I sidled up to the edge of the plateau and looked over. A stream of pebbles carved a passageway down through slabs of worn stone, in a vertiginous descent towards the green smear of vegetation far below. I shuddered and recoiled, my chest constricting in panic.
My future husband stood to one side of me. His brother, standing on the other, had also been examining the route down. “You have to run,” he said “it’s the best way.” With a whoop he launched himself into the narrow corridor of stones and started what looked like an almost vertical sprint down the mountain, feet sliding, and knapsack bouncing on his shoulders. I looked on aghast, my recent breakfast on the summit suddenly tumbling to the pit of my stomach with an ominous thud. It was a long way down; if he tripped…
My husband saw my doubt. “It’s easy” he said. “You just have to let yourself go. If you run, there’s no chance of slipping” and he disappeared over the edge. I saw the ease with which he scampered down, a flurry of gravel following his steps. He leapt and jumped, as though the side of the mountain was an extension of the back garden. I felt sick.
Goose bumps pricked my arms as the wind whipped across the creamy, barren rock. It was pitted and devoid of life, giving it a lunar appearance and it could have been the moon as far as I was concerned. I had been spectacularly unprepared for this hike in the Alps, expecting it to be much like a walk in the UK. Except that I had conveniently managed to forget that England was flat; and, I realized belatedly, I had no head for heights.
My husband had stopped 300 yards further down, where the slope flattened slightly. “Come on!” he yelled. I hesitated, remembering the climb up the other side of the mountain – a rapid ascent undertaken in the quiet agony of unfitness. Now, stood on what seemed like the edge of an abyss, I suddenly wondered if the ability to descend peaks like a mountain goat was hereditary; the result of centuries of walking on uneven ground at an altitude. Weaned on a pavement, I doubted that I would have the same surefootedness. Apprehension swamped me and my body seemed intent on refusing the simple order to move.
The shout echoed upwards again, tinged with impatience. “Vas-y, c’est facil!” As I lowered myself gingerly off the plateau, I cursed the fact that they had decided to take the direct route down instead of following the path. I kept my eyes fixed on the horizon and tried to ignore my legs which felt far too flimsy.
My feet sank securely into the stones. I didn’t slip and I was surprised to feel my fear lightened by a glimmer of self-confidence. I took a couple of tentative steps downwards, my fright diminishing with each one, before it vanished completely and with a yell of pure jubilation I started to run.
For Scribbit’s prompt: Things that scare me