Breathe. Oh god oh god oh god. Breathe. Just. Just don’t look down or forward or move.
Stillness settled over the chilled crag. With shallow, unsatisfying breaths Edward tried desperately to remain calm.
“Come on, Eddie! You can do this!” a voice boomed through the air startling Eddie. He gave a small jolt, his shoulders breaking contact with the rock. For a moment Edward stood on a fifteen inch ledge with his feet the only part of his body offering support. In that moment, Edward knew he did not want to die and no living human was worth standing on this ledge for.
Edward was no one. He worked an entry-level job at a corporate behemoth in an accounting department with other accountants. His sole job was to make sure that one general ledger account never held funds for over 48 hours and if a 49th hour started, he was to transfer the funds out of the account and back into the account, achieving 6 additional processing hours. He participated in no other job functions. Most of Edward’s days were spent staring at websites, finding specks of humor in tired, altered internet photographs and lengthy forums in green text.
Friends, for Edward, consisted of internet handles and a few friends who went out for drinks every few months to pretend to have actual affections with real humans. With a dysfunctional family on top of that limited social life, Edward was the poster child for lonely single Americans. All the ways to communicate and no one to communicate with. Edward knew he was a sad member of the human species and a sad representation of the modern man. Pretending to be comfortable with his mediocrity, he avoided true intimacy.
And then he met The Girl.
Replacing Edward's cube mate – an old woman with dentures who had been an accountant for 53 years – was a girl named Bethany. Bethany was the antithesis of Edward. With friends, an avid social life, loving family, mainstream hobbies, and a flair for extravagance, Bethany embodied everything Edward wasn’t and assumed he could never be. Bethany’s bright outlook on life matched her million dollar smile and shimmering golden hair. A goddess walks among us, thought Edward, when she sauntered in on her first day, glowing in a pale blue sweater and tailored, slim-fitting navy jeans.
“Hi, I’m Bethany. We get to share a cube!” she beamed at Edward.
“Sup.” Edward replied wishing desperately he had some witty anecdote to begin conversation with. Luckily for Edward, Bethany carried on most of the conversation without prompting. He found her zest for life endearing and her passion for the extremes invigorating. Yes, Bethany was clearly a little crazy, but weren't we all a little off?
Fast forward four months and here is Edward, standing on a minuscule strip of rock overlooking a drop which would kill anyone, regardless of their constitution. Bethany spent the entire four months dragging Edward on death-defying adventures. Sky diving where the divers threw their parachute out first and then dove after it; zip-line tours where half the zip-lines were vines where participants swung Tarzan-style over crocodile infested water; and now a climbing expedition where participants were encouraged (sometimes coerced) into shimming out on microscopic ledges to face their fears and discover their “inner warrior.” Edward could feel his inner warrior escaping in a warm stream down his leg. Terrified, longing to tremble or shake but certain any movement would end his life, Edward eased his back against the chilled rock again.
Breathe. Oh god oh god oh god. Breathe.
“Eddie!” Bethany called encouragingly. Edward hated being called Eddie. “Eddie, find your hero, Eddie. Find that warrior deep inside you and let him-“ Bethany’s final words were cut off as a violent gust of wind tore across the cliff face in a violent torrent. The freezing wind tugged at Edward’s jacket, coaxing his body forward and away from the rock, pulling him toward the openness. Edward knew falling would end his life; Edward knew allowing the wind to pull his inner warrior out would also end with his insides on the outside, likely splattered over rocks and trees.
No girl, no matter how golden her hair or velvety soft her lips, was worth falling down a rock face. No inner warrior was worth discovering if the warrior had lain dormant this long. Edward knew this was the end. Not the end of his life, he would work his way back across the rock face and to the safety of his harness and well-grounded climbing ropes. No, this was not Edward’s end.
This was the end of Bethany.
Slowly working his way back along the ledge, feeling carefully with his thin, flexible shoes, Edward eased his was over to the waiting group and the harness of safety. The group stood on a wide, safe ledge, easily four feet wide and ten feet long. When his foot scooted onto the wide platform and his life was no longer in immediate danger, Eddie fell to his knees, placing both hands on the solid rock. Bethany knelt next to him and took his face in her hands.
“I’m so proud of you, Eddie! You did it! Wasn’t it amazing?” Her eyes bright with apparent insanity, she smiled at him, confident Edward had found his manliness. Edward placed his hands over hers, pushing her hands away from his face. Looking deep into her eyes, Edward whispered, “You’re a psychopath. And my inner warrior said to run as far and as fast from you as I could.”
For the first time in his meager life, Edward knew what it was to find the inner warrior and rest upon that hidden strength.