Lay at my feet,
Betrayals and lies,
That I may never beat.
Fallen from me,
Far, far away,
I burden the weight,
As such I have never known.
The trust once given freely,
Is tucked, safe away,
Handled with care,
And hidden for fear,
Of what it might take away.
My dreams all whisked away
Shattered under the pressure
And now the glistening shards
Lay desolately at my feet.
I must leave behind such petty loves
And embrace the crippling truth
Lest the ones I have fought for be gone
And all that I was be forgotten.
My warm breath puffed out in front of me, slithering fluidly into the clear, sharp mountain air and obscuring the exquisite landscape sprawled out before me with a dense, foggy white. The coolness of the air as it rushed into my lungs was exhilarating, urging me to escape out to the crystalline white slopes as soon as possible.
I paused, holding my breath as a precautionary measure as I surveyed the towering mountains before me. They were both welcoming and intimidating, looming over me and casting me into constant shadow. Their peaks were jagged and uneven, often revealing rocky crags and irregular ravines, all surrounded by perfectly skiable runs. They beckoned to me, pulling me forward into their mysterious and unexplored realm. An airy, exuberant laugh burst forth from my lips, unbidden, but welcome all the same.
A sharp tap on my shoulder revealed that I was not the only one marveling at the mountains. I smiled, not bothering to turn around.
“Hey, Viola!” I greeted my best friend, gesturing to her with a wave of my hand. I heard her let out a small giggle, as bouncy as her tightly wound chestnut curls.
“Well, someone’s eager to make first-tracks,” she told me cheekily, flouncing away off the ornate black balcony and into the quaint kitchen to eat an apple before hitting the slopes.
“Well, anyone with half a brain cell wants to make first-tracks. Anyone who doesn’t has some serious problems.
Besides, I came here to ski, not sleep,” I tell her pointedly, finally turning around. A small, quirky smile was fixed genuinely onto my face.
Viola stood in the kitchen, her long, lanky frame slumped with sleeplessness. Her glossy, chestnut hair sat in a heaping mess, curled into a sloppy bun on the nape of her neck. Her large blue-green eyes laughed at me, and I could see she was already dressed in her purple snow pants, along with her typical other layers, and loosely done black ski boots.
I walked over to her and patted her head in praise. “Good girl!” I told her, pleased. Viola yawned, stirring what I guessed was a triple-triple.
“Yeah, I knew you’d be up and ready before the rest of us normal people considered it to be legal,” she teased me, smiling brightly. I grinned sheepishly, glancing down at my already clad body, ready to step onto the mountains. Skiing and sleeping were the only times I ever took off my short and unbelievably comfortable cowboy boots.
“I’m not going to apologize! I like it early. And hurry up, we need to get to the top of the mountain before the lifts open,” I urge her, pacing restlessly.
Viola turned away from her coffee to fix me with an incredulous stare. “All the way to the top?” she said doubtfully.
“Uh, no, you know what I mean.” I shake my head, turning away. “But do hurry up!” I added pointedly as she took a sip of her hot morning drink. After a resigned sigh, Viola chugged her coffee back and tossed the soft blue mug carelessly into the sink, not bothering to wash it.
We hurried down the battered wooden stairs that led to the main lobby, taking extra care not to make too much noise, although we probably still sounded like a small herd of elephants. I cringed at the clamour, hoping we didn’t wake anyone who thought ski vacations were for sleeping.
By the time we reached the ground floor, I was hot and uncomfortable, making me all the more eager to greet the crisp morning air.
My eyes lit up at the sight of the snow drifts that rested just outside of the doors. Viola and I paused momentarily to tighten our ski boots and collect our skis before hurrying out into the pale, weak light of the rising sun as its pink and red rays filtered between the irregular peaks.
For a moment, Viola and I simply stood ten feet from the entrance of the overly luxurious hotel, reveling in the presence of the impossibly high mountains of Whistler Blackcomb. The bite of the air slowly crept through my many layers, penetrating my skin with a welcome chill.
I shivered, hugging myself in the scarce warmth. “Ok, let’s get going before we freeze to death out here,” I suggest, setting my skis over my shoulder and clunking away before Viola was able to respond, or drag me inside again.
Muttering to herself about how insane I was, she followed me. Despite her constant stream of complaints, I knew she’d have fun, and so she did. For tiresome hours, we determinedly climbed to the peak of Blackcomb from our on-the-slopes inn.
It took four hours to attain a perch the highest skiable trail. Viola and I sat for a while on the frosty rock, our breath escaping in short, fitful bursts of coffee-scented moisture. The cold air quested across my cheeks, nose and chin with frigid tendrils, even as the physical exertion warmed me to the core.
After a quick, five minute break, I was on my feet and ready to roll. Fresh, powdery snow had piled itself onto the mountain overnight, leaving a beautifully serene landscape, pocketed by old, weathered stones.
It looked just about as deadly as it did divine, the slope steep, narrow and quick.
Viola let out a groan of frustration, hauling herself to her feet. “Do you ever get tired?” she complained openly, peeking hesitantly over to edge.
“Viola, you know the answer to that is no.” I tell her, feigning seriousness. “Now let’s go, before someone else catches up to us because we’re lagging behind so much!”
