By Michela Montgomery
A sharp black point on the sheer face of the cavern pierced my shoulder. I felt the first drop of dark blood squeeze out and drip down my arm. I bit my lip against the pain and concentrated on clinging to the handholds above my head. After another half hour, my arms became numb from the strain and cold. I began to shake.
I swallowed hard, again trying to force my voice into something strong enough for someone to hear. Anyone. As I tipped my face upward, the weight of my wet pack pulled me back toward the blackness. My heart skipped several beats. I adjusted my fingers on the handholds and gripped as tightly as I could.
“Ano! Percy! Anyone!”
Mist turned to droplets of water. I wiped my hand across my forehead and succeeded only in covering my hand with more blood from the cut on my head when I’d gone down. I could smell the blood as it trickled down the sides of my face. Heavy droplets dripped down my legs, soaking my calves and shoes, resting on slick moss that covered the foot-wide ledge. I looked around, suffocated by opaque blackness. Reality sank in. I allowed fear to take over. As I pressed my cheek to the rough cavern wall, tears squeezed from between my eyelids. I leaned against the cold face of the cavern. Slowly, I slipped one hand from the handhold above me.
Cradling my numb arm against my body, I shook my hand to allow blood to flow back through it. I dropped it to my side, hoping that gravity would work to pull the blood back through my hand and fingers. Pain seared through my fingers as I tried to make a fist.
My other arm throbbed, heavy from the burden of clinging to the ledge. I leaned in closer to the rough face of the wall. Resignation filled me. My left arm had given out. Releasing my grip from above, my arm slid down the wall to rest against my hip. Without my hands to anchor me, my feet slid closer to the edge. Shooting pain from my shoulder to my wrist forced the first sob from my chest.
“Ano!” I screamed, even though my head was no longer tipped up, and the only sound that returned was the echo of my own desperation. “Help me,” I whispered, “please don’t let me die this way.”