Monday, 22 September 2008


He couldn't see Janet's face as her head hung like a broken puppet's beneath him. A steady strem of fat, red droplets fell from her temple, dropping into the chasm below like oily rubies. He tried not to look, the fathomless drop into shadows sucked at him and invited him to die. Her hand had swollen and had turned purple where he gripped her wrist with all his remaining strength.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

The words echoed through his mind like gunshots. With his other hand, Brian held onto the dry root and all his body burned with the effort. Diamonds of his own sweat followed Janet's rubies into the yawning fissure and he imagined the puddle they were making together somewhere in the darkness. Soon, that puddle would me a mess of... No! Don't think like that. People came up this path all the time. There was still hope. He tried to call her name again, but his throat was dry and his lungs were filled with acid.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

He'd known Janet all his life. They'd grown up as neighbours and she'd always been a sister to him. She was to be a bridesmaid at his wedding to Danni next week. He hadn't known how she felt about him. How could he have not known? It was so obvious, now. Now that it was too late.

Her tearful pleas had taken him completely by surprise and, when she'd rushed to embrace him he'd stepped back in shock. Janet slipped, fell against him and pushed them both off balance. Down the slope they'd tumbled, falling away from the mountain path in a chaotic tangle, glancing off rocks and roots and trees as they went. Falling faster and faster towards the edge. Brian didn't remember grabbing her or the root at the last possible second. He remembered the jolt of pain as he arrested their descent. Remembered the terror as he realised their situation. The root protruded from between the rocks of a steep overhang and Brian couldn't reach anything with his feet. All he could do was hold on.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

His chest felt like jelly, now, and his arms felt like glass. He couldn't hold on much longer. He pushed the thought from his mind and tried to concentrate on his screaming hands. Somebody would come, but they wouldn't see anything amiss from the road. Brian listened for the sounds of others climbing the path to the summit, but could hear nothing through the blood-roar in his head. He still couldn't shout. How much time? Not enough.

Brian could feel his strength ebbing away. Knew the sun was sinking. Knew that it was time for a decision. Which hand?

With a primal cry, Brian let go.

Stupid, stupid, stupid...


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