- Vol. 04
- Chapter 02
Image by Julien Menier
Last ChanceA black outcrop, wet with sea spray, looms above me, intense and threatening. There is nowhere to go at this late stage, no path down which to escape. To the left the sea rages, to the right 'they' advance. It is either the whipped up, white-topped sea or up and over the rocks. I choose the rocks. My hands touch the jagged black lava, hardened millions of years before, feel the sharp edges and unforgiving surface. One slip and I'll be shredded, pulled pork!
I start to climb, off in the distance I hear muffled voices shout instructions to each other, a guttural dialect I can't place. If I can get over the top before they arrive, I stand a chance. Adrenaline kicks in and somehow my feet find footholds as fingertips grip the small indents and crevices above me. "Use your feet to push up, not your arms to pull". The voice of the climbing instructor at Lochgoilhead Scout Camp all those years ago rings in my ears.
The voices draw nearer, become more distinct in the darkness. I move by touch alone, the dark skies make it hard to see more than silhouetted outlines. A faint glow on the horizon promises dawn. I scurry upwards, growing more confident with each step. My hands are cut and bleeding, slippery, but fingers grip, claw-like . "She's here somewhere, spread out!" Suddenly the voices are closer, almost at the base. I freeze, about five feet from the top, and flatten my body against the damp hardness. Move or stay still? I risk a quick glance upwards. Five feet, worth a try, it's preferable to capture. I feel above my head for handholds just as the sun starts to break the horizon and bathe the rocks in a golden flush; move now or be a sitting duck. Legs strain and calves burn as I push higher. I feel the sun before the rocks in front me light up; time is running out.
Trembling I reach higher, pull and push, panic makes me clumsy.
"There! Up there!" a voice shouts. A shot echoes, breaking the dawn.