Dig your fingernails into the cliff. Tearing away is better than dying. Pain so sharp you gasp. It's bright and pitched so high it scarcely feels like pain. It becomes a beam of cold light slicing up your arms, up your back, behind your eyeballs.
A moment and a lifetime ago, you were rested and serene, a Buddha of gentle smiles, your face aglow in the blue light of your screens. Your bones swimming in a sea of your flesh. Warm, dry, utterly unafraid.
A moment and a lifetime ago, on your screens, So many shows, so many screens, so little time.
No time now. Suspended, clawing with manic strength, the snap of the rope tight against your waist and thighs breaks your plunge and you whip against the cliff once, twice, you hang, your death interrupted.
Wait. Thighs? Your toes are bleeding in your tight shoes where they struck the cliff, six of your fingernails are dangling, but thighs?
You haven't seen your thighs in years.
You look down, the sweep of trees and the river beyond is heartbreaking.
You look up, recognizing climbing rope and pitons.
Someone is screaming below you. Their hand is hammered into the climbing winch. What happened to you must have happened to them too. Belaying device? Is that what they're called? The mind takes strange tangents when you're certain you're about to die and somehow, miraculously, you don't.
The pain mingles with the sunlight, your arms hang limp at your sides, dripping. Your fine strong arms.
The laughter from your dusty throat shakes your chest.
Your eyes fill with tears.
Some part of you knows this was a swap. Somewhere far away, behind screens of ancient entertainments, someone utterly undeserving must right now be warm.