I hate heights. Like, really hate heights. I don't know when it started, just that if you stuck me in a glass elevator and sent me up to the thirteenth floor I'd hate you forever. Yes, forever. I know what you're thinking: "Ah, the bloody wuss! Exaggerate much?" but I am deadly serious. No one - andI mean no one - can reduce Amy Ettridge to a cowering, trembling tangle of limbs in the middle of the floor without inflicting that sort of grudge upon themselves.
I'd never really had much exposure to heights before my year seven camp, unless you count the balcony of our old two-story house back in Dally, so i guess it probably started there. It would make perfect sense, too...
It was a cool august day, 2008, day two of the famed Year Seven Ern Halliday Camp. the girls' dorm woke with a barely-disguised buzz of anticipation for the second time that morning (the first being a two-in-the-morning early beach walk false-alarm) for today was the day. The Day. The day of the white-knuckle thrill ride of the Big Swing. We dressed in a hurry and rendezvoused with the boys in the camp's cafeteria for a breakfast of watered-down orange juice and whatever unidentifiable slop the caterers had managed to concoct. As it happened, hardly a soul had the room for the food in their pale tummy around the mass of fluttering butterflies that had staged a break-and-enter and taken residence there the previous night. We made a jittery lot, we twelve year-olds, and chattered manically for the hour that stood between us and the highlight if our lives that loomed in the very near future. Upon dismissal, my friends and I leaped from our seats to join the group of students that surged en masse towards the gym on the other side of campus.
A half-hour later, at the opening if the peeling blue-painted double doors, me and my fellow Chidlow-ians stood in awe at the rubber-matted entrance to the gym, necks craned to get a look at the roof-mounted pulley, cable and double-carabiner contraption that we were soon to be dangling from. Within the space of twenty minutes, we were strapped into out granny-knicker style harnesses and were waiting with bated breath for the all-clear for the first student to be bestowed the honour of Ice-Breaker. The privilege went to Harold, who stood first in line. Now Harold (name changed to protect the anything-but-innocent) was a cocky little bugger and after being clipped on, showed not the slightest sign of nerves as he was heave-ho-hauled up to the ceiling by the rest of us. Once in place, he gave the 'release' (which looked awfully like a shoelace) a sharp tug and dropped a good fifteen feet. The cable pulled taut and he swung in a wide arc and the show pony did little upside-down flips like he'd been doing it all his life.
I, myself, was terrified, and by the time Harold had stopped swinging and doing his little pansy tricks and ten other kids had gone up and come down leaving me at the front of the line, sweat was running off me in rivulets and my hands were shaking and my knees were knocking with such violence thatI could barely stay on my feet. I wibble-wobbled my way to the ladder, got clipped into the cable with a heavy carabiner by some guy with dreads and almost passed out with the pressure of what i was about to do. I could feel the crushing weight of the expectant gazes of thirty other kids as they hauled my trembling body up to the ceiling. With an unhealthy-sounding clunk,I dangled from the rafters. As a matter of fact, I stayed dangling from the rafters in a dazed panic for quite some time until someone cleared their throat and called out an uncertain "Um... Amy?" It took all I had to reach out and pull that shoelace, but I did it. And dropped. I think I screamed but I wasn't sure because the unfathomable speed of that fifteen-foot drop broke the sound barrier, so I didn't hear a thing. And when the cable pulled taut... yeah. OW. I can tell you, I had bruises where no bruises should ever be. AsI was swinging, I tried to flip backwards like Harold, but only resulted in putting a crick in my neck. I spent the next hour massaging the knot out of my neck and trying not to vomit with the post-traumatic stress thatI promptly came down with.
The next day, the principal asked me of one thing that I achieved through the course of the camp.I said 'conquering my fear of heights'. Ha. The poor trusting buggercongratulated me.