Falling (short story)

Scafell summit

Scafell Pike #2

The voices were clearly audible to Lu, even though the words were indistinct. They were low and carried faintly on the wind, but still they tore apart the silence that she had so briefly enjoyed on the mountain’s summit.

It was not fair. How could it be fair for a woman to climb thousands of feet away from the world, expecting to find a barren nothingness, a release from life, only to have that taken away without warning?

She wanted to scream at them for destroying the expedition. It was supposed to be her chance to escape, a chance to start again on the descent or end it all in a moment’s flight from the summit.

But even with the whole weight of the world seeming to fall back onto her shoulders, Lu was curious. She lifted her head and peeked out over the top of the boulder behind which she crouched.

“That’s sickening.” She thought. “I actually want to be sick.”

Lu was looking at a moment shared between two people which was so intimate that the fact she was even seeing it revolted her. The woman stood at the opposite edge of the summit, feet planted on bare rock, blue anorak whipping around her in the wind and two delicate hands braced on her hips.

Her partner was kneeling in front of her, holding out a small box in both hands. Something glinted from within it, a ring. The man’s face was twisted with anxiety and distress.

“His knees must be killing him.” Lu thought. “Just say yes so he can get up and you can leave me in peace.”

The woman shook her head in a sharp, brutal movement like the crack of a whip. Something heavy sank in Lu’s chest as she saw the despair etched in the man’s face. But there was also a cruel sense of glee twisting inside her. It was better than any soap opera she had ever watched.

He stood slowly with his head bent. For a few seconds, Lu could not see his face and began to wonder, partly with sorrow and also with the same sick fascination as before, whether he was crying.

It seemed that he would try to embrace his intended. The man’s reached his hands towards her sides and she flinched slightly. It was an instinctive movement on the woman’s part. Her face was stern and brave, but her eyes showed that the man’s grief tormented her.

Then Lu saw his face. It was red with pure rage, burning white hot inside his chest. His hands took hold of the woman under her arms and he pushed. She seemed to hang motionless in the air for a moment, held there perhaps by Lu’s gaze or a desire to live. Her hands clawed the air, trying to cling on to something or reach the man’s face, Lu could not tell.

The woman fell with the blue anorak flapping around her like a pair of ugly wings. Without waiting to see how far she fell, the man turned and began his own, slower descent. Lu doubled over behind the rock and vomited against its side. Something fell with a snapping, cracking sound on the slope below.

PART 3

For the first short story in this series, click here.

For something different, click here.

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