That Strange Emotion This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

September 6, 2010
I look past my feet into the ripples far below me. Only one thought occupies my entire mind. Just do it. Only one feeling courses through my entire body. No. The two sides of me fight, grapple, and snarl at one another. Thought and feeling, logic and instinct, tear at my insides. So this is what they mean by butterflies. How can anyone associate anything so pleasant with a feeling so horrible?

This sensation is new, in my subconscious a word for it is waiting, skulking just out of reach. What is it about this cliff of insanity, this fiberglass sidewalk into nothing, that sends little spider’s skittering up my spine? Spiders that leave little raises of skin as footprints everywhere they go, and make my scalp prickle as they find safety there? I look down, the beings below me are lost in their own worlds, splashing and slipping through the water. As I glance to the side three faces are upturned, watching for the moment I twist in space. I know them but my mind refuses to let me recognize their importance. I am all consumed by this impossible feeling. My body shakes, the invisible spiders move down my arms and legs. Crystal drops fall from my forehead and I watch them, they hit the waves of chlorinated water like raindrops in a stormy sea.

I shrink back from the edge, a few faltering steps. Shrink back from the edge of the board I stand on, with it’s rough surface worn by many other thrill-seekers such as myself. Shrink back from the edge of my mind, that dangerous point of no return. I just stand contemplating, staring down the edge, as if I could make it disappear with the mere strain of thought. A loud noise startles me out of my tense reverie. “MOVE” is the only word I understand in the cacophony of loud, rough voices coming from the ladder behind me. I take a deep breath and straighten my shoulders. I take one step, then another. What is the word?

My body is numb, my countenance calm, belying the invisible raging of my entire being. Screaming silently I reach the end, my knees bend mechanically. I am airborne. Time slows, turning with the tuck of my body, rotating in endless circles. Concentration almost floods out the unwelcome feeling, but not quite. A small thread of something akin to doubt hangs on. I ignore it and continue in my aerial acrobatics. As I straighten, time moves faster, almost to fast, and as I reach the end of this flight of terror, I remember the word. Fear.

The warm water seems to reach up to greet me and I am cast into its deep blue depths. As I slowly begin to make an ascent, I look up. The light above me sends the shadows of the ripples dancing across this silent underworld. As I break the surface I am hit with noise all around me, bouncing off the tiled walls. I am also hit with the realization that it is gone. This strange emotion called fear has left. I wave to the three faces, then turn and slide calmly through the water to the side. I look up at my nemesis, and realize that I have conquered it. I have conquered fear. I pull myself out into the seemingly chilly air and start walking. As I grab the worn rungs once more and begin my climb, I smile.





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