Downdraft Excerpt

From Lost Sanctuary Book 1



 

Derek floated in empty space for a split second and experienced the nausea of weightlessness before he began his plummet to the rocky outcrop 25 feet below. He didn't have time to scream or yell, and barely had enough presence of mind to tighten his grip on the safety rope. He noticed several details, however, that otherwise would've struck him as odd to think of—the sound of the wind as it whistled past his ear, the smell of the dirt in the air, the dirt on his tongue, and the feel of the rope as it slipped through his gloved hand.

And then his safety rig kicked in and slowed his descent. He snapped to a gentle, if sudden stop, and though it was still a jarring experience as he rolled in midair, if he hadn't had his rig he might've broken his back under the jolt. 

He didn't have time to celebrate his survival, unfortunately, because his body's momentum swung him straight toward the instrument mast and he slammed his shoulder painfully into the steel tubes that held the scientific package high above the cliff face.

The impact knocked the wind out of his lungs, and Derek dangled helplessly by his safety line as the wind buffeted him and spun him around to knock his helmeted head against the access ladder hoops. It took him another few moments to painfully untangle the loose cordage around his arms and legs, stop his random swinging, and right himself—all while trying to take in a breath of air. 

At last his diaphragm stopped spasming, and he filled his lungs with a deep breath—then coughed as the dirt flying through the air invaded his body. He slapped out at the access ladder and stopped his uncontrolled rotation long enough to wrap his legs around the mast. Finally in control of his position once more, he clung to the side of the mast as the wind gusted and howled around him and waited for his heart rate to slow down.

He wiped the dirt from his safety glasses and looked over his shoulder. The dust storm had intensified to the point that Derek could barely see the ground, only 10 feet below. He looked up at the instrument mast and frowned. He couldn’t see the tips of the antenna whipped back and forth in the wind, but he could feel the violent motion as the momentum rippled down the mast.

"Well...that was fun..." he said to himself, his voice instantly lost in the wind.

Derek had to adjust his dangling, clinking tools on his belt before he could pull himself inside the safety hoops on the access ladder. He allowed his climbing rope to pay out as he lowered himself down to the ground. 

As Derek finally stepped off the last rung, he let out a breath that he didn't realize he'd been holding. He leaned into the wind and yanked down the rest of his climbing rope. He didn't care that he left one of the carabiner flywheels two-thirds of the way up the instrument mast. All he wanted to do was get down to the weather station and get out of the storm. He'd come back later for the gear. His backpack, leaning against the mast, had blown over and been covered in a thin layer of dust. 

Derek grumbled to himself as he turned his back into the wind and quickly opened up the bag to drop in his ungainly tool belt, the broken soldering iron—at least the pieces he could find in the swirling dust—and his climbing rope. He felt it was a mortal sin to just bunch up the expensive rope and stuff it in the pack, but he didn't have time to stow it properly. Even on the ground, he could feel the wind pressure increasing against his back. The storm was showing its teeth and he wanted to get inside as quick as possible. There was still a dangerous descent down the side of the outcrop he had to navigate, and it was beyond hard to see.

All his gear stowed, Derek slung his pack over his shoulders, secured all the straps, and settled the weight. He lowered his head, shielded his face with one hand,  and winced as bits of sand and dirt stung his fingers. He hunched his shoulders and plowed forward toward the path down the side of the outcrop.