|Battling Nature by Knold|
No more words were exchanged.
Nathan clapped his hands together, adjusted his sunglasses, and like a prize fighter sizing up his next victim, let his gaze follow the rock formation from base to summit. A wall of treacherous stone towered over him, reaching more than 400 feet toward the heavens.
His face held a mask of battle-hardened determination.
Nathan’s mind was free of fear. As clear as the blue sky that spanned from horizon to horizon above him, his thoughts held little sway upon his conscience, like wispy white clouds on the outer fringes of his mind. The sun was his only guidance; a beacon of inspiration that provided focus for the task ahead.
Nathan lunged for the first handhold, then the next. Without rope or safety harness, he completed the first 30 feet of the climb like a seasoned veteran. Hand over hand, foot by foot he ascended. Stretching and leaping. Crisscrossing and sidestepping.
The northwestern winds cooled his glistening skin, but did little to subdue the sweat caused from exertion.
Nathan continued to climb towards the summit, his eyes glazed over with resolve, never once stealing a glance behind him or below.
His muscles began to burn, giving notice of their disdain for his lack of rest. They tightened in revolt, insolent in spite of his bountiful will and courage.
His fingers bled; his toes and the arches of his feet screamed for relief as they clung desperately to cracks and crevices fractions of an inch wide. He pressed on.
Nathan could hear the cheers of the climbers above him, reassuring him that in a matter of minutes all of his pain would be gone.
They were right.
Nathan was just a few feet from reaching his goal. No small feat, especially for someone who lacked any experience in rock climbing.
Nathan made one last stretch towards the summit - then plummeted towards the ground below.
In an instant his mind was flooded with images and memories long repressed: coming home from school after a 3rd grade fieldtrip to find out his mother had been killed in a car accident; watching his best friend and combat brother get eviscerated by an IED in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan; holding his father’s hand in the hospital for weeks waiting for cancer to finish what it had started months prior; kneeling down in the maternity ward, praying to any god that would listen to spare his wife’s life, only to come home months later to find her naked and in bed with his childhood friend.
Nathan careened head over foot, bashing against the rocks on his way down, much like the blows that had been dealt to him in life.
In an instant Lover’s Leap had claimed yet another victim.
Michael A. Walker
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