Figured I’d post a chunk off the ol’ narrative blob, just for kicks. Enjoy.
Thirst-crazed, stomach withdrawn, calves aching from hours of pressing my toes into the only flat surface available, I may have covered another mile around, if that. Scaled much less. Quit by mid-afternoon to enjoy some sudden sun, bucking off the swirls of fog. Had to take in my breath from exhaustion, but it’s worth sparing for the view. The once towering columns below had been reduced to spindles, gleaming in rare beams, reflecting into a multidimensional glare upon the lessening lichen, beckoning the tiniest of blossoms in reply. I enjoyed the sun. It spoke to me. Admonished me for an errand like this, restoring me from repressed fatigue. Pulled out the phone, ready to call in and give up or something, I don’t know. No service here. For the better and best, I’m sure. Maybe two more days. There’s water enough for that.
As my brook Cherith dried before my eyes, I hallucinated a taut goat leaping from above me, its hooves scraping the stone as it scrambled downward, covering in effortless reverse within seconds what I’d managed in days. Shook my head and peeked down. No hallucination. A larger figure whooshed by my head, not even inches away. Had I more energy, I would have recoiled in reflex. But I didn’t, pressing myself to watch this figure dive into the maw of Hyandrakar’s dark. I can count the number of suicides I’ve witnessed on two hands now, and I’d give this one a “thumbs up” for style. Did he plunge headlong, having forever lost this prize goat? Deluded into desperation? I’d rather not find out: the result’s the same, and his brain matter is going to rain upon the depths whichever way his cranium hits the wall.
As I mustered the strength to withdraw myself and spare myself the sight of resonant gore, the falling man twisted, gyrating into—of all things—a trajectory, steering himself toward the goat’s rocky getaway. If he could score a hit on the goat falling at this velocity, at this angle, I’d lament not videotaping this. Where is that videocam anyway? I’m lamenting.
Transfixed for a few seconds more, the goat looked up at this plunging man bullet, making a quick adjustment. All in vain, as this suicidal maniac pulled off an open-field tackle on the animal to brace his fall. Again, I willed myself to retreat, knowing that neither creature survived that blow. There wouldn’t be a medic rushing onto this field.
That’s where the “hit” hit me. I’d outgrown the juvenile urge to view the messy bodysplats like this, but that’s not what struck me. That fall. Too calculated. Like an Olympic high-high-high diver making an adjustment. You don’t plummet to your death in style. Not when you steer yourself on the arc of descent. I expected hearing nothing but the silent sighs of death, but the rustle of rock roused me to peek back again.
Good Lord Almighty.
That goat was dead, limp, its neck wobbling as it hung from over this man’s shoulders. Draped over his shoulders. The shoulders of a sure-to-be-dead suicidist. Nope. He sprang up the face of this unforgiving wall. Sprang. Either he got a “Death Dodging Power Up” or he had this plan in the cards all along. His effortless glide upward put to shame what I’d done thus far. And with a fresh kill in tote to boot, something much less manageable than my non-goatskin Horss Truffle Co.® backpack.
He came into focus, not-dead, not-harmed, and not-fazed. It looked like a decade of wind had etched lines into his chestnut face, and his yellowed eyes flitted to and fro, searching out the cracks in the wall, two handholds ahead of where he would climb to next. His feet and legs bent and contorted to angles uncomfortable, difficult even to draw on geometry assignments. Like watching a basilisk dart across the surface of water, this fellow scarce kept more than one-and-a-half feet or hands touching the rock, propelling himself with almost as much force as gravity had in taking him downward.
I saw him spot me within flits of his eyes. He didn’t flinch. He looked to draw nearer.