The Impossible Climb:
Heat waves shimmered off of the road in front of the car. Sweat rolled down my forehead and into my eyes.
“Remind me again why exactly we're doing this?” I moaned.
My dad looked up into the rearview mirror and smirked. “Because it's a challenge.” he replied as he turned into the tiny little driveway in the middle of nowhere. The parking lot seemed fairly full for a “challenge”-impossible insanity if you asked me, but then again, no one ever did-set in the middle f nowhere.
My dad parked the car and got out. Within moments, he was covered in sweat.
“Whew.” he said. “We're going to need lots of sunscreen!” He poked his head back into the car. “Electronics off and everybody out!”
I reluctantly and miserably turned off my media player. “Will the electronics be safe in the car with this heat?” I asked.
“It'll cool off. Out.” he replied.
I sighed heavily and tucked the media player under my seat before putting my boots on and scrambling out of the car. I grabbed my pack and exasperatedly wiped sweat from my body before going to stand in what little shade the car offered and lathering on sunscreen. As I attempted to rub the lotion into my sweat-soaked skin, I thought back to the mysterious letter that had dragged us all the way out here.
Dear Smith Family,
We have heard that you are a family of daredevil adventurers. We would like to challenge you.
The challenge is to take a two-day trip down our mountain. This is not as easy as it sounds, for you will be going down and back up the vertical side. There are no places to rest. It is a full day's journey each way, although we suggest you travel at night to avoid the extreme heat.
There had been more, minor details. The rules-how you igned in when you started and out when you finished. We were to wait parked outside our house, all packed and ready the next day. There had been no signature of any sort.
I was and am shocked that my dad agreed to this. They knocked us out with a sleeping gas and we woke up on that endless road here, to the middle of nowhere.
Dad walked over and greeted the others who would be going with us; My two cousins, boyfriend, and two best friends. The dad went to go sign in as the moms finished last-minute supply checks and we kids helped out wherever we could.
We left at sunset. No ropes or ladders. Just an endless wall of rock pointed straight down.
The dads went first, then us kids, then the moms. No one spoke for a long while. My little brother climbed with our cousins, and I climbed ahead of them with my friends and my boyfriend.
It was tough going. There really was nowhere to stop and rest. My friends complained from the first ten minutes to an hour later. My boyfriend was being encouraging from below, helping me place my feet so I didn't fall.
My arms started shaking in the first half hour. My legs were always stronger than my arms. But after two hours, even my legs were tired. The moon was bright, and stars glittered everywhere. It was still warm, but not too bad. The rare times we looked around, there was nothing but one skinny strip of wall and endless desert around it.
The wall was so skinny we had to go one at a time, and there were some places where there was a giant hole in the middle, and we could see straight through the wall. It wasn't very confidence-inspiring. My dad stepped in the first of these holes.
All we heard was his scream.
Surprisingly, this didn't bother anyone. We just kept going, like robots.
Then my friends moms let go. Their screams blended into one.
And we kept going.
The moms fell first. We heard other cries from the dads, but didn't know who fell when.
After four hours, my vision started going blurry. My boyfriend started keeping a light touch on my feet and ankles, guiding me down.
It was all I could do to hold on when my friends started talking about letting go.
Even as my little brother fell past me, I was more worried for my friends than anyone else.
Somewhere around six hours down, we gradually became aware it was only the kids minus the two youngest-my little brother and my younger cousin had dropped. We dragged on.
Eventually, the ground grew closer. My remaining cousin grew so excited that he let go too early. We weren't sure if he would survive or not.
Finally, we reached the bottom. I didn't even notice until my boyfriend grabbed my waist and pulled me down into his arms. We stood there holding each other for a while.
As the remaining members of our party dropped down behind us we all just kind of stood and stared at each other.
Eventually we started to set up camp for the day, as dawn approached. Looking around, I saw no sign of the bodies of our family and friends.
We slept through the day and most of the night. Seeing as we didn't have enough supplies to wait until the next nightfall, we decided to start up right away and just deal with it. Well, most of us.
Just as I placed my foot back on the wall and reached for the first handhold, an arm encircled my waist and pulled me back down. My boyfriend kissed me swiftly, murmuring that he wasn't coming with, he wasn't strong enough and wouldn't make it, although he thought I would. He then asked me to stay with him.
“You can make it!” I protested. “Please...for me?”
He shook his head, fading away. In moments, I was on the ground sobbing hysterically. My friends gathered around me, pulling me to my feet and encouraging me.
Just as they always had.
Even when my family wasn't there for me, when I couldn't trust them or talk to my boyfriend, whenever everyone left me alone, broken, and bleeding, my teammates, my closest friends, patched up my wounds and helped me up, pushing me to push myself to finish the race.
Finally, I stood and wiped away my tears. Dawn was breaking and we had to finish this together. Because we started it together. As a team of close friends.
“Stay strong.” We told each other. “One more day to go.”
Again, I started up. This time I kept going. I refused to stop, climbing steadily through the day.
Everything looked different on the way up. I recognized nothing. Normally I would expect things to be in the same order, just in reverse. They weren't.
I finally reached a place where a bush grew in the middle of the path. I reached up into it to pull myself through like I had so many times already. If I had thought that my arms had hurt yesterday, or every before, it was all nothing compared to now. I was so exhausted I was dead. A living corpse.
And so I screamed out loud and almost fell when I found the snake in the bush.
“It helps if you follow the path and go around.” My friend suggested from above me. She reached down with a branch, and as I grabbed hold, I worked my feet around he side of the bush along the path I had not seen before, until she could lever me away from the wall and swing me up in an arc. I landed on top of the wall. We'd made it! Together we pulled our other friend up, and we all ran, racing each other down the side that was not a vertical drop.
When we reached the parking lot, I went to lean on one of the cars, and to our surprise, fell right through it! We all stared at each other, not comprehending what was going on.
A team of people in uniform stepped around the cars.
“Well done.” their leader praised us. “Most people fake it. In fact, it's expected. You're supposed to.” he explained. “No one has ever actually attempted this before, except us. And no one has ever survived.”
We stared. “All that.....our families died.......My boyfriend DIED! For NOTHING?!” I screamed. I ranted for a long time, cursing as badly, if not worse, than my dad (which is saying something!). I ranted on and on until
I woke myself up.
For a long time I lay staring at the ceiling. While in the dream it had seemed pointless, but now..The more I thought about it, the more I understood, as the pieces of the puzzle fit together seamlessly.
You don't need family. You don't need a boyfriend or a girlfriend, a husband or a wife. They will come and go.
But friends are forever. There is no such thing as 'Best Family Forever' or 'Best Boyfriend Forever' it's 'Best Friends Forever'.
Friends are your shoulders to cry on, your band-aids when you're bleeding, your worst nightmare when you give up on yourself (this I know from experience), and the ones who always make you be your best, no matter what.
Whether it's keeping you out of trouble with your parents or making you looking good for that guy (just so you're happy even though they already know he's not good enough for you, they also know you'll never believe them till you break up), friends are the people you turn to.
A girl doesn't need anything else in the world but her friends.
Friends give you the courage and determination to go through life.
They attend family funerals and beat up boys. They're always by your side, no matter what.
This is my dream. This is my lesson. This is my life.
With this in mind, I got up, got a pen and a notebook, and started writing the most impossible climb of my life. And the most important life lesson I could ever learn.
It's all about love,
What about fun?
Who needs a boyfriend,
When you've got a friend?
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