A Voice in the Forest

The wind whistles past my ears. It carries the songs of the birds and other animals chattering in the forest. I can hear my friends, but their voices are fading.

It was a holiday in Costa Rica, a trek through Monteverde, one of the deep cloud forests there rich with life. Hundreds of miles distant from our home, but a world away from noisy city life.

Our guide was enthusiastic and accustomed to walking these nature trails. He told us the species of the birds behind each call, the type of monkey chattering, or pointing out the geckos when he heard rustling in the lower vegetation.

He told us about the area and the local climate, how the sun’s heat draws out the moisture from the ground after the rain and forms low level clouds. Trees rise tens of meters, stabbing their way through the mist, supporting and carrying their ecosystems into the heavens above.

Even through the mist we saw the chasm in front of us, a ravine with a rope bridge to take us across. I couldn’t see how deep it was, but the clouds beneath us gave the impression of immense height.

“Hold the ropes on each side, and step forwards slowly.”

We listened to our guide and followed his instructions. The wooden planks were still damp and my foot slipped as I stepped onto them, but the rope hand rails saved me. I was at the back of our group so the bridge swayed as each of the five in front of me inched their way forwards in single file.

I watched my footsteps carefully, not daring to look up and around, but I could hear every word of encouragement that the guide called out, even through the excited chatter of my friends and other monkeys.

Then it happened; my foot slipped sideways with a rubbery squeak on the wood, and with a clumsy twist, off the side of the rope bridge. My knee crashed onto the planks as my other leg scraped the swirling cloud beneath me. The rope from the handrail slid through my hands and in an unforgivable human reaction, I let go to relieve myself of the burning pain.

In panic I fought for purchase on the wet floor like a fish writhing on a wet ship deck, but to no avail. I dangled from the bridge with my ankle caught in the rope.

I heard the footsteps of the guide pushing past my friends and back towards me. I felt the pressure in the rope with each of his heavy sure-footed ...

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Paul Sterlini
Oct 3 2020

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