Four men on a windswept roof. They're businessmen, dressed as weekend warriors in matching khaki vests and casual slacks. One of them is the new guy. He's nervous - frightened, really - and trying not to show it; even here in the middle of the roof his acrophobia is kicking in. And they're not staying in the middle of the roof; they're going towards the edge, where there's a long, long metal ladder, painted a pale institutional green, that goes over the side and, for all he knows, all the way to the ground, fifteen stories below. He knows what they're going to make him do, and they do... they make him climb out onto the ladder, to face his fear, as part of his initiation.
He clings to the rungs, not looking down after that first unavoidable glance, for long minutes that seem longer because he has no idea when they'll end. But... hey, it's not so bad, after awhile. He can stand this. He's not going to start dancing here at the edge, or anything, but he can stand to open his eyes a little. Maybe this is working.
He feels a slap on his back, and realizes that the test is over. He unclasps his hands from the rungs of the ladder, feeling every millimeter of skin as it peels stickily away from the paint, and takes the hand of his smiling friend. And then his friend smiles even more broadly and pushes him off the building.
His pants are wet and he's screamed himself hoarse, but eventually it dawns on him that he's not falling. He's swooping, dangling face down far from the building's edge, but he's not falling. There's pressure on his chest, and by twisting around he can tell that there's a cable at his back, attached to that heavy khaki vest, and stretching up to a tower crane that he hadn't registered as anything but part of the background. His friends are hooting; he finally lets himself hear them.
"You didn't think that li'l ole ladder was the initiation, did you?" one of 'em says.
Now all he has to do is wait until they decide to let him down...
November 15, 2005
©2005, 2006 Alan P. Scott. All rights reserved.
Last updated May 5, 2006.