by Emily Nikiforuk
I stood on the edge of the eighty two story building, facing what could be either the end of me or my redemption. It all depended on whether or not I managed to cross the tightrope safely to the other side. If I did, then $10 000 would be mine, and I would finally be able to pay for that college tuition I’d been trying so hard to earn. If I didn’t, then I’d be dead and college wouldn’t matter anyway.
It was nerve-wracking, standing there. Wind ruffling my clothing, making the rope sway. It was my worst fear come true, but I had no choice. The money was due the next day, and there was no other way I’d be able to come up with such a sum. I’d need to face my greatest fear to save my education.
I’d always thought that fearing heights was stupid, but that was before I had a reason to fear it. Before my sister Beth and I had fallen off the side of a mountain. Before she died and I survived.
I wasted all my tuition money on doctors and medicine, after that. The vast array of doctors and drugs had healed me, save for a scar on my knee, but nothing had managed to cure my broken heart and traumatized mind.
I took yet another deep breath and dared to look over the side of the huge building. I immediately wished I hadn’t. The ground seemed so much farther away than eighty two stories. I even saw a lone pigeon fly across the sky beneath my feet.
“Come on, kid! What’re ya waitin’ for?” yelled the scruffy old man from the opposite building, snapping me out of my trance. He was the one who had promised me the $10 000. “I haven’t got all day, ya know!”
I gulped. Now or never, I thought. This is what Beth would’ve wanted me to do. If she were alive, she’d probably be cheering for me from the ground.
With that inspiring thought, I tentatively lifted my shaking foot from the edge of the roof onto the rope. All my weight still on the foot on the roof, I tested the stability of the teetering rope. With dread settling in my stomach, I realized that it didn’t matter how wobbly it was, nor did it matter how much I feared the walk ahead of me. I didn’t have a choice. I had to do this if I ever wanted to get that tuition.
I steeled my nerves and took the first step.
It was terrifying. Completely terrifying. My eyes were glued wide open with fear. I could barely find the chance to blink. Don’t look down, don’t look down. I tried to use my arms to steady myself, but that didn’t work as well as I thought it would’ve. I teetered and swayed with the rope, trying my best not to look down. I was beginning to feel a bit lightheaded.
You’re almost halfway. You can do this. My heart pumped faster and faster against my chest. Adrenaline rushed through my veins. With a few more steps, I had reached the halfway point. That’s when I looked down.
I had been doing okay so far, or at least better than I thought I would do, but once I saw the endless abyss I lost my balance and nearly toppled off the side. Flailing my arms about, I steadied myself and took a few deep breaths. There was no way I would have survived that drop.
I forced my eyes to stare straight ahead, at the other side, at my goal, at the money I so desperately needed. I couldn’t fail now. I had to make it. For Beth.
I cautiously continued walking along the rope, one foot in front of the other. No turning back. This was my last chance to save my education. Pushing my fear down to the bottom of my stomach, I kept walking along the rope, carefully placing my feet with every step. As I kept going, I realized that this wasn’t so bad. There was nothing to fear. Just a few more steps to go. I understood just how pointless my old fear was. I had fallen once, but that doesn’t mean it would happen again and again. My fear had been holding me back, and I wouldn’t let that happen anymore. Beth wouldn’t want me to be stopped by it, she would have wanted me to take risks and be brave.
Determination fulfilling me, I took the final steps.
I had never been happier to be standing on solid ground. The old man patted me on the back, spouting words of congratulations at me. With one last smile, he handed me a cheque and left for the fire escape stairs. I stood there in shock and disbelief, holding the $10 000 in my shaking hands. I’d conquered my greatest fear.
Beth would be so proud of me.