Part 1 (Chapter 1 - 5)

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Chapter 1

Fearing the fall Erik clung to the cliff. The thought of the consequence of his fingers slipping, the misjudgement of a foothold and the certain death that would follow paralysed his body. Stood on the boulders jutting out of the sea, he had thought climbing the cliff would be a trivial challenge, it certainly hadn't looked that high, but now clinging to a narrow ledge halfway up his perspective had changed. The boys watching below appeared small enough to put in his pocket. He pressed his face against the cold rock unable to climb higher or even to climb down if he wished.

'You're not scared are you?' taunted a voice from above.

He risked glancing up to where Harald clung to the cliff several feet above his head. Harald's face was a gloating expression of triumph. It had been Harald that had challenged Erik to climb the cliff. Driven by the constant urge to prove himself, Erik had accepted without hesitation. A decision he now wished he had thought longer about.

'No,' Erik lied feebly. Nausea churned in his stomach. His fingers ached and his hands were so sweaty it felt as if butter smeared his palms. Yet he was not going to give Harald the satisfaction of seeing him afraid. With false bravado, he yelled back up the cliff, 'If you're scared, we can climb back down.'

'I'm scared! You're the one clinging to that rock like it's your mother's apron,' Harald mocked. To prove his point he let go of the rock with his left hand and dangled by just one arm. Terrified of the thought Erik pressed his body tighter against the rock. Harald laughed. 'I always knew you were a coward. Do you want me to climb down and rescue you?'

'I don't need any help. I'm just taking a break to enjoy the view.'

'What view? All you can see is the rock an inch from your face,' Harald jeered. He yelled down to the boys below. 'Erik's a coward. He's too scared to climb any higher.'

'Am not!' Erik protested. 'Just catching my breath.'

Under the scrutiny from the boys below Erik had to climb on. The fear of a potential death was nothing compared to the shame of being branded a coward. It was not just his own pride at stake, but that of his father. To climb back down, or worse to be rescued, would be an embarrassment he would never be allowed to forget.

The first move was always the hardest. He took a deep breath and with a trembling hand reached upwards for a handhold. Pressing his fingertips against the rock, he wedged his foot into a crevice, and hoisted himself upwards. Now all he had to do was take his time and just keep moving. Concentrating on nothing else but the next ledge for his feet or a crack for his hands, he inched upwards. His right hand brushed against the long strands of brown grass that clung to the cliff's edge. He risked looking up. The top of the cliff was only a few feet away. Harald had already disappeared over the edge. Forgetting his caution he scrambled up the remaining few feet and heaved himself on to the firm ground.

For a few moments, all he could do was lay panting beside the cliff edge as he tried to steady his racing heart. The sickness in his stomach and the trembling in his limbs vanished as quickly as they had appeared. He heard applauding from below and peered over the edge. Safe on the cliff top, his perspective had changed again. The boulders where the boys stood cheering did not appear that far at all.

'Anyone would think we just climbed a mountain,' Harald grunted. Even though he belittled their achievement, he still waved and smiled to the boys like a triumphant hero. He stepped away from the cliff's edge and looked at Erik. 'I supposed if it was any higher you would have wet yourself and cried like a baby.'

'I climbed the cliff.'

'You were terrified.' He lifted his hands and mimed being stuck against the rock face.

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