel for a safe point to grasp. Though her athletic build had won her second place at the state swim championships, her ability was strained to its limit in this grueling climb. Wrapping the fingers of her hand around a jagged piece of shale, she continued to struggle against gravity with all of her might as she moved another foot up the cliff face.
Just as she found a foothold for her left foot, the shale broke in her hand, leaving an uneven gash across her palm as she tumbled wildly to one side. The sheer vertigo hit her as she watched the broken piece of rock fall the hundred feet to the ground below, where it exploded into indiscernable millions of fragments. Dizzy, and with her heart pounding like a jackhammer, she gathered her courage and threw her weight against the cliff face, grasping on for dear life.
She had not done this before. There were no ropes or safety nets to prevent a painful death upon the sharp rocks below.
Yet she had not made her way nearly forty yards up the cliff face just to climb back down. That was the farthest thing from her intention. She was going to make it to the top, or die trying.
She continued undeterred by her wound up the precipice, moving hand over hand and foot over foot with the dogged determination of one who has no option but success. She would surmount the obstacle. In her mind there was no question to it as she braced the torn denim on her knee against another section of rock. She was bleeding now from several places up and down her arms and legs, but moreso on her short-sleeved arms without the protection that her jeans afforded her.
This mattered not.
Hand over hand, foot over foot she climbed. She trembled inside with the trepidation of one who is tasting the thin veneer of their own mortality, but still she climbed undeterred. "Fear is not my master," she reminded herself time and again until it had become a mantra, recited with every exhalation from her lips. "I am better than fear. I will not succumb to it. I will achieve what I set out to do."
She thrust a hand onto the corner of a plateau. Her handhold crumbled and she cried out in pain as a fingernail caught on the rock and was torn off by the weight of her displaced body. She quickly righted herself again and moved the same hand back upon the plateau surface, ignoring the blinding pain shooting up her arm. Pushing off from a sturdy foothold, she threw her other arm over the top. She struggled to pull her body over the corner and onto the surface, but finally succeeded.
Standing up, she realized she had made it. All the way to the top. Victoriously she surveyed the vast countryside around her- the rolling hills, the suburban homes that appeared surreal from her height, the highways that cut jagged shadowed paths through the foliage.
The sun beat down upon her back and oozing wounds as the new scent of autumn around the corner wafted up to her perch and gently caressed her nostrils.
"It's perfect," she declared as she surveyed the magnificence of the natural beauty that surrounded her.
And so she gracefully dove down.