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Jenni Clarke - Author

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Zoe winced, holding her broken arm tight against her chest. Sweat poured down her neck despite the near freezing temperatures in the cave system, and tears trickled down her mud splattered face. She gazed at the circle of light above, seeing the faces of her friends, buried beneath her feet. The thunderous roar and their screams would haunt her for the rest of her life. Although if she didn’t climb to freedom, that might not be too long.

Small stones rolled like marbles beneath her feet as she stumbled up the steep scree covered slope.

‘Ah.’ She slipped and rolled to protect her arm, a sharp rock cut into her shoulder, but she didn’t feel it.

Pushing herself to her knees, her left hand fumbled for purchase on the freshly tumbled rocks, and left a glistening trail.

‘I…’ She reached higher. ‘…can…’ She felt for a secure hold ‘…do…’ She took a deep breath, frowning at the sharp ache in her chest. ‘…this…’ Pushing with her legs and pulling with her arm, Zoe inched up the rock face.

Her leg muscles cramped, and her arm shook with the weight of her body, but she continued to climb. She gasped when her mouth filled with water, spitting it out, then swallowing the next. Water, a blessing and a deadly enemy.

Zoe halted, and glanced up. She shivered as the icy water flowed over her. The rock she clung to loosened.

‘No.’ Despite struggling to keep her mouth and nose clear of the water, she increased her climbing speed, focussing on the growing circle of sky above.

She reached the top of the rock wall, pushed with her legs and flung her battered body over the edge of the waterfall. The water was only ankle deep, but she staggered against the current. Stepping onto a flat rock she collapsed to her knees, and a sob escaped her lips. She tipped her head back and stared at the blue sky, her eyes wandering over the long mossy tendrils hanging down from the world above, so beautiful. So far away.

Her eyes widened, and her pulse quickened. She stood, crying out as every injury awakened, and limped towards the hanging plants. She smiled through her pain at the green and yellow rope.

Zoe grasped the lifeline and tugged. Her knees buckled, but the rope stayed firm. She fumbled with her belt, cursing at her inept left hand. Biting her lip, she used both hands to attach a carabiner and ascender to the rope. She pushed the ascender high and pulled, it held firm.

‘One, two, three.’ Zoe pulled her trembling body up, all colour draining from her face, and wrapped her legs around the rope, before pushing the ascender up higher. The rope swayed, and her legs slipped but she found a rhythm, until her knuckles scraped rock, and then grass. She gathered the last of her strength and crawled to freedom, tears pouring down her face.

 

‘Cut. One more take, everyone, please.’

 

 

 Fiction - Cave

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