His hands started shaking. His palms began sweating. His legs beneath him felt like jelly wobbling uncontrollably. He looked over at the brave girl next to him. She was smiling and talking with the attendant strapping her into the seat.
She looked over at him, “Are you okay Dad?”
He smiled in return, “Yes, as long as you are happy sweetie”. Then he looked out over vast expanse of empty air under him and took a deep breath.
I’m a man, I’m not scared of anything.
~ 15 minutes earlier ~
“Dad are you sure you can do this?” asked his teenage daughter, “You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to”.
“Yes, Ali, I’ll be fine. As long as you want to do it, I’ll be with you”. He glanced over at his wife who was looking at him rather worriedly. “I’ll be fine honey,” he said to his wife, Tina, “just take Ryan with you to the other side, and Ali and I will see you over there”.
“Alright,” Tina replied, “Just be careful and have fun”.
“Don’t die Dad,” mocked Ryan with a smirk on his face. “OW!” he yelled after getting slapped by his sister who glared at him.
“Knock it off you two,” scolded his wife to the kids. “I love you honey,” she kissed his cheek and then grabbed Ryan’s hand.
And with that, his wife and son started walking back across the bridge to safety.
“So, are you ready for the best adventure of your life?” Ali asked smiling excitedly.
“Of course,” he replied, “who wouldn’t want to go ziplining across the Royal Gorge in Colorado Springs, which just so happens to be the highest zipline in North America?”
“That’s the spirit!” she yelled enthusiastically.
He smiled down at his daughter as they walked across the rest of the bridge back toward the tourist shops and restaurants. He didn’t want to admit how nervous and anxious he was. While he put up a confident front, inside, he was a ball of nerves just ready to explode with anxiety and fear. But he had to do this for his daughter. She meant everything to him. So, no matter how scared and terrified he felt inside, he would stay with her no matter what.
They continued walking past the food courts and gift shops as they slowly ascended the hill. It was a very steep walk to get to the zipline tower at the top of the hill. Just enough time to feel the anxiety and nausea creep its way into his system. No, he had to stay calm. He would be fine.
“Geez, why is this walk so steep?” Ali huffed as she slowly dragged herself up the hill.
“I’m not sure,” he answered, “maybe to drive away people dumb enough to want to zipline across a gorge?” She looked at him with an annoyed expression.
“Uh-huh,” she turned away.
Feeling guilty, he said, “I’m sorry, I know how much you love dare-devil thrills. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I know that you don’t want to miss it.” She looked at him with a guilty expression that squeezed his heart.
“I’m sorry, Dad. I know how scared you are of heights and yet I made you agree to come with me just because I was too scared to go by myself,” she said as she hung her head in shame.
“Honey, don’t feel bad,” he wrapped a loving arm around her shoulder, “You know that I will do anything for you, right?”
“I know,” she pouted. “I just hate to see you scared”.
“I’m not scared,” he lied, “Just nervous is all. Come on, we’re almost to the tower,” He walked quickly alongside her as they approached the fence around the tower. They went up to a little shed that advertised where you paid and signed a waiver before going on the ride.
“That’s not concerning at all when we have to sign a waiver,” Ali joked as she wrote down her mom’s number for the emergency contact on the sheet.
“Yes, there’s no reason to worry about potential death during this questionable ride at all,” he replied while his stomach was violently churning, threatening to spill the contents of his lunch onto the ground.
“This is so exciting! I can’t believe we’re doing this! I’ve always wanted to ride a zipline!” his daughter practically squealed with delight.
“Mm-hmm,” was all he could conjure up in case his nausea overcame him.
After paying at the booth and signing the waiver, they climbed the steps to their impending doom. Each step up the stairs felt like he was walking closer to his own personal torment in hell while his daughter happily dragged him along.
When they finally reached the top after an eternity of walking, he saw the thing he dreaded most: the tiny metal clasp anchoring the thin, steel line to the seat that would determine whether he lived or perished by falling a thousand feet to the unforgiving rapids below. His palms started sweating and his legs began shaking, but when he looked down at his daughter so happy with excitement, he immediately felt better.
For a few seconds.
“Are you sure you can do this?” she asked him with large, worry-filled eyes.
He replied tenderly, “Yes, sweetie, as long as you’re happy, I’ll be happy. And he really did believe it in the moment.
Until it was finally time to get strapped into the horrid chair that was hooked to the line of death. The attendant motioned him forward and began giving him instructions about what to do and what not to do. He only heard about half of it however because his heart was beating so loudly, he swore everyone else on the platform could hear it too. He looked over at his daughter for a moment of sweet relief. She was grinning exuberantly and chatting with her attendant. He took a deep breath, placed his hands on the side straps of the chair, and looked forward. It was now or never.
I am a man, and I AM NOT SCARED OF ANYTHING!
The clasp let go, and suddenly, the platform was no longer under him.
He squeezed his eyes shut as he flew down the buzzing line. He only opened them briefly to see where his daughter was in front of him, only to see her fly behind him because of the weight difference pulling him along ever faster.
Then he started panicking. He refused to look at the ground hundreds of feet below him and he couldn’t turn his head around to see Ali because of the incredible speed of which he was flying down. The wind was whipping his hair and howling in his ears while he tightened his grip on the straps wishing it to be over already. He couldn’t even appreciate the incredible view of the gorge around him because he so focused on not passing out from fear.
When he reopened his eyes, he saw the landing come into a clearer view and saw his wife and son recording the whole thing. He heaved a sigh of relief for the fact that the ride of terror was nearly over. Suddenly, with high velocity, he hit the bungee strap at the end of the line meant to slow his entry and his seat flew forward then backwards, quickly stopping his momentum. Once he was settled, he saw his daughter come zooming in and collide into her bungee strap with the same force. He said a prayer of thanks to God that he and his daughter survived the ride. After the attendant released him from his prison chair, he walked over and hugged her in relief.
“Wasn’t that amazing!” she yelled, her eyes twinkling with joy.
“Yes,” he smiled warmly, “but I’m never doing that again.”
Alison Fetter is a novice writer who enjoys writing creative nonfiction memoirs and other short fiction pieces. She also loves reading romance, fantasy, and adventure fiction novels in her spare time. She is currently a sophomore year student at Lindenwood University where she plans on majoring in English with a minor in secondary education.