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Kunama 1961

Literary Section / Thread of Life

He pulled exultantly on his rope, feeling that this was supreme moment of his life. The December sky was the highest azure with streaming clouds being scudded across the blue by a fresh breeze. He looked up. Seagulls circled incessantly around the grey crag above, and called to him there in their revelry. He looked down. Far below him, in a remote and distant world, blue rivers laced the hazy green panorama. His heart seemed to swell within him until he was enveloped in happiness.

He looked up again, into the clear sky and noticed that his rope was taut against a jagged outcrop about fifty feet above. He gave his rope an expert flick and watched the spiral curve swing upwards but the rope did not move. Smiling he threw again. Once more there was not enough power in his thrust.

He smiled and decided to climb higher before trying again. Then he saw that the rope was fraying. Fragments of fibre floated gently earthwards past him. The smile died on his lips. The climber gave his rope a vigorous tug. The result, nothing. He began to sweat and to creep stealthily up the rope, as if he thought his weight would be decreased by this. He saw the vital strands barely twenty feet from him, parting one by one against the cruel edge of the rock. The birds were silent. He looked momentarily down into the hazy beauty below while his hands were wet from perspiration.

Even while he was praying he imagined how foolish he must have looked from a distance - a tiny black speck dangling in the air, with only a rope between this world and the next and that rove was weakening!

Now he was only ten feet from the rock, but he saw that the rope was nearly in two. Another, second and it would be gone. He made his last effort. Driving his feet hard into the rock face he leapt upwards. His hand clutched at the rope - was it above or below the break? Through hazy eyes he saw the rope part beneath his wrist. The birds cried above in appreciation of his effort. Sweat matted his hair and clamped his shirt to his body. With quivering muscles he hauled himself up against the rock. He was safe. He paused for a minute and hung limply on the rope of life.

Now he was off again, climbing fast and vigorously and shaking the sweat from his brow, he knew that he cheated death. The gulls agreed and wheeled gracefully in the sun, their harsh cries exultant.


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