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The Rope of Death This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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Sweat dripped down my face as I stared at the rope. Dangling from the rafters, it spanned the length of the entire building, and I was terrified. I was just six years old, and I felt that there were better ways to die. Of course, I had no desire to die, but my coach was urging me upwards. If I had known that gymnastics could be life-threatening, I would never have asked to sign up for the class.


My thoughts were interrupted as the kid behind me yelled, “Get a move on, Matt!” By then, the sweat had trickled down towards my hands, and I felt them becoming clammy. I began to make my way towards the rope, my legs shaking, and my tiny sneakers squeaking beneath me. My arms felt heavy as I reached for the rope. I turned around, and spied the gawking faces of my peers.

As my hand grasped the spiky rope, the sandpaper texture scratched my skin, causing my thumb to bleed. I could hear my coach yelling my name as he tried to encourage me. His words helped for a moment, but my fear returned in spite of his good intentions. I raised my other hand and grasped the rope. I looked up, and began my horrifying climb towards the bell at the top. I barely made it two feet off the ground, when the burning of the rope caused me to let go. I slipped and fell upon the mat below.

The coach approached me and tried to soothe me, by saying, “It’s okay, Matt. Just get up and try again.” I wiped the fresh tears from my eyes and stood up. My legs began to tremble as I approached it again. I had no desire to climb the rope at all, but I did not want to disappoint my coach. Once again, I grabbed the rope of death, and resumed my climb. I tried to be confident, with limited success, and jumped to give myself momentum. This time, I was able to get my feet on the rope as I held on . I remained frozen for a moment, but soon regained a bit of my earlier confidence. I started to climb the scratchy rope as the other kids cheered me on. I only made it a few feet higher than my first attempt, before I lost my focus and fell again. The drop hurt more this time because of the distance that I had fallen, and I could not hold back the tears.  I struggled to my feet, and ran out of the gym as fast as I could, letting the tears flow. I raced into the waiting room where my mother was reading a book to pass the time. The moment that she saw my face, she rested her book on the empty seat beside her, and comforted me. I explained what had happened, and she held my scraped hands. She asked if I wanted to return to the gym and try again, but I refused, begging her to take me home. I announced that I would never do gymnastics, or climb a rope, ever again.

After my encounter with the “Rope of Death,” my fear of heights would only increase over time. Even now, I struggle to control my fear when faced with the most simple things, whether it be climbing a ladder, or looking out of the window of a tall building. If I had the chance, I would not go back and try to climb the rope again. My fear of heights controls who I am and what I do, and I believe I would only end up in the exact same situation. I am content with the fact that I could not face my fear, even though it has reduced the amount of things that I am willing to do.

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