Vasant 2024 Stories - Frank Talaber

 

Making Snow Angels

By Frank Talaber

 

Yellow streaked the unending whiteness. Wind howled from the hollows of its dry throat over the frozen wasteland that had never in millions of years bore any greenery or life. I shivered as a moan of desiccated air pierced the chill of –30 Celsius. Low in timbre, unsettling, like the brittle creak of bone under a sarcophagus lid.


This was probably one of the stupider things I’d done in my life. “Climb Mt. Everest. The greatest high in life. Are you chicken?” My best friend John said to me.
I finished peeing and with a shiver zipped myself up, feeling my testicles clamp themselves tight against my body for warmth. Right about now, I’d wished I’d learned more humility and less testosterone poisoning in my upbringing. I didn’t feel too macho right about now sitting on the side of a mountain with nothing but unendingwhite cast against a chalk canvas backdrop of even more soul draining ivory.


Frost crunches with a gritty glasslike brittleness as I walk back to the tent. The moon viewed closer than I’d ever seen with my naked eye, at 22,000 feet above sea level as itdances behind fleeting clouds. Moving in and out of focus as I crawl back inside the tent.


My breath billows away in the intense cold. Mere moments earlier I’d been tucked away, safe in the fragile warmth of our tents. We’d hiked today to the second base camp and everyone was exhausted including me, John and our Guide Yanqui. I listened in the darkness as the voice of winter calling woke me up. Only I realized what I was listening to wasn’t the sound of snow rustling over ice nor frost cracking under its own growing weight. I clicked on my battery light and realized Yanqui, my Tibetan guide was wide awake. I knew he heard it too, he’d been up Everest many times. “What is that, Yanqui?”


“Go to sleep. There are things even rich Americans shouldn’t know anything about.” He spoke in his broken English and closed his eyes. Prayers seeped from his lips, I watched his fingers rubbing a set of Tibetan prayer beads.


“What is that?” I ask again, louder. I wasn’t about to take no from some hired guide. My Caucasian inbred cockiness took control.


He rolled over and closed his eyes. “Lay still and it will pass.”


“Yanqui. You’ll not sleep until you answer me.”


He sighed as he turned his head, opening his eyes. The fear inside him scrambling reason, pitching nightmares into his darkness as freely as candies picked out at the five and dime store by children.


He whispered one word in my direction and sent several utterances of prayers to the heavens. “Yeti.”


“What?” Had I heard correct? He rolled back over and pulled the covers tight around himself. I’ll get nothing else out of him tonight. I dressed, pulled my camera free and stuffed it inside my vest, thinking if there is such a thing then a picture would be worth a fortune. Maybe even pay for the trip. Or better yet publish a book. Fame, fortune and women, I smiled. I could see it now. The handgun, I brought from the states as a last minute thought, I stuffed into another pocket.
I unzip the tent; ice’s breath steals mine away with its frigid caressing kiss. “I’ve got to take a piss. Be right back.” Call me a disbeliever, call me stupid.


“Yeti, my ass.” I said loud enough for him to here. I know his eyes were on me. Watching, praying to whatever Buddha deities he took stock in. I stepped outside, gasping as the wind’s breath of ice catches mine again. Probably just some old trekker’s tales meant to scare the foreigners and generate more money for himself, I laugh to myself.Only he looked genuinely terrified.


Right then and there I’d wished I’d hired a Caucasian guide, preferably a yank, but I’d heard the best Sherpas were all from Nepal. He’d been up these slopes several times. I was the one treading in new territory and unknown zones. I’d never stopped at caution before, nor would I now.


I thought about one of my last winter experiences as I whip it out to empty my bladder. Smirking, I decide to carve a snow angel into the ice with my stream on Mt Everest.


I’d worked in an oil rig camp up in the far north of Alaska. I was one of the guards that night when a polar bear broke in and stole one of the sled dogs from the natives that we had to hire in order to run the camp. The bears were always a nuisance and feared little else besides our guns. I was in its zone then, only I didn’t realize I was intruder into its home and not the other way around. I chased the bear for miles over the broken landscape of snow and tundra before losing it on a Skidoo. The sight of a seven hundred-pound polar bear eating the sled dog as it ran fascinated me, in a moribund way, and stayed with me for a long time.


As I was returning to camp my skidoo ran out of fuel. In the excitement, I’d forgotten to check the tank. I walked back clutching the rifle nearly a mile in the middle of the night, walking over or around the heaves of ice and snow. It took a couple of hours. I remember clutching the gun tight feeling like I was being watched. When I got back to the camp I’d found out the polar bear had returned ahead of me and taken another of the dogs. I discovered the fresh tracks the next morning. Somewhere in that journey home it had passed within mere feet of me. Probably watched me and judged whether I was worth the effort.


“Pretty good angel, if I say so myself.” I muttered as I finish streaking the snow with my urine and look up. Again that low eerie call of winter’s voice, crying over frozen desolation. Only now I see what called and it had nothing to do with wind nor snow. I watched a wall of whiteness separate from whiteness and blink at me. Something had stood there the whole time, watching me.


I wasn’t scared then, with that polar bear. Too stupid to be scared.


I was now. Something to be said for laughing at stories of the unexplained and the unknown. Until you bump up against it and realize that it might, just possibly exist.


