She was going to die!
John was going to die! He was twenty feet above her, and she could hear him weakly calling her name, “Maria,” he threw his head back, mouth agape, willing more air to come. “Maria, we’re almost there…please try…try for me!” He fell from his knees onto his back in the snow, looking skyward, his goggles covered in snow dust, uttering a silent prayer. My God! What have I done? Please help us! His body was in agony but he slowly turned and inched his way down to Maria.
Maria’s mind teased her with contradictory thoughts of warmth, all the many yesterdays of family and love, only to gasp, to remember to breathe the raw, short swooning wisps of air. With some robotic memory tap, she remembered her husband and forced her head to turn up the blinding mountain of snow. She could see a fuzzy gray shadowy figure wriggling snake-like down the slope toward her. Soon she heard the raspy muted voice calling out her name and she knew it was John… Was he just getting home from the office? She should pour their cocktails… She would tell him about Karl and Kristie’s first day at school, the cute ‘grown-up’ expressions the twins used in describing their day… Most of all, Maria wanted John’s lingering embrace and kisses… But, wait! The snow! The white blinding snow of the slope! Remembering to breathe! The Gasping for the thin and uncaring air. She tried to call out his name but no sound would come, only the greedy grasping for another breath of thin air.
Then they were together, side by side, gazing without trying to speak all the words they wanted to say – words of love and ‘forever yours’. Even as their bodies were near the end their nearly frozen lips formed endearing smiles for each other… Their chance meeting at a church social had brought them that rare storybook romance, a union seldom interrupted by harsh words… Family vacations that filled their albums with laughs, loving moments, and discovery… Their dream home where weekends were filled with backyard barbecues, games, movies in the theatre room and all the popcorn the kids could eat… The love making and cuddling when the hectic but wonderful days ended, when they talked about the events shaping their world, until sleep claimed them in sweet embrace…
Now, here on this steep slope, they somehow embraced as the cold and snow was about to claim them, their near-frozen lips almost touching and their half-closed eyes locked in some eternal union…
It was in these final moments that a sound came to John and Maria, low and cavernous like an insect buzz or a lawn tractor mowing the grass on their acre lot. The sound got louder and suddenly stopped. Voices! They heard voices, getting louder, and, in some unknowable place within their beings there came a faint glimmer of hope. Their bodies wanted to move, to greet this possible miracle…yet, they had read and knew the tricks the mind could play – perhaps this was another dimension they were entering, God’s kingdom, that biblical paradise to which they had pledged their faith. They continued to gaze into the other’s benign eyes until their lids could no longer bear the weight of so many thoughts.
As the snow’s bright whiteness filled the space behind their closed lids, they felt their bodies gently lifted and borne away…
Flash fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – May 1, 2015
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