Liam hugged the cliff until the sharp rocks stabbed against his ribs. His hands ached, desperately holding on to the small imperfection in the rock face. His shoe stomped and kicked in search of a stable foothold. His foot dangled in the abyss, unable to find a secure landing. No salvation could be discovered beneath, at least nothing close. Eight hundred feet below tall pines and eternity waited for him.
With nothing nearby, Liam struggled to look down. Partway down his body, a shoe sized crevice tempted him to try his luck. Ignoring his instinct not to move, he pulled his free leg in and jammed his foot inside the crack. His body secure, he loosened his death grip. Letting his arm relax, Liam started mapping the final fifty feet of his ascent.
With an expert aim, Liam’s free arm swung around and grabbed a sizeable jagged rock sticking out just three feet above him. His other hand released, and quickly stuck itself into a nearby crevice and his foot planted against a crease along the cliffside. Each movement Liam made was a triumph over death and his limits. With one final thrust, his body dangled from the top of the mountain.
Liam laid there for a few minutes, giving his spent body a much-deserved reprieve. Struggling to his feet, he looked out over the lush green valley below. Pine trees and patches of farmland filled the scene. The sun was starting to dip below the top of the adjacent mountains. Liam had hugged God’s creation, stared death in the face, and now here he was, enjoying the gift of an awesome sunset, triumphant in his victory and faith.
Behind him, faint footsteps grew louder. Liam turned and spied a man emerging from a pine grove twenty yards away.
“Stay with me, boys.” warned the man.
Liam smiled at the family. The two kids drew close to their father, and the dad acknowledged Liam while his attention remained on his children. Although cowed, the boys continued to chatter.
Liam politely ignored the stranger’s children and focused on the sun dropping below the ridgeline with its last golden rays wrapped around the mountains. All four stood there in awe.
“Glorious,” whispered the stranger.
“Glorious, indeed,” replied Liam.
They waited as the gold turned to a faint pink, and finally, the darkness began to take its place.
“Come on, boys, get your flashlights. We have a long walk back to the car.”
The children and their dad rummaged in their pockets for their flashlights and headed back towards the treeline.
Liam pulled out his cell phone from his small backpack. “Sam, are you in the parking lot?”
“You know it. Are you close?”
“I’m leaving the cliff now. I couldn’t miss the sunset.”
“At least one of us got to enjoy it. I got here too late. See you soon.”
Liam pulled out his penlight and headed down the trail and into the forest beyond.