scrape the sky

December 17, 2009 at 5:55 pm (Short Stories) (, , )

The mountain used to be popular destination for hikers, but only for the most serious. Its formidable height and sharp angles made the mountain unsuitable for a family outing or for any but the most sure of foot. Years of erosion and neglect took its toll on the trails and paths. Fences and trail markings had long since fallen into disrepair. This evening in mid-February its frozen peak was as treacherous as it had even been. Night was just beginning to fall stretching the mountains shadow across the countryside below as it slowly blended into the darkening sky. A hand poked its way tenuously over the top, felt for a grip, grasped a root that had managed to grab hold in the rocky surface and a young man pulled his way onto the small flat peak. He cautiously stood on the icy ground, resisting the push of the slicing wind, and surveyed his surroundings. The way he had come up was the only possible access point and all other sides fell away to vertigo inducing drop offs. He paused for a moment, visibly shivering in his small t-shirt, and caught his breath as he surveyed the surrounding countryside. From this height everything looked like an incredibly detailed toy city. The few cars that still drove the streets were faint pin pricks, only discernable from the tiny lights that moved slowly down the winding snake of the road below. Cautiously, careful with his footing, the young man moved over to peer down the sharp side of the cliff and sucked in a breath at the drop. “This is perfect”, he muttered to himself. As if to make sure his eyes didn’t deceive him, he picked up a rock and casually dropped it over the abyss, ears straining to hear the sound that never came. “Oh yes, this is it” he muttered, “this time it will work”.
This one was higher than the others, he knew that much. This was easily the highest he had ever been and that was good, that would surely contribute to his success. He began shaking his arms as he stepped back from the ledge, shaking his legs to get the blood flowing. What if? What if he failed? Doubt had snuck into his mind, forgotten with the thrill of climbing, the sense of adventure, but now, so close to triumph, had taken over his thoughts, damping his enthusiasm. He couldn’t have that. He had to try, he couldn’t sleep at night if he didn’t. Yes, the risk was greater this way, but that also meant the reward was worth pursuing that much more. Besides, it hadn’t worked because the others were too small, this mountain was so high, so majestic, it screamed for adventure and the realization of dreams. He had to know. He took a final step back, inhaled deeply, and ran straight for the edge, each step pushing him closer to the edge. Each step drew him closer to doom, each step drew him closer to glory. He reached the edge and jumped, launching himself into oblivion.
It had worked! Confidence filled him. Finally he had realized his greatest dream. “I’m flying!” He shouted, crowing his triumph and joy to deaf ears of the wind that rushed past, tearing the words from his lips, “I’ve done it! I knew I could!” What if? What if this time was like the others? “No” he whispered as he hung momentarily suspended in time and space, “this time it’s going to be different”. He spread his arms and tried to catch a current of air, tried to catch the wind that screamed past him, and fell.
His body broke on the rocks below, bones snapped, tendons tore and his head bounced violently off the ground. Stillness. The full night came on, and the darkness became complete, cloaking the crevasse in shadow. The dark faded slowly as the sun rose the next morning, slowly burning away the fog and revealing the broken figure of the young man still splayed in the same position he had landed in. He didn’t move, the frost clinging to his t-shirt and hair, but a small wisp of hot breath on cold air misted softly between his blue lips. Two hours after the sunrise he stirred, groaning terribly, and slowly pulled himself hand over hand out of the crevasse and down the mountain.
“You are an idiot”, he mumbled to himself, “You knew it wouldn’t work. It never works”. He dragged his broken arm awkwardly behind him, one arm doing all the work. He paused for a moment brow furrowed, looking thoughtful. “But I did come close. This time was better than the others. I was so close, I could feel it.” He started crawling again, a grimace spreading across his features as the pain shot through his body again. “I know what it is! I just wasn’t high enough, I just need to find a higher mountain!” The pain forgotten, his battered face spread into a wide grin that wanted for more than a few teeth. “And then. Then I will fly.”


Go ahead, make my day.

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