I enjoyed joining in with The Prompt for the first time last week so I thought I’d link up again this week. This week the prompt is a single word: “challenging“. It inspired me to write this little story:
Mark clung on to the cliff face in terror. His limbs were trembling and his throat so dry he could hardly swallow. He knew he couldn’t stay where he was, he had to keep moving, but panic had wound its fingers round his ankles and rooted him to the spot.
Slowly raising his head upwards – even the thought of looking down made him feel sick – he saw a vertical incline and then, worse, an overhang. It seemed insurmountable, yet he knew it was his only option when what waited below was so much worse.
Locating a hand-hold just above him to his right, he decided he had to go for it. By sheer force of will, he slowly uncurled his fingers from where they clung and stretched out his arm towards it. He had just reached it, his slippery palm making contact, when a roar from below startled him. He lost his grip. At the same time one of his feet slipped from its precarious perch. Frantically scrabbling at the rock-face his fingers couldn’t find any purchase and he fell backwards twisting blindly and grappling at thin air.
The roar below became a jeer as he tumbled the short distance to the floor below. Winded, he opened his eyes to a ring of sneering faces – his classmates – and in the middle of the pack, Jason Green, the hulking tank-of-a-boy who’d made his life hell these last few years. It had been his challenge that had persuaded Mark to the climbing wall that day despite his terror of heights. Jason’s promise to stop his relentless campaign of abuse, if he managed to scale the wall without a harness, had seemed worth the risk. But he had failed (Jason’s precisely-timed roar had seen to that) and in doing so had only given his bully something else to taunt him with.
And yet, Mark realised getting slowly to his feet, Jason had made a mistake. The challenge had forced Mark to face his worst fear and in doing so had given him strength. Because he now knew that fear didn’t have to control him. If he could reach out – even through his terror – for a hand-hold on that wall then he could reach out for a hand-hold in other areas of life too. He made a decision. He would no longer fear the bully’s threatened reprisals if he ever told anyone what was going on. He would report him. And somehow, finally, Jason would get his just desserts.
The story took me a bit by surprise – I had intended to write about a child scared on a climbing wall but being encouraged by his Dad, but when I started writing it ended up like this. I tried a few different endings – in one, poor old Mark ended up lying on the floor getting another beating from the nasty Jason but I couldn’t bear to leave him like that!
I’d love to hear what you think. Do your stories take their own turns when you write too? (bet they do – it’s one of the things I love about writing!)
Thanks Sara for the prompt!