Absently, my free hand wiped cascading sweat off of my face. Unconsciously, my feet attempted to grip their holds tighter. My toes desperately pressed against the holes they had dug in the rubber soles of my shoes. I had a strong grip on the wall with my inhuman right hand. My flexible, articulated digits that could manipulate complicated machinery had disappeared over the last several hours. My fingers had been replaced with a white sloth-like claw that clung to gaps in the warm rock. I exhaled. My shoulders throbbed as I ascended to my next spot. My muscles measured the gap and moved my body automatically.
I was close to the top. The wind was blowing suicidal saltating sand grains over the ledge onto my face. I had been moving up the face slowly compared to the helter-skelter pace of Mysterious who was quick-stepping his traverse toward my spot. I blinked, and relaxed my tunnel vision of my immediate surroundings toward the larger picture. We had free climbed up from the base of the formation up a series of ledges toward a rocky ledge close to the summit. Over the course of the climb, I had relied on the memories of past climbs that my muscles had retained and ignored the fatigue and trepidation that were rattling around in my head. Since I was five feet from the top, I grudgingly had to admit that those fears had most likely been totally irrational. The worst thing that had happened to me, despite not climbing for months, and now not using protection on an unknown route, was my chalk-streaked complexion. My face looked like it had been pooped on by a herd of falcons thanks to the stale and clumpy nature of my old chalk.
Things could be worse, I mused, as I picked at one offending piece by my ear, while simultaneously yelling at Mysterious to move off my rear. After all, as I told him, there was nothing wrong with being cautious. Just because we had been fortunate on the climb so far, something could go wrong. If I fell, I would definitely clip him and knock him off the wall too. His response was a sardonic look and a one fingered salute. I sighed. It was clear that the best way to eliminate any danger was to hop up on the ledge. I sucked in air and levered up to the last hold, about three inches below the lip.