Songbird Trilogy Book 1: The Maze Girl (complete)
Author: Julia R. West

Chapter 14
Devil's Tail

The train pulls to a stop at a building at the base of one of the peaks. We get off and are issued earpieces to hear the directions. We are each led to a different side of the mountain. Mine is labeled four.

A man's voice comes through my earpiece. "This particular mountain is called Devil's Tail." I don't like the sound of that. Then the same voice rockets directions in my ear at a rapid pace. "We'll set you off. No movin' 'til we give the okay. Fence behind you's for safety purposes only, show you where the bound'ries are. The rope's for you to help you climb. First to the top wins. Anythin' else you'll hear me again in your earpiece. Speakin' of that, keep it switched on at all times."

I'm trying to take in everything he said. I'm so nervous and lost in thought that I don't move when the earpiece buzzes with his voice again. "Climb!" That must be the okay.

I see the rope. It has a grappling hook attached to one end. I gaze upwards. There's nothing on my side for the hook to catch. I decide to climb a bit before using it and see if there's anything further up.

Foot and hand-holds are easy to find; the rock is worn away in places. I focus on staying calm and pretend I'm climbing at home like I used to do with Teryn. Rory had been teaching me recently, and now I dearly owe him, even though he hates me.

I'm about fifteen feet up when a good place for the hook comes into view. There's a ledge about a foot up and I steady myself on it. I toss the hook at the knobby-ledge, but it crashes down again. I throw once more. It clanks down to the ledge.

Three more times and no success. My extra throws are fruitless. I curse, for the first time in a long time. I guess I've gotten used to Rory doing it. Finally, it catches. I yank on the end and it holds.

It's a good thing, too, because foot and hand-holds are becoming few and far between the higher I go. And the rope is a good thirty feet long, plus it's steadied near a ledge that I can stand on once I get that far.

I'm at the next precipice in less than five minutes. I take the time to look down. I'm higher than the pine trees that seemed so tall when I was still secure on the ground. I feel dizzy and have to look away. I've climbed a long way. If I fall from here, I'll be dead without any doubt at all.

That's when I hear the scream. It's high-pitched and shrill; belonging to Teryn with no doubt. Involuntarily, probably by force of habit, I yell, "Teryn!" There's no response.

My earpiece buzzes. I'm frozen in place, listening. "Westfall requires medical attention immediately." I feel as if that was a mistake. I wasn't supposed to hear that. Did they just forget to switch off the microphone?

 But whatever the reason, Teryn needs help. She fell. "Teryn!" Still no answer, and I'm getting worried. Tears threaten my eyes, but don't follow through. I scramble as fast as I can.

There's a clang as my hook catches. A few minutes spent climbing. A few tears shed at the next ledge I have to stop at. That repeats. I'm fine, but Teryn fell! She fell from this height! I pause. If she fell from as high as I am, she'll be dead--or already is.

 This is exactly the sort of happening I was expecting. My luck is nonexistant.

There's a final buzz on my earpiece. But I don't care. I switch it off before I can hear the message it carries, and keep climbing, my vision blurred by tears.


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