George hung from the cliff wall. Hundreds of feet below pine trees lined his landing. Wooden stakes, ready to impale his body. He struggled to hang on. How had his life ended here? One moment he was standing near the edge taking in the panorama before him, and the next he was moments away from his untimely death.
His buddy Kelly was above him. He pleaded with George, “Grab my hand! Please George, take my hand!”
George was frozen in fear. If he took his hand both might fall to their deaths. If he did nothing he would certainly fall to his death. George’s foot found a small rock to plant itself on. The pain in his arms and hands eased, but he had nowhere to go but down. He closed his eyes and focused on breathing. He had to think.
“George! Take my hand now!” Kelly sounded like he was about to cry, but George would not look up. Instead, clung the wall motionless. His faint courage had convinced him if he even spoke his precarious position would end in his death. He needed to stay there and breath. Surely somebody would be along to help. “I’m sure I can hang on long enough.” His own fear convinced him this was the braver choice.
“George! listen to me! I have a woman here holding me in place. We can do this! Just look up George!” Kelly’s voice had an anger to it.
“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. I climb this mountain all the time. I know what you are feeling. Don’t listen to what your head is telling you. If you stay there you are going to get tired and fall. Just look up!”
George shook his head and kept his eyes close. They should go for help. “Why aren’t they getting a ranger?” Terror held back even his words, but maybe they were right. He knew his strength would not last forever. He had to tell them. George opened his mouth and spoke to the cliff. “Go get help. Get a rope.” Thankfully he was still there. Okay, he would say it louder. “Kelly, get a ranger! Get a rope!”
The woman responded. “Listen to me! There isn’t time! You have to take his hand. Just look up. You can do it! Do you want to fall!?”
“No!” George wondered why anyone would ask such a stupid question. A short stab of pain entered George’s right forearm and his grip weakened. He pushed harder with his foot and adjust his grip. He could barely breathe.
Kelly’s voice broke into his fear. “George, 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. “I can do that.” he thought. George opened his eyes to see dirt and rock directly in front of him. Smalls scrub branches hung out of the rock, but nothing that could hold his weight. “Okay, now what!?”
The woman’s voice became calmer. “Okay, George. I want you to slowly look up. 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 and worried and his jaw was taut. A women was peering 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.”
George realized Kelly’s hand was just shy of the top of his head. He was barely four feet from the top. He had not fallen very far at all. George reached up with his left hand and grabbed Kelly’s familiar grip. He reached up with his other hand and his foot slipped from the pebble. Kelly grabbed George’s hand with both of his. Pain shot through his shoulder and up into his hand.
What faint courage had kindled was now gone. George flailed his right arm, desperately trying to grab Kelly. He looked down and found himself floating above a forest hungry for his death. It called out to him. He belonged to the trees below. George 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, not able to breathe. What did this stranger know about he and Kelly? They were best friends. There was no way Kelly would leave him hanging there. He would pull him up.
“Please George!” Kelly pleaded. “My arms can’t take much more. You’re feet are touching the cliff, just put your foot on a rock.” Kelly’s grip began to loosen a little.
George looked down to find a rock and froze when he saw the world below him. He closed his eyes. “I can’t! You can do it, just pull me up!”
Kelly yelled and howled. George could feel himself starting to rise. Then a pop, and Kelly screamed. George felt himself drop with a lurch, and then he began to slowly slide off of Kelly’s saving grip. George realized his own fear had lied. “Why didn’t I listen to them?” His body fell through the air to the hungry trees below.