A Long Way Down

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
July/August 2000

By Jason Lee, Illustrated by Bonny Reynolds

My legs were shaking, my heart pounding. As we neared the edge of the cliff, I double-checked all my rappelling equipment to make sure it was secure. Quickly, I went through all the safety precautions in my mind. I felt anxious, but not eager for my turn as I waited in line with the members of my group. Fear rose from the pit of my stomach as I realized there was no one else to let in front of me. Slowly, I lowered myself to the edge of the nearly 200-foot cliff. My skin shook like a dozen earthquakes when I reached the belay man, the person who hooks me to the belaying ropes, which keep me from falling. He was tied to a tree probably tighter than his true love would have held on to him. He hooked me up, and I slowly lowered myself over the edge of the cliff, inhaled deeply, and went into a sitting position with both feet in front of me. I closed my eyes, gulped, and began to rappel.

I had traveled no more than five feet when a man I didn’t recognize appeared over the edge. With camera in hand he smiled and said, “Cheese,” then snapped a picture of me.

“Funny,” I replied. In my head I heard the words, Listen, wise guy, I’ve more important things to do . . . like, say . . . surviving.

A Long Way Down hanging on a cliff

With camera in hand he smiled and said,”Cheese”

My anger was soon forgotten as I reached a point where my feet could no longer touch the rocky wall. Panic took over. The wall was right there, mocking me. I can’t stand to be mocked. Thump, my foot made contact with the wall, causing me to rotate. As I slowly began to spin around an interesting thing happened; my panic vanished. The panoramic view of the surrounding area overwhelmed me. All the different-sized trees were evergreens, which seemed to blanket the hillside. The forest was teeming with life as different types of animals raced across my field of vision. As I looked upward the sky seemed to open up into a blue vastness. A sense of excitement overtook me. I’d been waiting for this moment, night and day, for one long month, and finally my dream had become reality. I began to feel more calm and more relaxed. Impulsively, I blurted out, “My name is Bond, James Bond.” Someone climbing back up the cliff overheard me and started laughing. His laughter made me realize that my sense of humor had returned.

As I finally neared the bottom of the cliff, there seemed to be less animal activity. Looking up, the cliff did not seem as intimidating as it did going down. My feet were shaky when they finally touched the soft and muddy ground. Mixed emotions were in the back of my mind. I was happy that the rappel was done, yet longed to do it again. Pride swelled up within me. Traveling the muddy road, I began the long climb upward.

A Long Way Down Jason Lee

Jason Lee, 13
Prospect, Kentucky

A Long Way Down Bonny Reynolds

Bonny Reynolds, 13
Wannaska, Minnesota

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