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Over The Edge

by

Cailean Darkwater

Sliding ...

My fingers scrabble for purchase, stones and dirt dropping on me as my descent continues, slowly, but inexorably. My arms feel dead and leaden, the only reason I am still holding on is perhaps I can no longer move them out of position. Fingers locked into claws, torn and bloody, no longer feeling their pain as I hang like some puppet jumping for joy.

I should be terrified, but I'm not. I just look up at the cliff face, see how far I've fallen, knowing I can't get back up, and just hold on.

Why? It's like a movie that doesn't know when to quit. What am I waiting for, trying to stave off the inevitable? Here in this stasis, this limbo betwixt life and death - what's the point in continuing?

To hell with this. At least death would be something different, and the pain would be quick - not this eternity of being stuck here in torment, my life gradually being taken one minute at a time. I slowly, agonizingly, remove one of my hands from its hold.

This is it. Moment of truth. Do I have the courage to die, to end it all?

Ready to lift my other arm, ready to PLUNGE to whatever waits below, I hear a voice float down from above me:

"Take my hand."

Here I am, dangling by one arm, over the abyss, and NOW someone comes to save me? The irony of this cosmic joke is not lost on me.

I look at her hand, it's all I can see of her and doubt starts to hammer into my conviction, my decision to fall.

Feeling comes back to my right arm, with pain as it reaches up, while my left feels like a zombie's. They describe me; half dead, half alive, and I have the possibility of going either way. It is up to me.

I have to admit this to myself. I'm a chicken. I don't have the courage to die. Shards of fear, ice running through my veins, in my soul. I accept the offer of continued life and take her hand in mine.

When you're hanging on a ledge, one slip: over the edge.

And I'm dragging her with me. I think about letting go; I was already doomed. I don't want to draw her into a similar state of limbo. I can see her face now, as I slide down the edge, I look into her eyes, and something in those brown eyes tells me to hold on, come what may.

She doesn't seem at all frightened, just concerned about me. Almost as if she's completely unaware of our situation. She couldn't be that clueless, could she? Or is she just out of her mind?

Whatever her sanity, she's willing to help me, and that counts for a lot in my book. Agonizingly slowly, my arm feels like it is being gradually torn from its socket, I start inching my way up the cliff. Every moment is torment. Seeing her up there, trying so damn hard, inspires me. I imagine she must be going through similar suffering.

Freak! As I feel death so very close, I wonder why I ever thought I could go so meekly to oblivion. I DO NOT want to die! I know that now, as all my remaining energy is focused upon survival.

This is it. Moment of truth. Do I have the courage to live, to continue the journey?

I truly don't know how long we hang there, almost frozen, in our shared descent. Finally, exhausted, I am over the edge, on the blessed level ground. The waning moon, sharp sickle of a crescent somewhat ominous above, casts little light upon us.

What now? Who is she?

She is no radiant angel from Heaven, no bewitching fae queen out of Arcadia, no sky-clad nymph of the woodlands. She is ... normal.

How can I say that, though? How can I say that when this woman, through her kindness, dragged me back from that fateful plunge, risking her own life to save my own?

Normal? Yeah, right. She might have looked ordinary, but to me, a person's beauty shines through their actions. She'd saved my life for no more reason than it needed saving.

What now? Still lost in this darkness.

"Come with me," she says, and she leads me through those shadows, the trackless waste.

As we walk, carefully avoiding hazards that she seems to sense before I do, I wonder why she leads me, why I follow her. Looking back over my life, I guess I had a lot of ghosts haunting me. Too many things Iíve done which I'm not proud of. Looking back, I hated what I have become, and I still feel some shame, and suspicion that this new path I choose has not changed me within.

As the adage goes, I am a leopard trying to change his spots. Is that even possible? I'd been so apathetic about my fate, as if I felt I didn't deserve it, or as if it would have been futile to try for one.

She thought I was worth saving. She thought I was worth leading past all these dangers. She'd almost died for me ... and I didn't even know her.

It is hard to hate myself against that care.

We stop, and as I watch, the gloom recedes, the wan light increases in power. Some primal feeling grows within me, a primitive reverence for the sun, about to rise. The long night will soon to be over, and I am still alive.

Within that ever-lightening landscape, she, this ordinary, yet extraordinary, woman, turns to me and tells me: "You are not alone."

Slowly, she then fades away, as the almost sun quests towards us with feeble fingers of light.

What the freak? But ... she was here! She was REAL! Now she is gone. I still couldn't answer the question. Who was she?

Was she a fragment of a dream, a ghost of the past? Did it matter? She'd led me to the horizon, saved me from an eternity of painful limbo.

The rising sun is like the future, the new day unknown. Could the future be any worse than what had just happened?

Stupid question, as my imagination runs rampant. This could be the start of something even more horrendous. Negative thinking, I know. But how would I ever find out without going forward?

Maybe I will meet her again, that ordinary, yet extraordinary woman - she has to be real!

As the tiny light of the sun spreads over the Earth, with the memories of her in my mind, the freedom she gave within my heart, I proclaim to no-one but myself:

"I am not afraid."

The rays grow in number and strength. I think about her once again, forgetting about her fading away, and even the mystery of her uncertain existence. What she means to me, what she represents.

She is hope, she is redemption, she is love. Fills me to overflowing, the flames rush through my once-cold soul, giving me new life. I may as well be that rising sun, breaking the day in the moment between sleep and wakefulness.

This truly is an awakening for me, as I realize the truth of her last words. I am not alone. I had never been alone. She is with me now, as she has always been.

Crashing down upon the battle-lines of night and day, the border between now and next, today and tomorrow, that light nigh drowns me as I cross over the edge. My tears of washed-away pain of the past and new joy of the future spin rainbows in that radiant cascade. I can keep walking upon my journey without fear, without doubt.

As I stand there bathed in the waves of sunlight, I hear her voice again.

"Welcome to the dawn."

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