She wasn’t sure she could hold on much longer.
If she could just… get… her finger… into that other crevice above…maybe she could get a better foothold. It was out of sight, but she knew it was there. She fumbled around, grasping the rocky area…looking for a better hold.
A jagged piece of rock cut through her right index finger and she winced in pain. A warm sensation gathered around her finger… blood most likely. Her fingers were so numb from hanging on – trying to grip the rock a little tighter – she wasn’t sure there would be any finger left soon. She glanced up. The sun beat down, causing more sweat to trickle down past her hairline and into her ear. She fought the urge to wipe it away. It wouldn’t do good to let go now. She was so close – she could feel it.
Her toe caught hold of a small ledge below her and she worked hard to maintain a balance while straining to still reach ahead. She needed this victory today. Her last one had been too long ago – what felt like weeks – and she had little strength to move forward without the hope of progress.
Her clothes were dirty, stained with red dust from the mountain, and torn from places she’d snagged them on the rocks. She couldn’t remember when she’d felt properly clean and longed for a cold drop of water – her bottle having dried up long ago. Licking her parched lips, she groped again for a hold, straining her shoulder in the process.
Squinting, she willed her fingers to inch forward onto the crevice, grasping for a better hold. She glanced at the other people making their way around her on the rock wall. They moved more steadily – using alternative routes to climb past her – as if they knew something she didn’t know. She shook her head to rid herself of the jealousy she felt at their progress. Why couldn’t she get ahead, too? What was she doing wrong? They seemed to ascend effortlessly beside her, leaving her in their wake.
Pebbles from their ascent scattered over her, much of the dust on her clothes had come from their climbing and not her own. She looked up again and a small fleck of rock found its way into her right eye. Her eye slammed shut and her left hand instinctively went to rub out the stone.
Wind fluttered her hair as she fell, shielding her view of the top of the mountain – a place she’d never reach. The breeze cooled her sweat-soaked clothes and provided a moment of relief before her senses recovered.
Before a scream could pass her lips, a strong arm reached out and grabbed her by the arm. Her descent stopped abruptly, and pain seared through her shoulder as if ripped from its socket. But she was grateful – she was alive.
She looked up into the eyes of a man in white, his clothes bearing no evidence of the climb. He seemed to hold her without effort with his right hand, and reached out for her with his left.
“How was he holding on?” she wondered before grasping his hand with hers, and relieving some of the pressure on her aching shoulder.
“You’ve had a rough climb,” he said, holding her close to the wall and giving her a chance to catch her breath.
“You could say that,” she said, wiping sweat from her brow and looking again at his eyes.
She felt a peace come over her then and she relaxed into his arms. She wondered who he was and how he was still holding both her and himself on the side of this mountain. But then… they weren’t on the mountain anymore, but, instead, in a quiet meadow with a babbling brook. They sat in the shadow of a large tree, its leaves blowing slightly in the warm breeze.
“Come to me and rest,” he said.
She rested her head on his shoulder and let her worries subside, drifting off into the wind. She would need all her strength to face the mountain again tomorrow.