George hung from the cliff wall. Hundreds of feet below pine trees lined the ground. Wooden stakes, ready to impale his body. His hands slipped. George looked down and then closed his eyes, gasping.
Kelly’s familiar voice pleaded with George, “Grab my hand! Please, George, take my hand!”
George twitched his head side to side, his breath hardly perceptible.
“What if we both fall?” whispered George.
His left hand slipped, and George found a small rock to plant his foot on. His knuckles were white, and his arms trembled. George cocked his head and tried to readjust his grip. He focused on breathing and refused to look at where he hung. He needed time to focus and think.
“George! Take my hand now!” Kelly sounded like he was about to cry, but George would not look up. Instead, he clung to the wall motionless. He needed to stay there and breathe.
Kelly continued to plead, and George finally responded, “I’m sure I can hang on long enough until I can figure something out.”
“Listen to me! I have a woman here holding me in place. We can do this. Just look up at me.” Kelly’s voice had a tinge of anger.
“Hello!” A woman’s voice, who is she? “George, you don’t know me, but you can trust me. Kelly isn’t going anywhere. Just take his hands before you get too tired. Don’t listen to what your head is telling you. If you stay there, you are going to get tired and fall.”
George shook his head and kept his eyes closed. “Why aren’t they going for help?” he whispered to himself. George knew she was right. His strength would not last forever. “Go get help,” He hollered. “Get a rope.” He felt a bit braver. George yelled, “Kelly, get a ranger! Get a rope!”
The woman responded. “Listen to me! There isn’t time, you can do this. Do you want to fall!?”
“No!” George wondered why anyone would ask such a stupid question. His head involuntarily twisted to the right, and his hand slipped. George pushed harder with his foot and adjusted his grip. He tried to refocus on his breathing.
Kelly’s voice broke past the sound of George’s own heartbeat. “Listen to her. She knows what she is talking about. She climbs these mountains all the time.”
The woman’s voice followed Kelly’s. “George, just do one thing for me. Look at the cliff and open your eyes.”
George felt a twinge of courage and opened his eyes to see dirt and rock directly in front of him. Small scrub branches hung out of the rock, but they were too small to hold his weight. He hollered, “Okay, now what!?”
The woman’s voice became calmer. “Okay, George. I want you to slowly lookup. Look towards the sound of my voice. Just move slow, you’re going to be okay.”
George looked up to see Kelly’s familiar face. His eyes looked worried, and his jaw was taut. A woman peered over his right shoulder. She had long auburn hair and bright blue eyes. For some reason, George suddenly felt embarrassed at the position he was in.
The woman smiled at him. “There you are. I’m Heather. Glad to see you with us. See your friend’s hand, just take it.”
Kelly’s hand hung just above George’s head. George reached up and felt Kelly’s familiar grip. He reached up with his other hand, and his foot slipped off the rock, and Kelly caught hold. George screamed, and his hand cramped and lost its grip.
George’s faint courage left him. His free arm flailed about in the air. He desperately tried and failed to grab Kelly. He looked down and found himself floating above the pine forest. Dozens of trees pointed up like spikes. They called out to him.
George drew in his breath, closed his eyes, and found Kelly’s arm. He got a grip.
He could hear Kelly grunt, and then Heather spoke. “George, you have to put your feet on the side of the hill. You need to help Kelly, He can’t pull you up alone.”
George hung there, his eyes closed. He hollered, “You can pull me up, Kelly. She doesn’t know how strong you are.”
“Please, George! My arms can’t take much more. Can’t you feel your feet touching the cliff? Just put your foot on a rock.”
George felt Kelly’s grip began to loosen and clenched tighter to his friend. He looked down and found a rock. Both feet landed on top, and he pushed upward. Kelly began to pull, and George’s feet slipped. His eyes grew wide as he looked down. He closed his eyes again. “I can’t! You can do it, just pull me up!”
Kelly yelled and howled. George felt himself start to rise. Something popped, and Kelly squealed. Their arms lurched. Kelly’s saving grip quickly faded. George screamed as he felt the empty air inside his hands. “I’m sorry,” were his last words before reaching the tree line below.