Just a few more feet and I’m there, he thought enthusiastically. Indeed, he was mere yards from the top of Mt Hess. Two more pitons and he was there. He looked down. Six hundred feet down to the rocks below. He again felt the odd thrill of the climb. He was afraid of heights. Yet fascinated.
He heard a screech below him. The small peregrin which had followed him all the way up was still there, circling. He enjoyed the small companion he seemed to have acquired. He pretended to himself that it liked him and was watching his slow progress with goodwill, though he realized she was probably just defending some nearby nest. He’d talked to the circling bird as he progressed up the mountainside.
As he was bent looking down to her, he heard a loud crack and the piton above him shot out from it’s mooring. The slack was realized in the line he held in his hand first, then down to the hood where the line was fastened to his climbing harness. He was off balance, and facing half away from the cliff face. He fell backwards, seemingly slowly, as if time hard come to a near standstill. A hundred thoughts flew through his head as his hand shot out to grasp at the stony wall but encountered only air.
Then time resumed it’s normal course, and he was falling.
His heart seemed to stop and his breath caught in his throat. A wordless prayer formed in his mind. The mountain had finally won.
Suddenly, he was jerked to a stop. His back lurched and he was twisted about. The safety line had held. But he was facing downward, hanging in mid air six hundred feet above jagged rocks.
The peregrin was below him, circling and screeching excitedly--as if startled by his sudden move. He twisted, slowly and carefully, and looked up the rope. It was fastened twelve feet above him and he was a good four feet from the cliff wall.
He moved his hands up the rope, preparing to pull himself hand over hand. Then he saw the piton. The one mooring the safety line. It was pulled nearly entirely from the wall.
The peregrin shrieked below him. He shook his head. "Well sweetheart...the honeymoon’s over. Do you look good in black?"
His slid his hand up a few more inches. As he moved, the piton popped free of the stone. With a sickly feeling, like getting pushed off a high dive, he was falling.
And was caught by a pair of powerful arms. They circled his chest and his freefall was stopped. They were lovely female arms, but strong--holding him easily. They were gray and brown, with dark mohagany nails at the end of long, sensuous fingers.
He gasped in disbelief and felt himself moving upward toward the peak. He lay stock still in the arms, not moving for fear that any motion would dispell the impossibility. Not wanting to think, fearing any disbelief would cause the same results.
When his feet touched upon the rocky peak, he breathed again. The flapping noise which had accompanied his ascent stopped and the arms disappeared from around his chest.
He turned slowly. There stood the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen. A full six foot tall she stood, with finely chiselled features, golden eyes and a beautiful bright smiles. Somehow the smile was innocent and knowing, all at the same time.
She was dressed in a flowing dress not unlike an expensive nightgown, with ruffles and hanging fringes. Her skin was brown and tanned looking, with strange but beautiful flecks about her shoulders, arms and legs. Her hair was auburn, short and thick, not unlike the plumage of some beautiful bird.
"Who are you?" he asked, his eyes wide. He was afraid to blink, for fear this vision would disappear.
She stepped forward, and her movement was like that of a dancer, save it was natural to her and unrehearsed. She bent forward, and kissed him gently on the lips, her fingers brushing his cheek.
He stood paralyzed with wonder. Then she stepped back away from him, to the edge of the mountian top. She smiled again. And she flicked up her chin petulantly at him. Her mouth opened, and a sweet melodious voice said one word.
"Kiiri"... and she stepped off the cliff’s edge.
He rushed to the edge, and looked down--his paralysis broken by her departure and apparent danger. But all he saw was the small pergrin flying away. He watched as the bird circled once, then glided away -- swooping and circling as if filled with the pure joy of flight. He stood as the small form dwindled to a speck against the surrounding mountains, then was gone. He stood there staring for a long time, then climbed down the path on the other side of the mountain. A sweet melodious voice haunted his mind ever since. One word. "Kiiri."