a short story by Jeremy C Kester
(all rights reserved)
Darrel looked over the ledge.
Below, Ulrich was grasping at anything he could to regain his footing. Ulrich was panting heavily, his heart racing. Sweat was dripping from his brow, dripping into his eyes. His impulse was to wipe his eyes; he wanted to wipe his eyes.
“H-Help,” Ulrich stammered, trying to get his voice to steady past the shivering of his heartbeat.
“Are you alright?” Darrel asked, slowly lowering himself down to lie near the edge. There was an eerie calm about his voice. “You seem to be in some trouble.”
“You p-pushed me,” accused Ulrich.
“This doesn’t appear to be the right place to make such accusations. I have the high ground in this situation.”
“C-can you help me up?” Ulrich asked as he slipped again. He let out a yelp as he regained his grip and steadied himself once again.
His forearms were sore. Every thought running through his mind focused on how much they burned. With every moment he kept his fingers tight as the lactic acid flowed into his muscles. He wasn’t a proficient climber. He could barely make it up ¼ of the easy climbing wall at the amusement park. Even with life being the only prize, and death beckoning for him down in the ravine, he found himself lacking the skills to survive.
Darrel continued looking down at his friend struggling. He rolled Ulrich’s request on his tongue until the taste was bitter and he let it fall from his mouth. “How about we revisit this ‘me pushing you’ issue you wanted to discuss,” he said in a way that Ulrich would have been offended were he not preoccupied.
“Please, j-just h-help me,” Ulrich requested urgently again. As he shivered, his left foot lost its traction and he gripped up tighter. He yelped in fear of the impending fall. Quickly though, he was able to regain his footing.
“Why would you accuse me, your best friend, of doing such a heinous act as to push you over the edge like that?”
Ulrich looked up desperately at his friend. His body was screaming at him to let go. All he could do was to keep holding on. He didn’t want to answer Derrick; he just wanted to be brought up.
“Well?” Derrick pressed impatiently for an answer.
Ulrich just looked away. He knew what this was about: a girl. His wife.
Derrick never was happy that she chose Ulrich over him. How could she? Derrick was suave, handsome, fit, and ambitious. Ulrich was just a scrawny geek. Sure, Derrick loved Ulrich. That is until Ulrich beat him at something.
Ulrich beat him at the only thing that truly mattered.
“W-why are you doing this?” Ulrich stuttered. “Please just help me,” he begged.
“Why the hell did she choose you?” Derrick hissed angrily.
Ulrich for a moment contemplated just letting go. The pain was echoing throughout his body as he continued his struggle to hang on. A quiet debate pushed through his mind: whether it would be more rewarding to him now to just fall.
Looking up and seeing his angry friend who did little to help, Ulrich decided to try to climb up himself. The pain bellowed through his muscles as he attempted to let go each of his limbs to grip upon something hopefully sturdier than what he was holding onto. Only the fear of death drove him forward past the pain.
As Ulrich struggled though, he heard his friend begin to bellow with laughter. “Do you really think that you will make it up by yourself?” Derrick taunted.
He tried desperately to ignore the taunting. With his body trembling from the simultaneous fear and struggle, he could barely keep his focus on holding on.
“Please help,” was all that Ulrich could find to utter as the trembling got worse. His heart was near to leaping out of his throat.
“I am not helping you,” Derrick said in a despicable, matter-of-fact way. “I’d rather you fall so I can be here to save her.”
Just then Ulrich’s muscles finally gave way. A terrifying scream bellowed as Ulrich began to fall. Derrick simply stood at the edge watching as his friend plummeted.
The end was almost non-eventful in Derrick’s mind. A light thud came from below as Ulrich tumbled below into a bloody heap.
Silently, Derrick smiled at the body below. It was done.
Taking his phone from his pocket, he dialed a number. It rang twice before she answered.
“Derrick?” she asked sounding concerned as to why it was him calling. “What do you want?”
As though he were crying, Derrick contorted his face, though no tears echoed his façade, “Ulrich is hurt. There was an accident.”