Second Place – Summer V. (11-12th grade category)

Second Place – Summer V. (11-12th grade category)

L’Appel Du Vide – Summer V.

Angels Landing, Zion’s National Park, 5,790 feet up, a hiker gazed down at the sheer cliff below him. The desert sun against his back, illuminating a halo of fire around his head.

He had just made the five mile climb; it wasn’t the longest trek this avid hiker and his friends had ever attempted, but the treacherous drop offs hugging the trail and temperature arcing into the hundreds wore him to the bone. At the top, he spun around to view the breathtaking scene around him. The sapphire sky met the topaz mountains with great disparity. Patches of vegetation clung around rivers and waterfalls; the cacti that braved the raw conditions away from the sources of life, broke stone, protruding from their conquered.

The hiker looked down from the vertigo-inducing height and saw a cactus defying all laws of gravity, growing straight out the side of the cliff. He chuckled to himself, leaning farther to study it.

There is a moment when standing on a precipice, when the thousands of feet of thin air and the jagged rocks glowing in the brilliant red sun will call to you.

He kept his fingers locked firmly on a rope of sanity holding him safely back from stumbling too close to the edge.

There is a french phrase, L’Appel du Vide or the call of the void, as it is so arcanly called; it is a feeling that will urge you to jump, not as a death wish but as a confirmation that we are, indeed, still alive.

The hiker’s finger’s loosened on his grip of reality as the desire to fill the void, that empty nothing with something, consumed him. And yet, closer he leaned, a swirl of emerald and ruby, of nature and man, filled his bewildered head.

At this point the natural fear of falling will mix with the advity of flying to create a sick concoction in your stomach. The impression will be just strong enough to make you let your go of your grasp of rationality. You are balancing between life and death, everything tying you to the living but nothing stopping you from dying.


The hiker turned his head at the sound of his name. With his legs, weak kneed and heavy, he stepped back. A rock the size of a mere clementine, off set his already unsteady body.

Finally, something might happen that will remind you that you are breathing, your heart is pounding and you are, indeed, still alive. Some will secure their footing and as stability settles back into one’s palm, the call will pass.

“No! Gabriel,” was the last thing the hiker heard before he fell, as he made a futile attempt to grasp his companion’s outstretched hands, the last thing he saw was his panic mirrored in his friends eyes.

But some are not so lucky as an carelessly placed step can make one realize that supposed safety guarantees nothing.