I am a true April Taurus—earthbound, practical, stubborn and temperamental. My life is ruled by fear. In true “bull” fashion, I tend to meet it head-on. It’s what drives me, not a weakness but a motivator.
I’ve always been a tomboy, preferring horses to boys growing up. I belonged to the Wilderness Challenge Club in high school (Wisconsin Academy in Columbus, WI). Whitewater rafting, caving, rappelling, canoeing, if it meant sunburn, mosquitoes and getting dirty—that was where you’d find me. Very glamorous stuff. Now, I’ve always been afraid of heights. Like—freeze atop a 6-ft ladder scared of heights. We won’t even mention airplanes. Sedatives. LOTS of sedatives…
So, the first time I went rappelling was at Devil’s Lake, from atop Devil’s Rock. Guarded by all manner of…rattlesnakes. Saw two, sunning on the rocks. So there I was on a snake-infested rock atop the world. Beautiful view. Wasted on a sixteen-year-old in a cold sweat. See, the secret to rappelling is to WALK down the rock face. Anyone who’s walked across a floor knows the easiest way to do that is to be perpendicular to the floor surface. So if the floor surface is almost entirely vertical, that means the walker gets to be the one who’s…horizontal. And that translates into standing backwards at the edge of a cliff, the true ground several hundred feet below, and LEANING back against a rope-and-nylon-harness-affair into thin air until you’re lying down on NOTHING—and then walk down the wall.
Sure. Uh huh. (Never said I was a BRIGHT kid. Well, okay, I was. Straight A nerd.) And Mr. Snyder was right there like some hairy bearded cheerleader from Buffy saying stupid things like, “It’s easy. You can do this. Nothing stops you. Just leeeeeean back and walk down.”
But it was my best friend stating “Don’t be such a chicken shit” that got me going. Okay, it took me 20 minutes of whimpering like a toy poodle in a thunderstorm before I leaned back enough to start walking. Reaching the bottom to more Buffy reject cheering felt like conquering Mount Everest.
That’s how I tackle life. I let fear motivate me into moving, defeating, conquering. It can either stop you or get you going. Being a Taurus, stubbornness gets me a long way through life. As a writer I try to let the quality bleed off into my characters. Set them up against a bad situation some would consider impossible, but the character just takes a deep breath, says “Who if not me?” and forges on to start, to try. And so the stories go.
They continued on. Rounding a clump of boulders like scattered marbles, Aryk paused and frowned as he eyed the path ahead. A fine latticework of ice crystals covered the surface, as if it had melted and refrozen. He crouched down, pointed to a jagged line transecting the snow. Valkyn studied it as well and nodded.
“What?” Verdeen whispered.
“Partial thaw,” Aryk replied. “Might’ve weakened this area. We cross above that line.”
“Spread out,” Valkyn advised.
They proceeded with caution. Verdeen watched Fiske. The dog’s fur stood on end as he sniffed the air and paced back and forth, stayed close to Aryk. Snow creaked and crunched underfoot, as if the Horn groaned at their intrusion. Verdeen shuddered. Ominous clouds crept across the sky. The dim light pressed like a physical weight against her. She tried to convince herself ’twas just her imagination, but the Horn no longer felt benign. It felt like ’twas waiting…
A sharp crack and Fiske’s startled yelp were the sole warnings as the snow collapsed beneath the dog’s paws, and he dropped. Verdeen choked down a scream as he disappeared into the ground. Aryk hurled himself to the snow, clutching the line. Slowly, he wound the line around his hands, drawing the dog back up with every coil. Verdeen didn’t dare move, scarce dared breathe, as Valkyn crept forward on his belly to the edge of the newly opened crevasse and grabbed Fiske’s harness when the dog came within range, hauling him back onto solid ground. The shaking, whimpering dog tottered over to Aryk, who wasted no time in yanking off his gloves and pulling the dog close enough to bury his face in Fiske’s red fur.
Verdeen’s heart thundered as Valkyn eased away from the treacherous opening. They’d almost lost Fiske. She’d gotten attached in just a few days. How much worse for Aryk, who’d raised him from a pup?
The sharp cracking continued. With a monstrous roar, everything on the lower side of the opening fell away, thundering down the slope in a wall of frozen white. They flung themselves to the ground as the slide fell away, shaking the Horn.
Aryk and Valkyn crawled over to her as the shaking stopped. Aryk reached across the snow to lay a reassuring hand over hers. She was grateful for the comfort as she clambered to her feet and looked down in dismay. Their way was blocked; too unstable to risk it.