I took a deep breath and looked up at the craggy limestone wall. The next carabiner was two feet beyond my reach, and I was sprawled on the cliff feeling as secure as a baby moose on a slippery patch of ice. My triceps burned, and the Elvis shake took over my right leg. Why had I agreed to climb this?
“You good?” James yelled from below.
I looked down, and my stomach dropped. Vast emptiness filled the two-foot gap between me and the rock face, James’s head a mere raisin against the oatmeal-colored ground. I was two-thirds up the route and ten feet above my last piece of protection. If I fell now, I’d drop twenty feet plus the rope stretch.
I needed to make the clip. If I missed, I would surely fall. And it wouldn’t be just a fall, it would be a whipper.
Stop being a chicken. It could be worse. At least there aren’t any spiders.
Looking up, I took another deep breath, the carabiner’s shiny steel winked in the sunlight as if to say: “come and get me.” My heart jumped.
Here goes nothing.
Thrusting my chest forward, I moved my right palm off the wall to my chalk bag behind me. My forehead pressed against the cold and sharp limestone to counterbalance the shift in weight. The airy smell of dirt and metal lingered under my nose. I chalked up my right hand, then my left, then my right again. I was stalling.
“Any day now, it’s snowing here,” said James as flakes of chalk showered his head.
Placing my palms back on the opposing walls, forearms up, I glanced down at my right foot pressed tightly against the wall. Finally, I rolled my right knee in and swiveled my foot downward. My right hip was now flush against the wall and I was within clipping distance. I reached behind to grab a bite of rope. But as I readied myself to clip in, I saw it.
My breath escaped me.
There it was.
Its dark, hairy octad legs straddled the carabiner axis; its beady and glittering eyes glared at me with suspicion.
The hair on the back of my neck straightened, and my heart knocked on my ribs.
Oh, hell no.
I took the whip.
Jennifer Lai is addicted to writing flash and short fiction stories that are inspired by true events. She especially enjoys the challenge and brevity of microfiction. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Chronicle Stories, Spillwords, 101 words, and others. She works in cancer research and lives in Washington State.
Photo – Author doing the climb!