The Climbing Rope

It's a bit dark, not the usual kind of thing I write, but I'm completely out of ideas. Especially ones involving a rope. Ropes are associated with nooses. Noose = death. No, I don't want to write a rope-swing paradise-island story.

This is flash fiction (and a good exercise in cutting out a lot of extra words. I went from 845 to under 600 words). That means it is only one chapter long. I refuse to write any more chapters. That is all.

Chapter 1

The One and Only Chapter

Jessica reached under some moss, pulling it up with a good snap. Fresh earth filled her fingers. A man lay in the grass, under a rope.

She pressed the moss to his thigh. It grew heavy, quickly saturated with blood. "It's going to be okay. It's going to be okay," she repeated.

He smiled a little. "I'm going to die. But yes, that's okay. A lot better than being stuck here."

Jess swallowed. "Who did this to you?"

"Doesn't matter."

She slid the moss off his leg and dug up another piece. Curious rodents peered at them from the tree. Insects explored the dripping moss chunk.

Mosquitos settled on his face. Jessica swatted a few away from herself. Shorts and a sleeveless neon top couldn't have been a worse choice. For all she knew, the mosquitos carried malaria.

"Don't die," she whispered.

He smiled weakly. "Stop wasting your time. Find a village."

No. She couldn't. Her morals refused. It would leave guilt scraping at her insides.

"No--" He sat up, wispy hair dropping flecks of leaves and dust. "You have to leave. There's an animal, it attacked me. I didn't get a good look at it, didn't want to scare you, but you can't stay. I couldn't live with myself if you got eaten."

"Lie down," she urged. "It's just a little blood. You'll be fine."

Another moss clump slid off his leg into the grass. She applied another.

"Lions can smell blood from miles away. I used to be a Zoologist. We're in the far parts of Africa. Get out of here."

Jess simply shook her head. Her heartbeat increased.

She was always the helper, the one that looked after the little kids, the one that washed the dishes when her mom wasn't home, the one that volunteered to pass out worksheets to the class. Blood soaked hands, jittery heart, trembling fingers. She couldn't go against her nature, not even to preserve herself.

This kind of thing only happened in the news. African safari gone missing, presumed dead, truck crashed in the middle of nowhere, found six months later.

He wasn't smiling anymore. The bloodloss was killing him. He pointed at the rope above.

"See?" He inhaled heavily. "Village. Come back for me. Go."

Her shaking limbs, the ringing in her ears. Help him. that's all she could grasp her attention on. She'd get heat stroke before she found anyone. Dizziness struck, a crack from nowhere. She slumped onto her elbows

Everything spun and danced around her. Vision was just to the left of everything, evasive. Spots, sparks, flashes.

"Uuuuh," the old man wheezed. "Don't die on me."

She tried to sit up.


"Wake up." He sounded almost dead. "Wake up. Please."

She forced herself to sit up again and took his hand. He wasn't dying alone.

The smell of blood overpowered stale jungle smell, tasting bitter and metallic. On the ground the moss was cool, but holding it to his wound turned the spongy tendrils hot and soupy. For all anyone knew, she could've murdered him. She could've been his murderer. But she had no weapon.

She panted. He was dead. Under the rope. His chocolate-powder skin felt like paper, flopping down as she let go.

Jess stood up. Liquid terror pumped in place of blood, she was sure of it. Her head was like a bowling ball resting on top of cardboard origami. She stumbled into a jungle tree, gripping the slimy bark for balance. Rope behind her, dead man behind her.

A coconut fell on her head and that was the hot, sweaty end.


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