In a Lonely Place

Mikael Bernard
Copyright 2000

Every time I close my eyes I see hers, piercing, green, staring back at me. She has been in my head for years, ever since I last held her in my arms, and still it feels like yesterday that I lost her.

These are the memories that have chased me through life, up this mountain, into this place. The cold and the wind blow through me so hard I swear I can be lifted off into the sky, the snow and ice bite into my skin and torture my exposed face. A warm trickle of snot freezes to my lip immediately.

When I sleep I relive days and hours with her, the feeling of her skin, the shape of her smile, her long blonde hair that seemed to flow from some eternal fountain. I imagine days and hours and years we should have had together had eternity not called her away from my world, but everything comes to an end in much the same way it begins-unexpected, sudden, and without reason.

Her spirit is with me as I take the next step, then the next, trying to reach the top of this mountain that has also haunted me for years. This mountain, the tales of my youth, Sir Edmund Hillary, Mallory and Irvine, these were the men I read about as a boy, and the stories that stuck with me through the years.

Dreams die hard.

The snow blasts against me and my lungs ache with the dry air as I pant almost uselessly. The day has worn on like an eternity, and I cannot remember the last time I have eaten or slept. My body cries out in pain from several places, and my mind races in directions I would rather it did not go.

"You aren't going to climb that damned mountain," She told me a million times.

"What the hell would make you want to?"

"Because it is there," I said, repeating the worlds of George Leigh Mallory who died more than seventy years before on the mountain I aspired to climb.

"You're crazy," she said, "you'll get your crazy ass killed."

How could I have known that this could be my fate, that I would be chasing a dream long after I lost my only other dream.

I look out to the west as I push forward and see the dull orb of the sun falling behind the horizon, and my world continues to fade into a black oblivion. The sound of pure silence reminds me how alone, how desperately alone I am in this place. For a brief moment only a single thought, a cry out to her spirit, runs through my head.

"How I wish you were here with me now."

I come now to the last leg of the trip, the Hillary Step, a forty foot high slab of rock that would look any other day to be just another boulder. Now it is an almost insurmountable obstacle in the way of my journey.

I clasp my safety line to the fixed rope and start pushing myself upwards, ever upwards, and what feels like an eternity later I am on top. The sky is almost pitch black now and the winds once again howl around me like a wounded animal.

The last bits of energy within my body have been used, but I am not there yet. I lay on the snow, my face pointed towards the heavens, and my eyes closed. In my mind, images of her spin around me and I am dizzied by the effect. She would not have wanted me to be here.

"Someday I will die in your dreams."

Her voice awakens me from my hypnotic state, as clear as it had been in life. I push myself up and take the next five minute journey to the rooftop of the world. As I stand here trying to battle the winds, I look around the expanse of the universe and see nothing.

Her spirit is all around me now, and I can feel the warmness of her skin against mine. I can feel her breathe against my neck and I can almost see her beautiful form just out of the reach of perception. I sit down again and my collective body parts thank me. I continue taking in all the different sensations and feelings and emotions that my brain is bombarding me with. I feel as though she sits down next to me in the place she never wanted me to go.

I try to cling on to things for a long time, to memorize the textures, to absorb her spirit into mine. I reflect on how all things end. Love, life, happiness--it is all a twilight dance that we intertwine in, spirits mix, laughter rises and falls, and in the end it is all still a witching hour dream that spins away into oblivion as the sun rises, and our lives fade out.

"There are a million things I want to tell you," I say suddenly, startling myself as though I had not truly expected the words to come out. I have never in my life felt so at peace.

I do not plan on leaving.

The End
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