The Wall

The man on the wall looked over his shoulder, the fading sun in the distance. He pressed his powdered fingers into the granite, tightening his grip on the small outcrop of stone. He felt coolness on his cheek as he pressed against the wall.

He risked a short glance upwards, to the top of the vertical climb. Then back, a tricky hand over hand solution to a technical portion of the climb. He felt the reassuring weight of a small pack pressing against his shoulders.

He reached into a pouch strapped to his belt, coating the tips of his fingers with white moisture absorbing chalk. With his right hand he reached above his head searching for purchase in the indent he knew was there. He found the crevice, a small horizontal crease where rock met rock. The tips of his fingers reddened, as his pushed his right hand into the depression, setting up the next move in the sequence. He relaxed his hold with the left hand, shifted his weight to the his legs. Then with a small grunt he pushed with both feet leapt to his left, releasing his hand from the crevice above him.

The void reached up from below him, threatening to banish him to its depths. His left hand slapped against the rock ledge, fighting to find its surface. His fingers curved, tightened and found the hold. He swung his other hand across his body, reaching for the ledge.

A climber's life is precarious. The wall is a fickle friend, and this time it was false. A sick snapping crack assaulted him as the stone gave way under his weight. Empty air rushed past his ears as he slid down the side of the cliff, grasping for a toe or handhold.

He braced himself for the stop, feeling his tie off rope spool out from under him. A crushing weight pushed down on him as he reached the end of his tethered rope. He swung stationary in the cold air, disoriented, back and forth against the cold rock. The sun had set, he saw only shadow and darkness.

He felt for the switch on his head-lamp. A beam of light illuminated his surroundings, a blank face of stone, without complication. He knew he would not last the evening in the cold darkness, exposed, hanging from only his tether, without a foothold.

With a last plaintive look to the top, he bent his knees, braced both feet against the stone, facing the wall. He pushed as hard as he could, exploding away into the emptiness, reached for the harness release, and pulled. A stillness, a moment in time, then a plunge downwards, pulled by gravity's relentless embrace. He turned in the air, searching for the ground as it hurdled towards him, reaching for the cord attached to his pack.

An observer below would have seen only a small plunging drop of light, then hear the crack of wind and the opening of a parachute.