I clamber up the face of a sunset cliff, hand after hand and foot after foot. The slice of clean blue sky is drawing nearer while the furious sea below gets further away. My fingers ache. They’re scraped and bleeding from the climb, while my carefully-tended nails are chipped beyond repair.
I force myself to breathe through the pain.
Every muscle in my body has gone passed the point of overuse and is in danger of failing randomly, but if I focus on nothing but that piece of sky above me, then it all feels more bearable.
The cliff-face has grown jagged. It cuts into my body as I rest my weight against it to catch my breath, grateful for the stone ledge that has provided such an easy place to rest my blistered feet. Just a little further and I can collapse onto solid ground. Just a little bit longer. I keep climbing, my wrists straining under the weight of my body. As my hands reach the final ledge, I feel the rope which connects to my harness finally slacken.
For a moment I’m struck with a strange compulsion.
It gnaws at me.
I could unclip the rope and let go without so much as a second thought. I could embrace that sudden drop as I plummet backwards into an endless fall; the cliff, with all its familiar dips and protrusions, rushing passed in a blur.
Once I let go, there would be no turning back.
Just a freefall into non-existence.
Instead I climb over the ledge and sit there on the ground, shivering in a cold sweat. The rope is coiled on the ground beside me, unclipped from my harness. I stare at it, trying to remember when I had unclipped it, but nothing springs to mind except the overwhelming temptation to fall.
Then I hear her rushing towards me, barking with indignation. Lucy. She licks my face and nuzzles me with her cold, wet nose, making a fuss the way she always does. I wrap an arm around her thick, furry shoulders and we sit together in silence, listening to the surf crashing against the rocks below.