Words to include: cheque, death, climb
Floating above everything, yet standing still. Clouds, normally voluminous and misshapen, create a flat, welcoming bed to walk on, jump on and bounce. The sun splits the horizon, slowly rising above the clouds to join them. This is what every day on Everest is like. Why would he ever want to leave?
Jay had started the climb only last week, but already he felt at home staring out at the cathedral that is the sky. Everyone he knew had told him he would die if he did it, but he cashed his cheque anyway and joined the group who’d hired him as one of their guides. You see, Jay had never climbed Everest before. Sure, he’d climbed many large mountains his whole life, but never the mammoth that is Everest. He was cocky enough to believe that those small experiences added up to an Everest, but he was wrong. It was so much better up here than anywhere else. The town’s, the cities, himself even, were so much smaller up here, that the world seemed to take over completely, nature rewriting itself.
The climb up was glorious. The higher they went, the harder it was to breath and climb, and yet it somehow became more and more beautiful the further they went. Untouched and wild. Every step Jay took, he felt as though he was walking on hallowed ground, so was always sure to tread lightly. The others couldn’t care less. You see, Jay was only one member of a four person climbing party. He, the translator and experienced climber, and a local guide who only spoke Nepali (clearly not paid well enough for his dangerous work), the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company and a hedge fund founder/manager. The CEO and hedge fund guy had never climbed a real mountain in their lives, but for some reason they thought themselves capable of climbing the largest mountain in the world simply because their personal trainer told them they could, or possibly because everyone had told them they couldn’t. These men seemed like the kind of people who would risk everything to prove a point, especially if that point was that they were better than everyone else.
That night they set up camp on a small plateau. CEO and Hedge Fund, as Jay liked to refer to them, were celebrating inside the large tent at their successes so far, but Jay sat outside the tent, simply staring up at the sky. They were lucky, tonight was a beautiful, clear night. The stars were on brilliant display, and the moon hovered just above the clouds, making them look like a pool of silvery white. Jay heard a clink from inside the tent that seemed to echo throughout the mountainous cathedral of the Himalayas. The guide, shocked ran into the tent and started shout whispering at the men. He was warning them of an avalanche. I rushed to the face of the tent to translate just as they had grabbed the guide a glass of champagne too, and clinked it for him. And that was when the rumbling started.
“What was that?” Said the CEO.
“That, is the sound of an avalanche, which he was trying to warn you about” replied Jay, as the guide bolted out of the tent.
“Come on, we’ve got to get out of its path!” Said Jay. But for the first time on the peak, CEO and Hedge Fund froze. They started grabbing everything they could carry, but Jay grabbed the satellite phone, their ice picks and as much rope as he could carry, before dragging them out of there.
“But my phone! All of my work and ideas are in there!” Screamed the CEO. Jay replied, “Well, you should of thought of that before you brought it with you. Now come on! We’ve got to move.”
They ran across the plateau straight for the cliff at the other side. Their guide was already there, using some ropes to dangle off the side, out of the avalanches path. Jay grabbed the ropes and made a similar rig for Hedge Fund before moving onto the CEO, but when he looked back, the CEO wasn’t there anymore. He’d run back to the tent for his phone. Jay thought of yelling after him, but the sight of the avalanche stopped him, it was almost upon them. In seconds it would claim everything in its path. Hedge Fund started to yell, but Jay quickly shushed him, pointing to the snow above their heads. He waited and waited for the CEO, but the avalanche was almost there and he hadn’t even come out of the tent yet. Jay harnessed himself up and swung off the cliff, Joining the others as they silently watched the tent being claimed by the avalanche.
They dangled there and watched as the snow tumbled down the mountain, claiming more and more as it went. It was so huge, as it had passed them, Jay felt as miniscule as a mouse in a two story house. And yet, he was in complete awe. Something so beautiful, and somehow incredibly devastating was tumbling down the mountain side, rewriting everything that was in its path, reclaiming it and washing it anew, giving the tallest mountain in the world a fresh, clean slate. It made Jay think of possibilities, second chances and a new life for himself. He could forget about everything in his life and simply be reclaimed by nature. The more he looked out at the pristine landscape the more he wanted to discover what those possibilities were.
Until Hedge Fund broke him out of his trance, “he’s dead. I can’t believe he’s dead.” He was shaking uncontrollably and his gaze hadn’t left the spot where their tent had been for almost 5 minutes. Jay took out the satellite phone and called down to the rescue team. It would be much too dangerous to go back the way they had come.
The rescue team got them out safely. They got back to the base camp and Hedge Fund was still shook. The look on the guide’s face told Jay this happened all the time and that he definitely wasn’t paid enough for the kind of toll it was putting on him. So Jay walked straight up to him and asked, “where do I sign up?”.