The Cliff, страница 1
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either a product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2011 Barry W. Alder
Cover design by: Jen Alder
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, typing, or by any information storage retrieval system, without the written permission of the author.
Published by Alder Book Publishing
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She slowly opened her eyes, but saw nothing. Her mind was blank. Then she took a deep breath; and winced. Pain shot through the right side of her chest. She froze, took a shallow, measured breath and waited for the pain to subside. As the pain slowly receded, she remembered what had happened.
She'd been camping in a remote section of the park, far away from most people. Being so close to nature without anyone else around always lifted her spirits, and was why she chose such a backwoods place. She’d been out searching for fresh berries to augment her meals, and had spotted some near a cliff edge. She thought she'd been careful, but a stone she'd stepped on had slipped, and she'd gone over. That was late afternoon, and now it was dark. She wondered how she could have survived the fall. The cliff face had been at least a hundred feet high where she'd been and she knew there was no way she could have survived that.
And yet she was still alive. Flat on her back and hurt, but alive.
Can't stay here, she thought as she carefully moved her fingers and toes to see if she could feel them. She relaxed a bit when there was no pain and she could feel the movement. She moved her arms next, generating a shot of pain in her chest, but nowhere else.
Shit, she thought angrily, broken ribs.
Now for the big test, she though, as she moved her legs slightly. Another shot of chest pain, but, this time, severe pain in her right thigh as well.
“That sucks”, she hissed through her teeth, and forcing her leg muscles to relax.
She lay there quiet for a long time, willing herself to relax, breathing slowly, and staring at the dark, cloud covered sky.
Finally, she decided to move, to at least try to sit up so she could see her surroundings. Very carefully, she twisted to her left, fighting the pain and forcing her torso up to a sitting position. With her arms behind her, keeping her upright, she gasped between clenched teeth until the pain was down to a tolerable level and she could breathe almost normally.
She looked around, but saw nothing. The clouds hide whatever faint light the stars and the new moon might have provided.
She began to shiver, and realized just how cool even a mid-August night could be here.
I need to find some shelter, she thought. I won't last the night exposed like this.
As if to answer her unspoken fears, she heard the nearby howls of two wolves. A chill ran down her spine, reinforcing her resolve to move. She gingerly pulled herself back, trying to ignore the pain in her side and leg. She paused for a moment, composing herself for the next attempt. Shifting her weight to the left, she jerked her right hand backward and struck solid stone. The shock caused her to thrust her hand down hard, scrapping it on the rocks, and she let out a scream of pain, and froze in the spot. After a few moments, the pain subsided and she forced herself to lean forward into a more stable sitting position, freeing her hands to explore. She soon discovered she had backed into a wall of rock, solid for as far as she could feel.
So much for that direction, she thought wryly. Guess I'll have to go along the rock.
She was just about to pull herself to the left when the cloud cover broke. There was not enough light to see clearly, but she could just make out the ground around her, fading gently into total darkness to her right and in front of her, but making an abrupt line about three feet to her left.
She stared at the clear delineation before her, trying to comprehend what it meant. It slowly dawned on her that it meant there was nothing in the darkness; that the earth stopped at that line.
She let herself down and moved to the demarcation point. There was no change in it the closer she got, and she stopped a few inches from it. By this time her heart was racing with the pain and the fear that had been building in her as she moved closer to it. She reached toward the darkness and slowly dropped her trembling hand, the faint light giving it a ghostly sheen. Her hand dropped below the ground level and kept going, stopping only when her arm hit the ground at the line.
The realization came to her slowly. She hadn't fallen all the way down the cliff. She'd landed on a ledge part way down. She leaned back against the rock, mind numb.
The sun was well up when she woke abruptly. She didn't remember falling asleep and the thought shocked and angered her, and the sudden movement brought a sharp stab of pain to her side. Once the pain subsided, she looked to see where the sun was in the sky, trying to determine what time it was.
'Bout ten, she thought sadly, slowly looking around. In the full sunlight, she could see the edges of her limited domain; five feet to her right, five feet in front of her, and about two feet to her left. Then she looked up. It was difficult to see clearly, but she thought she was about twenty feet from the top. And about eighty feet to the bottom, she realized.
She closed her eyes, trying to decide what to do. On the plus side, it was near peak season for summer hikers. However, she was in one of the more remote parts of the park, by her own choice. There was a chance someone might spot her if she stayed put. She could see the small river below, not too far from the base of the cliff. She knew that canoeists sometimes took the waterway to the campground about five miles upstream. She was positive she could yell enough to catch their attention if they went by.
But when would they go by, she wondered. If someone was heading for the campground, it could be anytime; now, or five hours from now.
“Nothing I can do right now”, she murmured to herself, trying to sound confident. She attempted to reposition herself so that she was comfortable and could easily see the river, but gave up after fifteen minutes. Sitting put too much pressure on her leg, causing the broken bones to push together. Lying helped the leg immensely, but severely restricted her view of the river, and neither position provided much relief from the rough stones on the ledge.
The day passed slowly. The hot sun in the cloudless sky beating down on her made her acutely aware of her lack of water and shade. She drifted in and out of daydreaming, scolding herself on each waking for not paying closer attention to the river. But every time she looked, she saw nothing. She occasionally yelled out, hoping someone she couldn’t see would hear her, but no replies ever came.
By sunset, she could hardly swallow, her mouth was so dry. The hunger pains that had periodically stirred her from her daydreams had thankfully stopped, but they’d been replaced with a deep throbbing in her right thigh. It had been growing worse all day, and as she now looked at it, she realized it had swollen badly. She knew it wasn’t good and that she had to get it looked at soon. Her life depended on it.
With a great effort, she rolled on to her stomach, grimacing from the pain of her broken ribs and leg, and pulled herself to the edge of the ledge. In the fading light, she cursed herself for not having done it sooner. The long shadows hide the details she was desperately searching for. She screamed in pain as she moved herself back from the edge, trying to find a comfortable spot to sleep for the night.
Sleep came fitfully, the pain in her thigh a constant companion. She took some thanks in the heavy cloud cover that kept the night warm, despite her light clothing. The howl
She awoke shortly after dawn to the smell of a cooking stove somewhere in the distance. The pain in her leg had increased and she could see the swelling straining against the fabric of her pants leg. She almost panicked when she realized she could just barely feel her toes. She wanted to take off her boots to see what her foot looked like, but feared what she might find. Maybe it’s best not to know, she thought fearfully. Looking down at the river, she desperately hoped to spot a canoe or another hiker, but saw nothing. She started to cry.
I don't want to die here, she thought. I have to get down.
Pulling herself back to the edge, she cleared her eyes and looked down. The morning sun favored her and she could clearly see all the way down. Her heart fell. There didn't seem any way down. She was about to give up when a bird flew past her and landed on a small bush outcropping. She stared at the bird for a moment, unable to comprehend what she was seeing.
Maybe, just maybe, she thought as her eyes followed a possible path down.
But it was so far down, and she felt so weak.
“I don't know if I can make it”, she whispered to herself, “but I can't stay here and die. I have to try.”
She took a deep breath and eased herself to the edge. She carefully positioned herself so she could slip into a climbing position, slipped her legs over the edge, and screamed.
* * * The End * * *
A note to the reader:
I know you’re probably upset with the ending, but it was my intention to leave it hanging, so to speak. I will let you decide how she ends her dilemma – favorable or unfavorably. If you have a strong opinion on it, I’d be happy to hear from you. Email me at [email protected]
Thank you for reading the story.