First Story

It’s been a while since she’s done this. The fact is evident in her muscles. The way they react with distant familiarity without the strength to truly complete the task as they once could. Her fingers are raw and hot, ignited by the friction from the rope as she pulls, propelling herself upwards. Her legs are senseless, having lost all notion of their involvement ten feet ago. They move out of sheer will of her mind. Because, the brain is a powerful thing. Coaxing an inhumane thing out of a totally human body. Fallible and completely dependent on itself for survival. No time is this more true than now, as she is suspended almost 100 feet in the air, supported only by the rope currently tearing apart her fingers. But that’s her fault. She couldn’t find her gloves. It had been so long that she forgot where she’d put her gloves. Thankfully she’d been tripping and kicking and glaring at those shoes for over a year, as they taunted her and dared her to move against them. Finally, she took them up on the offer, shoved her socked feet inside with enough force to knock them out. To show them who’s boss, remind them who gives them use and value. Now she’s wishing she’d been gentler, lovingly coaxed those shoes on as they currently hold her life in their grip. It’s obvious her hands will soon be useless, so these shoes are all she’s got. She peers up, for the first time in what feels like hours, towards the burning sun. Why’d she have to choose the hottest day of the year to grow courage? Her eyes make contact with the edge. So close. Just a few more lunges, a few more jerks, pants, pulls, wheezes, strains. She’s almost free. As she moves her left foot upwards once again, then quickly changes to the right, catching an invigorated wave of momentum at the prospect of being so sweetly close to the final grasp, she stops thinking. No more fear, or even hope, pain, contemplation. Just nothing. Just the edge, just the end. Her muscles begin to feel more expert now. Moving on their own, finding the notches in the surface of the rock, becoming accustomed to the roughness against the skin, the dryness in the air. Her lungs regulate to the rhythm of her body movements. And, before she knows it, her hand grabs that final edge and the thoughts come rushing back. Thoughts of pride, even fear, doubt, and hope. She pulls herself up, flings her body over the edge so that it lands with a thud in the dust and the dirt on the ground. Her bones melt into the softest rock its ever felt as the exhaustion sets in. She’s finally done it, she thinks as she stares into the sun. Eyes burning and watering, but too tired to move or even shut. Her hands are vibrating and her legs are seizing with cramps. She feels pain and she feels the numbness and then there’s glee, but over all of that. Too loud for her to even concentrate is the overwhelming panic of how the fuck is she supposed to get down.

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