You feel your heart in your chest. You hear it pump blood. You kick another step and shift your weight. Your muscles are tight, each fiber wound and ready to burst. The slope disappears underneath you, reappearing hundreds of feet below after falling off a cliff.
It’s impossible to stop your eyes from glancing down. The world spins for a second and the ground rushes up. You drag your eyes back to the snow underneath you, focusing on your feet clinging to the slope of white ice.
Your body screams at you to move, to run, anything to flee, even throw yourself off, but your mind grabs hold again, fighting the uncomfortable feeling of the edge. You focus on the smallest detail until you can breathe again. The air feels thin, never enough.
You check your footing for the fourth time, then slide the ice axe out of the snow and plunge it in again. Your hand is wrapped around it like iron. You kick another step.
The first white flakes of an approaching storm melt on your nose. You glance up. The valley is disappearing into a white blur. You only have ten feet to go before the slope flattens, before you are safe. Your demons rise again, urging you forward.
“Hurry,” they whisper. “Hurry before the storm. It is only ten feet. Hurry.”
Ten feet. It feels so close, but you pull your body tight and make peace with the falling snow. There is no rushing now.
“Let it come,” you think. “Let it come.”
You kick another step. It gives a bit as you shift your weight, then holds. Adrenaline rushes through your veins. Your mind struggles for control and your hand clamps around the ice axe. You glance over the edge.
What would it feel like, you wonder. Would it be quick or slow, a rock smashing into your skull, bones snapping in a tangle of trees, a broken body frozen in a drift of snow a hundred feet below. You breathe again. Your mind pries itself back into the moment.
You kick another step. Your heart pounds. The dance continues.