I heard Viola mutter something about how no one else is crazy enough to be up here anytime near now. Ignoring her, I popped on my skis and balanced on the edge of the run, looking over it with a marriage of excitement and apprehension. Nervous excitement welled up within me. Quelling the desire to think, I hopped off, bending my knees at precisely the correct moment to land and absorb the shock of impact. An exhilarated exclamation burst forth from my lungs and I let it fly, floating and ringing in the bracing mountain air, proclaiming my excitement. It didn’t take much effort in this snow. The powder slowed you enough that you didn’t have to worry about controlling your speed, and only enjoy the moment.
With an ease that overwhelmed me, I glided down the narrow shoot. Time blurred and lost its meaning, becoming only a mosaic of sensations-- the sound of snow folding beneath me, physical exertion marrying with a mental challenge, intermittent with joy, and elation. I don’t know how long it was, but all too soon, we had finished the intricate, empty hills, and people began to weave and pop into view in front of me. I slid to a stop at the start of a new run, waiting for Viola.
Seconds later, I found her by my side, looking quite as pleased with the experience as I was.
“Now that was fun,” she declared frankly. I grinned back hugely, to aglow with happiness to be sarcastic, or give her a told-you-so response, as I might usually.
I simply nodded, not feeling the need to do anything else in order to sum up my emotions. Without another word, we skied down to the nearest ski lift, sliding into line. It wasn’t short, but it could’ve been worse, and I knew enough to be thankful for that.
The line moved quickly, and soon Viola, two snowboarders and I were on our way back up to the highest place the lift could take you to.
We spent the majority of the ride in a tight silence, occasionally punctuated by a remark on the flawless weather, or how the snow was perfect for boarding.
Most people seemed to react this way to the pensive, muffled atmosphere that frequently surrounded me. They found it quite awkward, and difficult to sit through. I sighed, and sat back, deciding to sit back and enjoy it, ignoring everyone else.
~~~~ ? ~~~~ ? ~~~~ ? ~~~~
We had been skiing for four more hours by the time the oppressing cloud cover above finally opened up and showered us with snow. The flakes were swirling and dodging in seemingly random directions as they were buffeted by the wind, they pelted my face and clung to my eyelashes. My colourful jacket was soon thoroughly disguised by hundreds of the sticky flakes, glittering mildly in the flat lighting.
“Thank you, Jack Frost,” I whispered out of habit, smiling to myself. I may be too old to believe, but that didn’t stop the childish part of me that had been buried in years from wanting to.
I squinted ineffectively at the blank slopes below; trying desperately to make out any depressions, divots or crevices nestles in the mountain. The thick cloud cover made it impossible to tell, and I sighed at my failure, sitting back. I resigned myself to yet another ride up the lift.
By the time we reached the top, we were surrounded by a full blown blizzard. I could barely see anything, and all the colours and shapes blurred and mixed.
Viola and I established that despite the impossible whiteness that obscured the world, we would attempt to master the short glade in a patch of trees we’d discovered earlier that day.
The trees were greatly shrouded by the flurries of snow, but thanks to Viola and my many years of skiing, we were able to rely on instincts and reflexes to get us through the run.
We were about halfway down the glade, and I was only just starting to settle into my rhythm when it happened. I heard a small, cut off scream from behind me and I immediately slid to a ground shuddering halt. “Viola?” I called into the pallidity. No response. Only an ear shattering silence filled the air, emphasizing Viola’s absence. Even the howling wind seemed to have ceased.
Concern and fear started to prick me, and I popped off my skies, propping them up against the nearest tree. With my arms out in front of me as a precautionary measure, I fought my way up the hill. I continued to call Viola’s name, expecting to come across her at any moment.
Finally, I ran into a tree. I cursed and stepped to the side to continue on, but I found my way blocked by another tree. I frowned. It wasn’t normal for two trees to be situated so closely together. I squinted through the snow to where the other tree was, only to find the air empty, apart from the constant fall of fluffy white flakes. Surprise exploded within me.
Could it possibly be the same tree that I’d just ran into?
I shook my head at myself sternly. Trees don’t move, I told myself firmly, Now pull yourself together and find Viola.
Fear that my friend may have fallen into a tree well and was now suffocating drove any thoughts of moving trees securely from my head. I stepped sideways again, determined to get around this wretched tree, only to find my path once again blocked by the tree.
A tree, I corrected myself. Trees don’t move.
“Damn it!” I mutter angrily, my brows creasing. Out of nowhere, a gnarled, very alive branch swooped towards me out of the blank, heaving mass of snow, looking as if the twigs were... reaching for me.
I ignored all thoughts that were screaming to me about how unnatural this was, and zeroed in on one thing, and one thing only: survival.
Taking a deep, steadying breath, I waited until I was just out of the branches reach, and suddenly ducked and rolled down the hill. My worry for Viola was coming forth in frightening bursts. Had she met the same fate I was so narrowly avoiding?
I pushed such daunting thoughts from my mind. I halted into a kneeling position, my hands grinding into ground. The snow clouded my vision, making it extremely challenging to see just about anything.
To my relief, at that moment the snow began to slow... Revealing a terrifying sight that I would forever remember, for it was the moment that changed my life.
There in front of me, was the tree, for I now had no choice but to accept that it was the tree. It was moving towards me, it’s long roots snakelike as they crawled across the snow covered ground. Clutched in it’s overly long, skeletal branches was Viola, slumped and unconscious.
I froze in fear, and panic, knowing I could do nothing to help her. “Viola!” I screamed, my voice infused with tension and helplessness.
That was the last thing I saw before the tree grasped me too. I felt a small, aching prick in my arm and I passed out, leaving the world dark, and unwelcoming.
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