I heaved myself over the crest. Liam had powered off ahead. I don’t know where he got the energy considering the only thing I’d seen him consume in the last few days is neat whiskey. I caught up just as he pulled the urns from his backpack. He twisted open the larger of the two first and decanted its contents to the wind. My hand on his shoulder was a futile attempt at comfort. I gripped tighter anyway as he opened the second, much smaller, container. I felt his breath catch as he watched his child float away to join his beloved wife on the mountain where they first met.
The moment of peace abruptly ended when an overwhelming crack rang out through the range. It’s the sound every climber dreads but Liam didn’t flinch. The blanket of snow covering the mountain peak above us had given way. Silence preceded the thundering roar. As though the mountain took a moment to acknowledge the unfortunate souls below.
My brother was an experienced mountaineer. I know that he knew that sound, but he still didn’t move.
I tugged at his backpack. Knowing full well that we couldn’t outrun an avalanche but needed to get away from the crevasse rippled plateau in front of us.
A rush of air almost knocked me off my skis’.
He dropped the urn and opened his arm, welcoming the burial. Seconds later I was hit in the back by what I knew to be soft, powdery snow but what felt more like a wave of bricks. My fingers slipped from his backpack. I willed myself to swing but it was as though my brain had forgotten how.
It’s incredible how long a few seconds can feel when you can’t breathe. Freezing snow filled every crack and cranny of my clothing and yet I started to sweat. I wiggled and squirmed enough to free one arm and scooped away a tiny pocket in front of my face. Clearing my eyes and nose should have made it easier to breathe, but the hot damp air surrounding me began to close in. every inch of my skin stung as I continued to wriggle my limbs free. As much as his nagging had driven us mad, I found myself grateful as I allowed a small dribble of saliva to escape my lips and run across my cheek. I had been buried on my side. My hands became so numb that I barely felt the difference when I breached the surface.
2 weeks later, I stood in the same spot where I had last seen my brother. The tiny urn in my hands was the only thing recovered. I gazed at its cracked surface. Maybe it was a blessing that he didn’t have to say goodbye. I gently placed the urn in the snow.
“Goodbye old friend”
By Stacey Potter