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Looking up he could see the line. He could note the many footholds, handholds, crevices, and various ledges that would carry his weight. He could even see the wide cleft in the rocks where he’d fallen after slipping on loose scree that had betrayed his footing. At the moment he felt foolish for having trusted such an obvious danger but it was over and done now, there was nothing for it but to go up.

But his strength was already flagging, and with that realization came the very real understanding that he couldn’t hang on the side of the mountain forever. He refused to believe that this was the end, especially since he’d done this kind of thing too many times to just give up now. The shaking sensation he could feel in his arms and legs though was getting worse, and if he didn’t get moving quickly he was bound to fall anyway.

“Hey fella, you stuck?”

So startled was he by this sudden and unexpected voice that he reacted on instinct, his fingers opening and his body jolting as he felt both hands loosen and then let go completely of the rock face, his toes the only thing keep him anchored at the moment. That wasn’t enough though, especially since the jolt had already propelled him an inch away from the rock face, which was more than was needed to force him to surrender to the insistent pull of gravity as it began to draw him downward.

“Whoa there!”

A strong hand clamped over his right wrist before he could fall backwards, and before he knew what was happening he was being twisted to the right and slammed back into the mountain, the breath leaving his lungs as instinct took over again, forcing his hands to scrabble for a purchase just as his feet did the same. After several tense seconds of scratching at the stone he finally found purchase, breathing heavily as his savior chuckled a bit.

“Man, you nearly went.”

(to be continued)

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