II. The earth's sharp edge

The blinding sea was there below, and it glistened in the silver morning light. She lay on the narrow shelf of rock, face down, head hanging over, watching the slow waves moving inward from far out there where the curving horizon rose toward the sky. Her fingernails grated on the rock; she was certain she would fall unless she hung on with every muscle. But how long could she stay there like that, suspended between sky and sea? The ledge had been growing constantly narrower; now it cut across her chest and hindered her breathing. Or was she slowly edging forward, raising herself ever so slightly on her elbows now and then to push her body a fraction of an inch nearer the edge? She was leaning out far enough now to see the sheer cliffs beneath at the sides, split into towering prisms that sprouted fat gray cacti. Directly below her, the waves broke soundlessly against the wall of rock. Night had been here in the wet air, but now it had retreated beneath the surface of the water. At the moment her balance was perfect; stiff as a plank she lay poised on the brink. She fixed her eye one one distant advancing wave. By the time it arrived at the rock her head would have begun to descend, the balance would be broken. But the wave did not move.

"Wake up! Wake up!" she screamed.

She let go.

-- Paul Bowles
The Sheltering Sky