Catastrophe Cliffs

“Make the best of times, you never know when disaster might strike!”

I wrote this story in answer to the following prompts:
Pensitivity’s three things challenge – Trail – Fun – Drenched
FOWC with Fandango — Emotions – more showing emotions than using the word
Ragtag Daily Word — Dangerous

Catastrophe Cliffs

A stiff, salty ocean zephyr. Unending blue skies and the sun-dappled waters of the North Sea. These are the things that made the clifftop trail beautiful. Reese had lived on the coast all his life. Even still, he’d never appreciated the beauty as much as he did now. The reason was Harriet coming into his life.

Jumping onto the bench, he gazed upon her. He adored the way her shiny blonde hair fluttered in the breeze. Her pink denim shorts were cute along with her rose t-shirt. Everything about her made him happier than he’d ever — “Waa!”

The bench came to an end.

Reese toppled off into the marram grasses.

Harriet stifled the giggle as she came to him. “Hey, you silly thing. Are you okay?” she asked.

Flat on his back, Reese smiled at her. “Never better.” Climbing to his feet, he took her hands and began to dance her around the clifftop.

“What’s with you?” Harriet asked. The slight blush in her cheeks and the sparkle in her soft-brown eyes showed she was enjoying the romantic moment.

Reese pirouetted her close for a kiss. “They say when one door closes a window opens. My window was you.”

“Aww, you slush puppy. That was sweet of you to say,” Harriet kissed back as they began to walk again.

“I mean it. When we met on the pier, I wasn’t just out for a walk. I’d lost my job. My dad kicked me out as a result. There was nothing left for me. I was going to walk straight off the end of the pier and end it all. My door to life had closed and yet a window containing an angel had opened.”

“So, that’s why my bag broke,” Harriet rubbed his arm, her eyes focused on a herring gull hovering like a speckled-brown hang glider on the breeze.

Reese nodded, he remembered the moment. Lost in his suicidal thoughts, he’d gone around the pier café. It was there a cascade of objects blocked his path. Bending to help pick up the contents of the ladies handbag, he’d come face-to-face with Harriet. An instant connection leading her to buy him coffee and the two spending the rest of the day together. Days later they were inseparable. “Yes, that’s why. I must have been blessed as the fates brought you to me in my time of need. I’ll always be grateful to you for that.”

“Well, I’m grateful that you chose to have coffee with me instead of letting the darkness consume you. Life is so much more fun with you in it.” Harriet moved to kiss him again. At the last second, she poked his nose, squealed and ran off in a fit of giggles.

“Oh, ho! Now, you’re for it!” Reese laughed as he gave chase. He caught and pinched her bum, stole a kiss and ran away.

Then she was chasing, spanking him and darting away.

The two became lost in their frivolous game, never noticing the sudden change in the weather. An imposing wall-cloud had rolled in emitting almost invisible flashes of lightning.

With the deep, earth-shaking rumble of thunder, the storm announced itself.

Harriet shrieked as Reese caught her around the waist. Large drops of water began pattering all around them. “Argh! The rain’s freezing!”

“I noticed. Come on we need to go off the cliffs. This is getting dangerous!” Reese kept hold of her hand as he turned back along the trail toward home.

The storm roared ominously overhead. The rains falling heavier by the second. Strong gusts began churning the waves as they pounded the beach.

“You, meanie storm! You ruin our fun and got us drenched!” Harriet complained, with water cascading through her hair plastering it to her head.

As if answering, fresh lightning cut through the black sky; its rolling rumble echoing over the clifftop.

“At least, we won’t need showers tonight,” Reese spluttered. The rain was so heavy, he felt as if it was drowning him. At least he could see the lights of the town in the distance now.

“No kidding! Will need wringing out in —” A deep blue flash of lightning, erupted from the clouds like a laser beam. Striking the church steeple in a shower of sparks. “Wow, did you see that?”

“Yeah! That was awe —” Reese felt his chest tighten as his hand slipped from Harriet’s. She wasn’t falling, he was. The heavy downpour had caused the clay cliffs to subside and collapse. He was going with them.

“REESE!” Harriet screamed and dropped her stomach with the ground trembling beneath her.

He felt her hands grab onto his wrist. She’d caught him just below the cliff edge. All around him, the cliffside continued to carve, sending great chunks of clay and rock crashing onto the beach almost a hundred feet below. “Oh, shit! Oh, Shit!”

