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WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

HIGH WIRE by Ben Grove
April 5, 2010  Short stories   Tags:   

The tightrope walker places one foot upon the high wire.

The audience draws in, eager to witness his feat.

He presses down with his right foot, testing the line.

Would like more rope tension…

Would like a drop in the breeze …

Would like a safety harness…

………but the audience is waiting.

“This will give them something to quicken their dead hearts”.

He controls his breathing and attempts to bring his own heart rate down – eyes focussed on the horizon.

The crowd’s anticipation is growing……..

All eyes are on him…..

Somewhere behind him he can hear a rhythmic pounding, providing the soundtrack to his act…….

A slow waltz of clenched fists on wood……..

Now or never.

He steps up, using his right thigh muscles and extends his arms out.

On the step up the sudden movement coils away from him sending a shock wave the down the cable. The change in tension affects the pitch of the wind creating a whistle like a sharp breath across an open bottle.

The line settles, as does the pendulum motion that was swaying him from side to side.

“Balance. Get your balance right here and you’ll be fine all the way along”.

Zen, Nirvana, Ready.

He extends his left foot out and places it down in front of his right.

The audience’ mouths are open as he edges out in to the ether.

He begins to work his arms slightly, undulating them up and down to help with his balance. This draws the disturbance out from his core and keeps him planted on the line.

Four steps out and he has cleared the parapet and the audience’ moans grow.

Seven hundred pairs of eyes fixed on his every move.

Arms reach for him, grasping, urging the air to bestow its bounty upon them.

The breeze is constant but not too stiff. He can do this. He tells himself this again an again. It becomes a mantra.

He can feel the sinew of the cable beneath the ball of his foot. Every twist, every knot that combines to form this line.  What formerly carried power now holds life itself aloft.

As he reaches the midway point where the slack is greatest the pendulum motion begins again more violently. The wind rises markedly, the audience moans increase in pitch.

They anticipate the inevitable – Icarus will return to earth.

The motion permeates through him, wanting to unsettle him, wanting to own him.

This he must control or it will undo him. Extending out his left leg he attempts to ride and dampen the sensation.

Three stories up, he fights the very foundations of the world for life itself. Gravity, air, and fear all conspire to unseat him.

The grey faces reach for him, wishing to claim him….

…….they fail.

The motion on the line settles, composure is regained and balance is restored once more.

He begins moving forward.

He clears the remainder easily and stands on the post office roof- joyful. He looks back over the 40 feet of abyss he has crossed. He fishes a water bottle from his pack and toasts them, salutes them as Caesar to his people.

They finally broke through the door on the roof he had left. They surge towards him with grasping hands and fall straight off the roof into the massed crowd below. He watches the lemmings for a few minutes until they finally halt their actions on the roof top and stand as a group staring at him.

With a wry smile he wonders if one of them might try and copy his feat.

He turns and walks away to the other side of the post office where a massed bunch of phone lines stretch to a telegraph pole in the middle of the street. He will try again, from here to the library, from the library across the river to freedom. Or at least the hope of freedom.

He stands and gathers himself. He controls his breathing and attempts to bring his heart rate down – eyes focussed on the horizon.

Below a grey face looks up and notices him a low moan escaping its lips.

A new audience begins to gather.

He places one foot upon the high wire.


Ben Grove lives in Manchester, England and included a vital lesson on zombie survival in the groom’s speech at his wedding. 50 close friends and family are now fully prepared to destroy their staircases in the event of their home being attacked by the zombie hordes. If you have zombie problem and you know where to find him…perhaps you can hire him. If no cash is offered he’ll do children’s parties or barmitzfars for free.


  1. OOooo! Pete, ole boy, this here story took your “Islands” and upped the ante! Well done, Ben!

    Few stories actually raise my heart rate. This one definitely did. I’ve got a thing about heights, so it really got me.

    Love the “A-Team” bit in the bio!

    Comment by cdugger on April 5, 2010 @ 7:22 pm

  2. Ben,

    In my opinion this is a masterclass in pacing and *ahem* tension. I would have like more description of his surroundings but I guess balancing that and the tension, was a bit of a tightrope walk (I am so sorry, I don’t know what has got into me). Yeah I really liked this.

    Comment by Pete Bevan on April 6, 2010 @ 5:29 am

  3. good story, short and sweet. Curious to know if he makes it across all the other wires and into “freedom..” follow-up story would be greaaat.

    Comment by sdot on April 6, 2010 @ 8:52 am

  4. Very good job. The economy of words used in this story matches the economy of movement allowed by the protagonist to reach his destination. I was hooked from the first ‘line’.

    Comment by DC on April 6, 2010 @ 9:48 am

  5. Good stuff, this might be one of the only stories on totzw that doesn’t involve death or shooting… I am impressed. Still working on my stories, and you guys keep uping the ante and make me do rewrites.. Good show

    Comment by Hazzard on April 6, 2010 @ 10:12 am

  6. My god Ben!

    What a wonderful piece of work! it had my heart rise in tension until the very end! It was completely and absolutely wonderful! I loved it! It’s a great and bewildering piece of work that I had to read at least three times and it still kept that tension!

    Comment by Kelsey Campbell on April 6, 2010 @ 10:27 am

  7. Very, very original. Liked this one alot.

    Comment by Rob C on April 6, 2010 @ 11:06 am

  8. Nice, short and sweet. You’re more positive than me, makes me a little optimistic. In my head, there would already be zombies on the post office roof.

    Comment by Seth on April 6, 2010 @ 12:56 pm

  9. hey man that was great. short and quck.

    Comment by mmmmmadobo on April 6, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

  10. Very good short story! Thanks for that quick zombie fix.

    Comment by Cherry Darling on April 6, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

  11. Short, focused and very creative.

    The guy is his own personal hero, a great tale about confidence overcoming the terror. My kind of story.

    Comment by Renato on April 6, 2010 @ 7:36 pm

  12. Thanks for all the support and encouraging comments. I have two more Z stories ongoing which are more firmly rooted in the fight, rather than flight, for survival. Prepare for some gun-ishment…. Cheers all.

    Comment by Ben Grove on April 7, 2010 @ 5:06 am

  13. Ben,

    On re-reading this I think it should be a contender for this seasons competition. There are a lot of strengths in this story and some great imagery, keep this in your mind for your next stuff and you won’t go wrong I reckon.

    Comment by Pete Bevan on April 7, 2010 @ 9:46 am

  14. Awesome.

    Where’s British Steel!?!?!??!!

    Comment by Tj Devine on April 8, 2010 @ 7:44 am

  15. Leave a comment
    Really well done. Do you have more stories elsewhere?

    Comment by Kristen on July 14, 2010 @ 11:31 am

  16. What did you say to the people at the wedding to make them willing to smash up their staircases? (or am i being dense?)

    Comment by Johnny A on September 15, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

  17. Kristen: Currently working on others in a very lazy fashion. Will post soon.
    Johnny A: No I just suggested that was the correct course of action for defending their homestead- as per Max Brooks.

    Comment by Ben Grove on November 5, 2010 @ 8:22 am

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