Falling

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It began on a hot summer afternoon miles away from home. The atmosphere was steamy and damp. The will to go onward was dwindling as the sun grew ever higher in its place in the sky. While I staggered ahead in the scorching heat, I came upon a familiar place: the campground. It marked the well awaited end of the grueling welcome hike that began a week of torture, more commonly known as summer camp.
Well into the first day, just as the sun was falling on the east, I found myself having a sudden urge to replenish my parched lips after many stressful hours of hiking through the arid environment surrounding our campsite. I glanced around, hoping to spot a source of deliverance from dehydration, and gazed upon a soda machine: salvation at last! Unfortunately, just as I mustered all my remaining energy to approach the vendor, I found myself reaching into empty pockets. I looked straight ahead and spotted a lone water fountain, on the other side of the campsite’s enormous multipurpose field. I was about to journey over to the water source, but the heat waves emanating from the concrete surrounding it made me think twice. As I began to lose all hope of surviving the long and arduous week, my friend Phillip walked along and asked how I felt. I could only utter a single word: dry. He dragged my inanimate body over to a patch of shade and tossed me a water bottle: courtesy of the camp director who saw me in my pitiful condition. I downed it in one gulp and asked if I could borrow any money. The answer came as a blunt “no”. “But,” Philip said, “if you can walk the tight rope in the gym, I’ll give you a twenty.”
Powered by an unknown force, I sprinted over to the gym at full speed, calculating how many Cokes a twenty dollar bill would buy me. As I arrived at the gym area, I met a colossal three story building, but the inside was even more magnificent. It housed four indoor basketball and volleyball courts, three indoor rock climbing walls, with an enormous net that hung below the tightrope. “Pretty high up, isn’t it?” Phillip commented. I replied with a bewildered “yeah”. It was so incredibly high and long that I had no idea how to get on the rope. I spun around, looked beyond the basketball courts, and spied a lonely ladder on the side of the gym. I traced it to one of the ends of the tightrope. I climbed on, but when I reached the top, acrophobia took over and blood surged through my body. Normally, I would tackle this challenge like any other task, but I stood there, solid as a rock. Sweat poured out of my forehead and ran down the sides of my face. A chilling fear instilled in me, every movement filled me with paranoia, and every breath chilled me to the bone. Phillip, during the time I stood frozen atop of the ladder, had taken the liberty to gather all of my other friends who also made the treacherous mistake of enrolling in this hideous camp. I gathered all my courage and took my first step on the impossible task to cross the long and narrow rope. Phillip now called to me tauntingly, “Twenty dollars rides on this!” I glared a Phillip, but at the same time I made the worst mistake possible: I looked down. I had to do something fast; I wanted to go onward, but my mind already began shutting my body down. Since the net did not cover the first two feet of the rope, and because I forgot to finish strapping the harness, I had some major problems to take care of.
I took three long steps. Then, time blurred and slowed to a stop in front of my eyes. I spun around very slowly and gazed up at the rope. My feet still touched the rope, and I threw my arms up in a desperate attempt to grab hold of anything that would break the fall. My stomach felt as if it stuck to the ceiling, and time began to speed up. Blood rushed to my head. I did not remember hitting anything. I woke to the muted sound of my name and intense bright light. I felt a strange throbbing pain in my head and I could not feel my limbs. As my vision returned, I looked around and saw what resembled hospital beds. Later, I found out that the room was part of the camp. A nurse came in through a door. She checked up on me and told me what happened after I blanked out. I forgot to connect one of the clips on the front of my harness and fasten a strap on the back. When I fell, the harness spun me upside down, and I lost consciousness just as my head hit the hard cast iron cables that suspended the safety net. I had been out for an entire twenty-four hours. I would be able to get out later in the day if I recovered enough to walk.
The entrance to the gym loomed before me on the morning of the last day, the last day of a camp I grew to respect and learn from. I took another attempt at the tight rope. It was not on a bet this time, but because I decided it was time I defeated acrophobia. As I climbed to the top of the ladder for the second time that week, I saw everything in an eerily different way. The iron cables seemed to glare at me, the net looked as if I would slip through, the harness did not appear to be sturdy, and the rope stood there, mocking. I strapped up and stared deep into the eyes of my tormentor. I made it further this time, not quite all the way, but as I landed onto the netting below me, I looked up at the ceiling and smiled.





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