“Stop swearing and get up here,” Harriet demanded. “The rains making my hands slippery!”  

Reese couldn’t control his panic, scrabbling around he’d come to a terrifying realisation. Panting through his fear, he looked into Harriet’s eyes as lightning forked directly behind her. “Please, you have to let me fall!”

“No! I saved you from killing himself on the pier. This damned cliff is not taking you from me now!” Tears spilt from her eyes mixing with the rain still pummelling the clifftop.

“Harriet, listen. The clifftop is undercut. There’s nothing beneath you. Please … ” Reese felt himself drop a couple of inches.

“I don’t care. Climb!” Harriet wrenched on his wrist making the clifftop crack around her.

“Harriet, I love you. And I thank you for trying to save me but we’re both going to die if this falls. Please, don’t die for me. Let me go and save yourself.” Reaching through the deluge with his free hand, Reese tried to pry her fingers open.

Harriet shook her head, redoubling her efforts to hold him. “You’re not dying alone,” her voice trembled with emotion. “If you die, we both die — you understand me?”

“Please —” Reese tried to swing a leg and find purchase. It was then the clifftop failed. Harriet fell into him and vanished in a wall of mud as they plunged toward the beach.

Tumbling in a tornado of debris, he heard her scream. His descent ended with a heavy splat driving the air from his lungs. “HA-RR-IET!” he choked while desperately trying to gain his breath and dig himself free at the same time.

The relentless storm, hammering rain and howling wind, his only reply.

Covered head-to-toe in muddy clay, he hauled himself free. The liquefaction of the substrate was all which had stopped him dying in the cliff fall. Even still he was sure his wrist and a rib were broken by the stabbing pains and his difficulty breathing. “Ha-rr-iet!”

Still no answer.

“Don’t —you dare — be dead after — giving —your life — for me!” he cried as a shadow loomed above him. Throwing himself aside, he cowered under another avalanche of clay. His chest burned with the intensity of a red-hot poker as he clawed his way to his feet again.

A flash of white caught his eye as the lightning raged again. Stumbling through the debris, he saw her lying half-buried in the cliff fall. “No! Harriet. I’m coming!” Reese fell, “Damn you, storm. Please stop!”

Staggering to his feet again, he sloshed his way through rivers of clay and water to Harriet and dropped beside her. “Come on! Wake up!” He urged as he feverishly dug her right arm and lower body out of the oozing clay. Moving every handful of the brown gunge away was agonising, but he never stopped. He never could until she was free and safe.

“I got you, sweetheart. Come on! Wake up, for me!” he pleaded as the last of the clay fell away. His fingers found a pulse at her neck — hope. With an agonised roar of pain, he scooped her into his arms and staggered away from the cliffs.

Crossing the pebble revetment, he lay her on the sand. “You’re safe now, Harriet. Just need you to wake up!” he said with his chest heaving and tears flowing with rain down his cheeks. Taking out his phone, he dialled 999. “Please, help us. My girlfriend —and I — the cliffs collapsed and we fell …”

“Alright, help’s coming. Where are you?” asked the operator.

“On the beach east of Cromer. Harriet’s unconscious. Please hurry.”

“Okay, stay calm. What about your injuries?”

“My wrist and chest hurt, but please don’t worry about me. I —” Reese felt something grip onto his free hand. He dropped the phone and broke into a beaming smile. Harriet had taken his hand. “Harriet, you came back to me!”

“I’m not going anywhere without you, sweetheart,” she said with the most beautiful smile on her dirty face.

“I can’t believe you sacrificed yourself for me.”

“I love you, silly. I’d always give my life for you as I hope you would me,” Harriet broke into a coughing fit; expelling water from her lungs.

“I’ll always be there for you.” Reese helped her roll to a side and then sit up as she recovered. “Help’s coming, you’ll be okay,” he told her while rubbing her back.

“No, will be okay,” Harriet smiled and kissed him. Looking down at her clay-covered clothes and legs, she groaned, “Well, now, we’ll definitely need those bloody showers!”

Reese raised his head toward the storm cloud with the guffaw of laughter. “If I can have some painkillers with that shower, it’s a date.”

“Consider it done.” Harriet hugged him. She wouldn’t let go until the paramedics came to take them to the hospital. They knew only the power of love and luck saved them both today.

The End


Thanks for reading my friends.

There’s more in the Poetry CornerShort Stories. Short Stories 2. and Short Stories 3 tabs.

Have a great day!

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