I held on. I was not going to let go. I thought of looking down, but heights are not my best subject. I had my eyes closed tight and my hands clenched around the rough bark of the overhanging tree. One of the reasons why I’d closed my eyes was that loose soil and the occasional small stone were drizzling down on me. A part of me, a diminishing part of me, hoped it was just dirt broken loose by my fall over the edge. Another part of me, growing more certain all the time, thought it could be my weight pulling the tree loose.
I was too scared to open my eyes to find out.
I was also too scared to open my eyes in case I caught a glimpse of just how much empty air there was below me.
It felt like a lot.
My hands, already bloodied and battered from the fight, were searing hot with pain. The rough bark felt as though it was tearing the remaining skin from my hands. It would be such a relief to let go and feel the cool air on my torn palms.
I gripped tighter.
I knew I had to move, one way or the other. The idea of letting go and falling… falling… falling… was the stuff of nightmares.
I took a deep breath, tightened my grip on the narrow tree trunk, feeling it bend and shift under my moving weight. I decided to count to three… then I would open my eyes, even though the shift of my breathing had caused another brief shower of soil and stone all over my face.
My eyes didn’t open, no matter how much I tried.
I took another deep breath and counted to three again.
The side of the cliff, ravine – or whatever it was in front of my eyes – was fascinating. Until then, I hadn’t known how rock, stone, soil could be so fascinating. Up above me the sky was dull and grey threatening rain and lots of it.
The air felt cool, fresh on my face. The sound of the river, stream, or whatever it was, way below me was soothing, calming.
Listening intently, I could hear birdsong… then voices. They were still here, up there looking for me.
Eventually, they would find the body of the man who’d jumped me, up there on the cliff edge.
Then they would look over the edge.
Then it would be all over for me… one way or another.
I had to look down, see if there was a way out for me.
I closed my eyes.
This time I would look down.