I’m a dead person who hasn’t quite died yet.
Maybe if I hadn’t been separated from Brian, I wouldn’t be dying all by myself. Maybe if my jacket had more snow on the outside than the inside, I’d at least die more comfortably. And, maybe if I hadn’t broken my leg when I fell, I’d find the strength to die trying. But one way or another, this mountain has already killed me.
I don’t mind everything being over. I really don’t. I get it, and I welcome it. It’s just the waiting that gets to me. Well, that and the cold. And the acute fire shooting from my leg to my chest. And the bleeding, and the nausea, and my fucking head. I want to die, and I want to do it myself so that when it happens I can know that it’s really over—that I won’t wake up and be right back in the fucking snow, waiting to find out which limb I’ll lose first. If there’s a way to get out of this alive, fantastic. But the closest thing I have to being saved is in the left-hand pocket of my pack, which is buried God knows where.
I tried finding that orange plastic pistol, but lying on my back in the snow, there wasn’t much I could see but white. Moving was a bitch. My leg was sheer fire, and that wasn’t all of it; other parts were broken. Even propping myself up on an elbow only worked for a flash second before I collapsed. I could feel the powdery snow on my cheek, and at first it stung. But the sting wasn’t so bad. If nothing else, it was a distraction from my fucking leg. I wish it would’ve lasted, but it looks like this just isn’t my day.
Once I couldn’t feel my cheek anymore—or the rest of my face for that matter—I took off my hat and threw my goggles as far as I could. I know what I was thinking: I thought it would be a defiant moment of victory. That if the cold was going to win, I was going to embrace it.
Instead, throwing my goggles just made me vomit. Something about the movement hit me wrong. I don’t know, but whatever the cause, it’s just another reason to want that flare gun in my hands, whether I’m shooting it into the sky, or my mouth, or anywhere but fucking nowhere.
I’m shaking now. Not just imperceptible vibrations, either—it’s stuff that’d seem almost comical if it wasn’t a pain in my everything. It’s amazing. I don’t have the strength to sit up, but I can have what might as well be a damn seizure. When the shaking started, I figured it would hurt my leg, or my head. But by this point, I can feel neither. So at least there’s that. I try to wiggle my toes, but even if they are moving, it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
Then I see it: a bright orange streak of light in the evening sky, shortly followed by another. Brian. Whatever warm feeling I have left in my chest grows cold—he’s in trouble too. But hey, at least the lucky bastard has his flares. Maybe somebody will come to his rescue, carry him off just in the nick of time. The lucky bastard has his flares.
Well, shit. Since I can’t feel my leg, I might as well find mine too.
Sitting up goes much better this time. I hear a pop from my leg that makes me want to throw up all over again, but aside from a turning stomach, I don’t feel a thing. Maybe slowly freezing to death is the best thing to happen to me today.
I have to say, the view from my icy grave really is beautiful. Now that I sit up above the snow, I can see that. It would be better if my eyes weren’t shaking in my skull, but still, as far as places to die go it’s not bad. Mountains of grey, jagged stone. Snow. Barren trees, and best of all, not a living thing in sight but yours truly. It makes me smile.
I spot my pack pretty quickly, sitting less than a dozen yards away. It’s not quite within reaching distance. At this point though, I wouldn’t expect any less.
Crawling was never more tedious. Lunging forward, I outstretch an arm to brace myself. All it does is plunge through the snow and get me another faceful of winter. Fuck Yukon. By the time I get to my pack, my head is killing me in the most literal way you can imagine. It was bad before, but the motion, it just makes it feel like—like a flare through the eyes.
I don’t remember passing out. I remember collapsing onto my pack, but I don’t remember closing my eyes there. It must have happened though, because it’s dark now. It doesn’t matter. I know where the orange pistol is. Even without seeing, I can find it. I take off a glove, trembling. I’m kind of glad I can’t see my fingers. They must be a sad sight. I can’t make out my hand three inches from my face, and I sure as hell can’t feel it either, but I know where the zipper is, and after a few tries I hear it open.
Reaching inside, I can barely even curl my fingers enough to grab the plastic piece of junk. But I do; I get ahold of it and I don’t let go. In what little light there is, using what little coordination I have left, I open the chamber and load a shell. I start to close the chamber. Start to.
I roll onto my back, clutch the flare gun against my chest, and look out into the darkness. This mountain has killed me. But at least he’ll see how his warm voice melted the powdery snow from my cheek, and he’ll know I didn’t die all by myself. He’ll see how my head rests against my pack, and he’ll honestly believe I died comfortable. He’ll see the flair gun in my hands. At least he’ll think I died trying.
© Ray Underscore Thompson, March 2014