Sep 23, 2012

Hanging by a Moment

By Hiba Fatima Hassan

My vision is beginning to falter. I keep zoning out; one moment, I can see clearly, the other, everything darkens. I feel overwhelmed, like a new born child looking at the world around her for the first time; all I could see were irregular shapes and vivid colours that I failed to name. Beads of perspiration race down my forehead in the sweltering heat and my hands, grubby and clammy are starting to slip. My fingers, rigid and bent like claws, hold on to the ragged surface of the rock, digging into its grooves. The deep purple cotton shirt I'm wearing clings to my skin, damp with moisture, and my cobalt blue jeans are rolled up at my ankles, brushing against my skin like sand paper. The breeze is cool, but not the least bit pleasant, for all I can hear are screams of horror and gasps.  Looking up, I see a piercingly bright yellow sphere, and looking down, I see a swarm of bees, buzzing on the ground, looking at me in confusion, wondering how I ended up in the state that I am in.

I think of my cousin, who once told me that Pakistani adventure parks were only meant for serious risk takers, because you could actually die in one. I had laughed at her; I never thought it could be true. Well, at least that's what movies taught me. You could take a risk, have the time of your life, beat your fears before they consumed you and finish with a smile. I have only ever dreamed of adventures like these, escapades that my mind is brave enough to visualize but my heart to timid to conquer. Today, it was all meant to change.  I gaped at the sixty foot high rock climbing course in awe as the man in charge tightened my harness and snapped the rusty metal clip into place. A thick, rough, earth coloured rope was lowered and fastened to the metal clip in a knot that left room for more tightening.

"Pakistan's best adventure park!" the tattered flyer had boasted, displaying pictures of local celebrities enjoying themselves. It didn't tell you that their equipment was worn out, that their employees were aged and frail and incapable of saving lives, or that their quad bikes could stop running in the middle of the track. It certainly didn't tell me that halfway through the rock climb, my harness would begin to loosen and the corroded metal clip would snap open, that the flimsy strands of rope would break and I would plummet towards the ground. The only thing holding me where I was is my own strength. The palms of my hands bleed from the jagged surface they had to clench to save my life, and I can feel my toes curling, trying to grip the rugged surface of the rock that is my scaffold.  My back arches outwards as if I were a hunchback, acting as a weight pulling me down, and my short, stocky legs are losing sensation.  My mouth is so dry that I cannot even muster the energy to scream.

Amidst the screams and the panic, I realize that I am my only protector and I couldn't go down without a fight. I straighten my posture and grip the rock even more tightly. Every move has to be calibrated precisely.

I tiptoe my way upwards but suddenly, I stagger and ground beneath me slips, I am shaken to my core so strongly that my mind is vacant of all thought. From the crowd below emanates a solitary sound: my mother's bloodcurdling scream.


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