A Sisters' Tale/C8 A Touch of Acrophobia Prevents One from Rising to the Occasion
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A Sisters' Tale/C8 A Touch of Acrophobia Prevents One from Rising to the Occasion
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C8 A Touch of Acrophobia Prevents One from Rising to the Occasion

When Patty was around six years old, an obnoxiously pushy cousin of hers coerced Patty to agree to climb a tree along with her. That was the infamous ordeal which instilled that one daunting fear that plagues Patty to this day.

The tree itself wasn't that tall, per say; but considering how petite she was at that time … Patty used to be quite small for her age back then; being looked upon and referred to as 'the runt' among her family, friends, and acquaintances … it might as well have been Mount Everest that she was climbing.

However, as arduous as the undertaking may have been; she somehow managed to overcome the task at hand and make it all the way up to the top. … A monumental occasion in life? Perhaps. But certainly not one that one would consider to be victorious.

Besides being obnoxiously pushy, Patty's cousin was also quite the prankster; as well as known for being somewhat spiteful at times and possessing a bit of a mean streak to boot. And she loved placing people in sticky predicaments for her own personal amusement … especially Patty, who for some reason was her favorite target. Of course, at that time, Patty was too kindhearted and naive to realize that she was her cousin's 'mark'; which was why she was constantly falling victim to her cousin's traps.

Yes … her cousin did climb all the way up the tree, along beside her; even assisting Patty when she was struggling at times. And she even congratulated Patty on a successful climb when they reached the top.

But then; she quickly deserted her cousin's side, and climbed down … leaving Patty behind, all alone up in the tree. Patty now found herself stuck up in the tree; all alone and unable to climb back down. It was at that point when Patty suddenly lost all her nerve and started to panic; shortly becoming petrified by fear.

And Patty remained stuck in that predicament for nearly two hours … though it seemed like a lifetime to her … until a passerby happened to come across her.

The fire department was inevitably called to get Patty down; and that frightfully harrowing ordeal of hers had finally come to an end. Of course, there was still the humiliation of realizing that she had just been rescued like some sort of helpless cat stuck up in a tree … a lingering humiliation which had constantly haunted her for the next year and a half; when she had gone from being known as 'the runt' to being called 'poor little kitten'.

But that period had eventually passed … along with that nickname. And, fortunately for Patty, she had a significant growth spurt early on during middle school; so, she also managed to finally shake off being 'the runt', as well.

Unfortunately for Patty, ever since that traumatic experience, she has a touch of somewhat debilitating acrophobia … creating a bit of difficulty for her to deal with heights in certain situations. One of which is about to present itself.


They're currently in gym class. Patty, Kelly, and Samantha are standing on the mats, staring up at the thick ropes hanging from the crossbeam, when Samantha … an avid voyeur of the horror genre … blurts out her best “Poltergeist 2” recitation...

“They're back.”

Still looking up … seemingly almost as fixated on the ropes as Katie is on her mobile … Patty sighs...

“Do you think Miss Devonshire's gonna make us do this again, this year? … Wait...” She looks to Kelly. “Do you think we'll even have Miss Devonshire again?”

Kelly … who is well aware of Patty's traumatizing tree incident; and resulting phobia brought on from it … wants to comfort her dear friend; but, at the same time, can't bring herself to give Patty false hope. Nope … all Patty can do now is face the facts; and accept that what is, is.

“Sorry, Pats; but who else would we have … she's the only female gym teacher at the school.”

Patty despairingly stares at the hanging ropes and sighs in total resignation...

“Yeah … guess so.”

Samantha opts to put her 'two cents' into the conversation...

“Beats dodge ball … at least no one's throwing anything at you.”

Although Patty agrees that having things thrown at you isn't exactly the ideal scenario … and no; dodge ball wouldn't but her first choice for a gym class activity, either … that's as far as she's willing to concur with Samantha's point. Because if it's a choice between dodge ball or climbing a rope; dodge ball would win hands down, every time.

Still looking up to where the ropes attach to the crossbeam; Patty retorts...

“But at least you're on the ground while they're throwing the ball at you.”

Shortly, Miss Devonshire … a femininely athletic woman in her mid-twenties; originally hailing from England, and speaks with a meshed-up Liverpool / Cockney accent; and appears to be a cross between Goth and Emo … enters the gymnasium, and walks across the huge, spaciously open room; holding a clipboard in hand. The rest of the girls immediately start to follow her … and they all congregate at the mats laid out under the ropes.

Miss Devonshire is looking down, skimming over the class roster affixed to the clipboard...

“Alright ladies, it's the beginning of the first semester of the school year; and seeing how we're all gathered around the mats here, I suppose you all know what that means.”

The girls all answer in near unison … “Rope climbing.”

Miss Devonshire reiterates, “Rope climbing.”

She looks up from her clipboard and notices Patty in a seemingly trance-like state staring at the ropes; with a forlorn expression etched upon her countenance. Miss Devonshire walks over to Patty; takes a brief to look up at the ropes; and then, looks back at Patty...

“So … ready to try this again, this year; Patty?”

One could say that Patty has quite the unique 'fight or flight' response instilled within her. Whenever she's faced with a frightening or an excessively awkward uncomfortable situation; Patty has a tendency to suddenly become a bit flippant in nature.

She doesn't do this to be disrespectful; it's just an automatic reaction inherently wired into her persona. Call it a verbal defensive-mode that she instinctively utilizes to try to take the edge off of her anxiety, at that time. And luckily for Patty, most everyone knows about this subconscious, behavioral quirk of hers; so, they normally just overlook those seemingly defiantly sassy remarks.

Patty remains looking up...

“Yeah … about that...”

