by Marco Smith ©2017

Day One

Risk! That was the key. It produced the crucial ingredient. The drug he sought, desired, craved. The hunger ran through his body, an itch that could only be silenced by drowning under a tidal wave of adrenaline. That high made him feel invincible, like he could achieve anything. Today that ‘anything’ was to conquer the impossible Rockfort Ridge.

The rocky face had stood for millennia, carved out of mountainous terrain by the unrelenting progression of the weather. It wasn’t a particularly high climb but it was one nobody had completed. The combination of sheer, smooth granite and the lack of fissures made the climb practically impossible.

Reece Cooper hadn’t dared to try in the 32 years leading up to today. Rockfort Ridge was so named because of its uncanny resemblance to a Fort, as though it had been hewn from the rock centuries ago to guard the heart of the mountain, or so the legend told. That was why Coop had to climb it. Since the first day he heard about it, the day he was drawn in by the incredible story, the day he saw the photographs proving it was a real place, the seed had been planted. Fructification had begun in earnest during his teenage years, every free moment consumed by his unrelenting drive. The adrenaline junkie Reece Cooper was unleashed.

The first part of the climb had been the most difficult, as it had seemed from the ground, which was exactly what scared people off. However, the Coop determination had found a way. He was now almost at the top, the familiar fuel coursing through his veins, pushing him onwards. The thought crossed his mind of what he would find at the top. He hadn’t considered this at all previously. The legend … what if that beast … lives on?

Onwards and upwards, racing skywards. To say Coop was fearless would be to deny the very thing that fuelled him. Approaching the pinnacle, a new fear started to grip his insides. This was different to the normal motivation he utilised each and every day. Adrenaline was born through fear and his motto had always been the old mantra ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. He attempted to feel this new fear. It was spiked, divergent. It chilled him to the bone. He attempted to force it down and pushed on with his quest. The top! He’d only made it to the top! He never had any doubt, he was invincible! He pulled himself over the lip and stepped from the bright Nevada day into utter darkness.

Coop shuddered — what, where, when was he? He felt Rockfort beneath his feet but it wasn’t there, not visually at least. It was like he had stepped through to another world. The unnatural darkness was total, encasing him, dark as pitch. It wasn’t like switching off a light where you still saw a residual glow. No, this was as though the very concept of light had been erased from existence.

His new fear bubbled to the surface, flashes of the terrible legend lit up his mind but provided no external light. He cursed his ambition, wished he hadn’t started this fateful journey. From the dark came unholy sounds. He was not alone in this void. Waves of panic washed over him, flooding him, drowning him.

Coop cried out for help that could not, would not come. He knew in his soul that rescue was impossible. Flight took control. His intestines liquidised and ran down his leg. He bolted. He ran like a headless chicken, not knowing where. His outstretched arms flailed to grasp onto anything familiar.

Suddenly, he was blinded by searing Nevada sunlight. Now his legs flailed, trying to run on nonexistent ground. Twenty seconds of freefall before he found his feet — just enough time for his eyes to adjust to his fate.

The adrenaline junkie Reese Cooper was released.


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