Nov. 27, 2015
It was within sight. I shivered when I saw it amidst the snow and ice: a pool of clear water, steaming in the cold. I glanced at Jack, his face was chapped red, except where the frost had kissed too deeply, becoming gray in the cold. I'm sure I had matching signs of frostbite. I feared to even look at my fingers. I had ceased feeling them long ago, despite the fur mittens.
"Come, Jill, just a little further. We can do this," he said his voice hardly carrying over the frigid wind.
Moving had become difficult, even with the snowshoes, my legs felt leaden and it was a struggle just to move them a few inches forward. Jack supported me and together we started to make last leg to the top of the peak. No one had made it this far.
I closed my eyes and didn't think about how long it would take us to bring the water back to our village. I didn't think how we would keep it from freezing once we removed it from the hot spring. I focused on how happy people would be when they sipped it. How mother would open her eyes and see clearly, eyes no longer clouded by fever and delirium.
Steam was suddenly wafting in my face and I opened my eyes in surprise. We were there!
Jack let me go so he could get the pail that was strapped to my backpack. I heard the crust of snow crack, followed immediately by his snowshoe strap snapping. He didn't even cry out as he fell - his head dashed against a rock as he tumbled down, which didn't even slow his decent so steep was the mountainside.
I looked at the steaming pool. I pulled my mitten off with my teeth and dipped my hand into the water. The tips of my fingers were black from the chill. There was a burning tingle as I submerged them in the water that turned into paid - but the blackness receded like darkness at dawn and my hand was healed.
A bitter laugh tore from my throat. I unstrapped my snowshoes. Removed my coat, my shirt and everything. Shivering in the cold, naked on the mountain. Then I threw myself after Jack.