I faced the enemy, trying to look strong even though I felt like if the wind got any stronger, I would by knocked away.
He saw the weakness in me, the exhaustion that I couldn't see in him.
He shook his sword loose from his belt, letting it flash silver in the dim light. The grin that spread across his face left me feeling helpless. How on earth was I supposed to win?
Dale, behind me, saw that I was going to struggle and he lunged forward at the enemy, throwing himself into the air and landing on top of him.
The enemy made noises, grunts and curses, and I thought maybe we would have a chance at beating him when he raised his staff. Dale, knowing what he was about to do, threw a quick punch under his nose – a sensitive spot. He moaned heavily as Dale kept punching, over and over again, but somehow the enemy managed to throw his staff at me, standing next to the cliff, as rain started to fall, sharp as shattered bits of glass.
The staff hit me full force in the stomach before I could react, the surprise hitting me just as hard as the enemy's weapon was. And then I was skidding across the rocky ground, things scratching me as I flew across the rubble.
Then I felt first my foot hanging in open air, then my shin on my right leg, then both thighs. And then I was grasping for my life by my fingernails, clutching the rock with trembling hands as the rain wetted my hair and clothes and the rock I was relying on as my lifeline.
Suddenly my fingers slipped, and I fell for a brief moment, a scream of panic coming loose from me, when something caught my wrist.
When I looked up through the rain I saw Dale, his torso hanging off the cliff, his arm grasping my wrist, his knuckles turning white with strain.
And we were dangling, and I wasn't light, and he wasn't all that strong.
The rain hit my face, streaming down my face like tears. His face, all that I could see, was wet and dirty, his hair messy and matted with all different sorts of things.
I looked at him with a quivering lip now at the possibility of my doom coming so soon. What would it feel like, to drop through the sky and hit the bottom? Would I be a sack of bricks, falling over the edge and smashing into a million pieces upon impact? Or would I be an angel, falling from the clouds, flying through the air for that brief moment before she closed her eyes?
I was taking shaky breaths. I didn't know what to think. What did I want my last words to be?
"Just hang on!" Dale was shouting at me through the wind.
"Dale-" I started to tell him that it was hopeless – just let me fall now before I could change my mind – but he interrupted me.
"Help! Help!" he tried to scream, but we both knew there was no one around to hear.
He tried to pull, using all his strength, I could see it on his face, trying to pull me up. But I didn't move any more than a few inches.
By now my clothes were thoroughly damp and my hair could be wrung out to make a puddle. My eyelashes were sprinkled with water and more dripped from my chin.
"Just let go, Dale," I told him hopelessly. I knew we'd been through so much together, and it would be hard, but he had to at least learn. I'd be replaced, I knew – they would always replace those lost – and he'd have to learn what death was eventually. After all, for Dale, death seemed like an impossibility.
"No!" he yelled back. "You know I won't!"
And in that moment, I did. I knew he would never leave me and walk away knowing he let me die.
His hand was slipping on my wrist, and soon we were just clutching each other by our fingertips. Tears were really streaming down my face now. I wondered, vaguely, if he could tell or if he just thought it was rain.
"Don't cry," he shouted down to me, and I remembered he knew me too well to distinguish my tears from rain.
"I won't," I said to him, even though I already was.
He looked down at me, deep into my teary eyes, and I saw tears gather in his own, too. "Good," he said, "I won't, either."
And we dangled there, in the rain, wishing it wouldn't go away only so that we could believe our tears weren't real.