She looks to Miss Devonshire, and begins with the unintentional flippancy...

“Do we really gotta do this again? What's the point … I mean; what are the chances that I'm gonna have to climb a rope in life really, anyway?”

Miss Devonshire smiles as she prepares to counter Patty's 'sass attack'...

“Who knows. … Tell you what; think of it like being in the Boy Scouts … 'always be prepared', as they say.”

Patty 'strikes' again...

“Yeah, well … I really don't see any chance of me becoming a Boy Scout, either. So...”

Miss Devonshire drapes her arm over Patty's shoulder...

“Patty, Patty, Patty … in life there are going to be challenges. And sometimes you're going to have to step up and face those challenges … especially if there's something that you really want to do or achieve. … Tell me, Patty; isn't there anything that you really want to accomplish in life?”

Patty quips, “Right now … I just wanna pass gym class this semester.”

Miss Devonshire grins. “There you go; see … perfect example. If you want to pass … you have to climb the ropes.”

Miss Devonshire removes her arm from around Patty's shoulder, and steps away; leaving a now dejected-looking Patty staring back up at the ropes. And while staring down at her clipboard...

“Alright then; time to get things started … Alexandra and Gia; Rope 1. Patty and Kelly; Rope 2. Heather and Jackie; Rope 3. Carrie and Linda; Rope 4. … Alexandra, Patty, Heather, and Carrie; climbers. Gia, Kelly, Jackie, and Linda; you hold the rope. Then rotate. … Everyone, take position.”

The 'holders' grab onto the base of their assigned ropes; then, the 'climbers' mount … holding onto the rope as they rest their feet atop the large knot tied at the bottom. They await the go ahead.

Miss Devonshire shouts out, “And … go!”

As the others start climbing, Patty intensely stares up at the crossbeam; and that festering, anticipated fear begins wreaking havoc on her mind … and playing tricks on her eyes. The crossbeam … which in actuality is only about thirty feet above … appears to be hundreds of feet away, in her deceiving eyes.

Noticing that Patty has yet to begin; Miss Devonshire calls out to her...

“Patty, what are you waiting for … an invitation?” Patty looks back at her. “Well … consider yourself officially invited. Now go.”

Patty looks back up and sees that the other three are about halfway up the rope already. She hears Kelly whisper aloud to her...

“Come on, Pats … you can do this.”

Patty looks to Kelly and delivers a terse nod in affirmation; then looks back up and takes in a deep breath. She takes a stretched reach up with one hand, and tightly grasps on; causing her knuckles to whiten as she clenches her grip around the rope. She repeats this step with her other hand; and then, forces herself to pull herself up. From this point on … instead of taking stretched reaches … Patty gingerly shifts her hands along the rope at a tedious pace, moving hand over hand with each movement.

Patty laboriously struggles as she inches her way up the rope at a snail's pace; constantly looking up and seeing that exaggerated distance between her and the crossbeam. A fearfully terrified expression is deeply ingrained into her countenance, which now has taken on a dark, crimson red shade complexion. She's huffing heavily, as her body trembles. The debilitating phobia is rapidly overwhelming her.

Patty's only about four feet above her point of origin, when she suddenly loses her grip and falls like a rock; abruptly landing flat on her back. She's looking up … prone on the mat … watching the other three at the top of the rope staring down at her.

Kelly's face slowly moves into Patty's line of vision, and hovers inches over her face. She inquires...

“Pats … you okay?”

“Depends … I am on the ground now; right?”

Kelly instantly smiles; as she briefly chuckles, “Yup.”

Patty lets out a small sigh of relief...

“Then, yeah … I'm okay.”

The other three climb down and circle around Patty; along with the the ones holding their ropes. Miss Devonshire calls out...

“Alright ladies, take five. Go and get some water.”

Patty remains lying flat on her back, watching as the other girls in her group participating in the climb leave her behind … a few of the even stepping over her during their departure. However, a concerned Kelly remains kneeling by her side...

“You sure you're okay?”

Patty quickly shoots up her hand; with fingers positioned in an 'OK' gesture...


Miss Devonshire calls out, “Kelly … go on out with the other girls, please.”

“Yes, mam.” She looks to Patty. “I'm gonna be...”

“Yeah. Go ahead … I'll be alright.”

Kelly gets up, and starts to slowly walk away, while looking back at Patty still lying on her back. And when she reaches where Miss Devonshire is standing, and looks to her; Kelly immediately notices that 'What did I just say' look etched on her face...

“Uh … yeah … okay.” … Kelly quickly jogs off to catch up with the other girls.

Miss Devonshire gradually sashays her way over to Patty; keeping her hands cupped behind the small of her back along the way. When reaching Patty; she bends over and gazes down upon the prone teen. Patty remains silent for a brief moment, while looking up at Miss Devonshire hovering over her; before flippantly quipping...

“Well … I made it part of the way up, at least. … What's that like … a C?”

Miss Devonshire smirks as she slowly shakes her head … leaving Patty no other choice but to concede to the inevitable...

“Yeah; I know … all the way up … right?”

Miss Devonshire slowly nods...

“If you want to pass. … You have to the end of this semester to climb the rope, Patty. Okay?”

Patty delivers an unenthusiastic 'thumb's up' gesture.

“Good. Let's get you back up on your feet, then.” Miss Devonshire extends her hand down to Patty; offering to assist her up. “Come on.”

“No … that's okay. I'm good. Thanks anyway.”

Miss Devonshire assumes that Patty needs a little more time to 'lick her wounds'; so she smiles and shakes her head, before walking away. Patty stays lying prone on the mat, staring up at those mockingly infernal ropes. She lets out an exasperated huff.

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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