I had no idea what a Yeti was supposed to look like, but this thing was huge. Seven, maybe eight feet tall. Shaggy fur hung in dirty white knots. I caught a whiff of something rank as its breath drifted over area in a dense fog. Its hands hung down to its knees. The nose and ears were nearly hidden under the dense fur needed to protect the creatures at these extreme temperatures. The only thing I could really make out were the eyes, staring at me, and as it let out another long unsettling cry, teeth. Long, white teeth. Longer and sharper then were needed to chew roots and vegetables, I stared stunned. Those were carnivore’s teeth.


From behind me came echoes of that low whispering cry. The creature turned slightly, listening.


My bladder threatened to unload again and I felt the last of the urine seep down my leg as I realized that new sound was no echo. There was another one nearby. A mate perhaps.


It took another step forward. Wind whistled through its white fur. It was studying me as much as I was studying it.


I could rush back to the safety of my tent. Safety? What good would layers of nylon be against this beast?


I felt for the gun snuggled in my pocket. Security? Disdain colored its eyes. I knew in that moment, that if it chose to, the gun would be useless. A bazooka would have a hard time taking down something that size.


I meant nothing to it. I was merely an annoyance, like a pesky insect. Perhaps simply a meal. Those eyes bore into my soul as moonlight glinted off their dark depths and wind gasped its chilled breath between us.


Incense, in that breeze I smelled pungent incense. Overwhelming my mind, pulling at me.


It wasn’t possible, not at these altitudes. The voice of my reason spoke. Reasoning, the world I usually dwelled in, the world of my upbringing. The world I was now leaving as an echo began reverberating up from the valleys below, "Om," repeated over and over, until the O chilled my blood and the M vibrated into bone marrow.


Endless chanting by Tibetan monks. A mere word used to reach nirvana, to talk to God.


Orange clad monks, I turned and found myself in a room full of them. What the hell? I ran my hand over my head. I was as shaven as them. This was crazy, I was one of them. OM.


Reaching nirvana to them, madness, crazy madness to me. OM.


The relentless sound drove deeper into my soul. Peeling away surface layers, past the veneer of childhood. Past the ways of technology and science. Coring its way down into the depths of my being. I screamed, only nothing came out except: OM.


I wanted to scream louder, but didn’t, afraid of what would come out. Resistance I knew was futile.


Sparkles of light danced around me. Sprites, fairies, and angels, real angels. Spirits, all cavorting gaily on my sanity’s dance floor. Foreign smells, I knew intimately well, filled the air. Jasmine and Sandalwood. A harp strummed its melodic chords.


I was helpless in the grasp of whatever was happening, whatever wanted into my soul. Connection as inevitable as the light seeping in, pulling back the walls of my knowing like peeling onions and shedding tears of former reality.


Layers fell away, shedding the heaviness of my world, enlightening me from their burden until I stood with nothing but the sheer essence of what I was. Into that poured the sun, stars and the dark firmament that held everything in its place. A universe was being poured in until I thought I’d explode. I saw strands of my DNA doubling and doubling again as I expanded to hold it all. Touching, merging and depositing seeds of light everywhere inside of me. Connecting.


I was no longer what I came here as. My earlier brashness and arrogance melted away in the mixing of awareness and knowing. Change was sometimes a slow evolution, for some. For others, a mind-blowing roller coaster ride. A constant in life never set on an even keel.


My hand touched gunmetal. The hardness of steel shocking me back to the frozen slopes of Mt Everest where I stood. I could I-


Realization sprung its forbidden one-way trap. I couldn’t.


To kill it would be to kill myself. Connection, everything was connected, just as I died with each plant crushed underfoot. Reborn with each bud springing anew at the dawn’s bursting of life. Awareness was knowledge, I’d been told.


Knowledge was freedom and at the same time; shackles. The greater the freedom, the tighter the binding of the chains. In that moment as I looked over the unending whiteness I was more scared then I’d ever been. Ice crystals stung my hand as it fell away and the gun skittered off the crust of the snow disappearing into the night. I blinked and realized I was alone in the darkness of that mountainside. The yeti and its mate were gone. Their low moaning filling valleys, haunting minds like they did to mine. They’d found other pursuits, other pleasures, and other prey, or perhaps each other. A strange sadness settled into my bones. I’d been wrong, so wrong about so much in my life.


I crawled back into the tent. Yanqui stirred as a blast of frigid ice crystals swept over him. He looked up at me and in that stare I caught the glow of knowing in his eyes, while John, bless his soul had slept through all of it.Yanqui, I knew had the journey I'd taken, the reflection in his eyes, told me he'd taken it himself. I turned and looked back out into the expanse of white and darkness before I zipped up the tent. Under the moon’s glow I caught the sight of the piss colored angel staining the snow.

 

Frank Talaber from Canada is been called a natural storyteller who writes like his soul is on fire and the pencil is his voice screaming. Literature written beyond the realms of genre, whose compelling thoughts are freed from the depths of the heart and the subconscious before being poured onto the page. Known to grab readers kicking, screaming, laughing or crying and drag them into his novels. He has over fifty articles/short stories, sixty blog posts, over ten interviews and fifteen novels written or published. One novel, The Joining, top three finalist in the Canadian Book Club Awards in 2020, out of nearly two hundred entries. | Links : See above if you want I can send the information, but I have had nearly 50 publishing credits.

 

Our Contributors !!

Some of our writers!

  • We occasionally invite writers to send their musings. Do send in your work, and we will host it here.
  • Do visit the Submit page to submit your work.