Snow | Lydia Trethewey

Broken fences lead to a journey into the white beyond.


Snow

By Lydia Trethewey

For The CRATER MOUNTAIN Award


Soundlessness permeated the diffuse light, pressing against Jyri’s ears and amplifying the inward beat of his blood. Low grey clouds, shining with rain, grazed the mountainside as he made his way upward into their pregnant bellies. He creased his eyes against the threat of snow blindness. Wrapped in the heavy skin of animals, thick boots lined with fur, Jyri bowed his head and ascended into the rolling whiteness.

‘Kaapo,’ he called, cupping both hands around his mouth.

No sound returned, not the bleating of the goat nor the echo of his voice, its reverberations swallowed in snow.

Goats were hardy creatures, used to the silent cold that fell across the land, yet Jyri felt a strong protectiveness towards his herd, almost familial. When the Northern fence collapsed and Kaapo slipped its bonds to disappear into the mountain, Jyri felt the loss acutely, an abandonment, a betrayal of family.

‘Kaapo,’ he called again, the sound absorbed into softness.

Cold filled his lungs which each breath, icicles forming in his whiskery beard. Between cloud and ground nothing was substantial, nothing had form or mass, only drifts of snow blowing insubstantial. He pushed onwards, each step a desperate challenge of the mountain’s force, each moment a dripping away of hope.

He raised his face imploringly to the heavens. Light poured in, blinding him, illuminating the world on the mirrored surface of his eyes. Pain shot through his optical nerves in shards of brightness. He doubled over, blinking away the white, tears pushing their way through.

When at last he opened his eyes the world had turned, inverted itself, and now he stood on the ceiling of the universe looking down towards an endless mountain of snow. Up and down were not markers of direction but perspectives, the peak a dizzying shard of earth hanging into the emptiness of sky, the soft snow underfoot simply remnants of cloud.

A name formed on his lips, the goat he had come in search of. Kaapo the messenger, named for the angel Gabriel who brought news between heaven and earth. It no longer seemed important to find him, only to be wonderfully, gloriously lost. To just be. Jyri abandoned himself to the whim of the snow.

In his peripheral vision a shadow darted, grey against the white. Jyri turned and the world blurred, his eyes out-of-focus, the shadow leaping again into the greyscale edges of his sight. To the East he could see the silk threads of a waterfall, glistening in the diffuse light, and to the West the mountain pass dropped sharply into a darkened gash of absence. Close by the shadow pressed forward, it’s presence a living beating heart in the wash of atmosphere.

Jyri stood hanging from the roof of the world, opened to the shining staircase of the waterfall and the endless depths of the mountain edge. He laughed, the world filling his chest, the sound filling the blankets of snow until they hummed with his breath.

The shadow grew closer, a grey smudge amongst the white of his eyes. He sunk back into the snowdrift, peaceful and lightheaded.

Kaapo emerged into his vision, a point of lucidity in his snow blindness.

Jyri laughed again, feeling the life of the world come closer. His limbs froze and his brain sent scattered impulses in all directions.

‘Kaapo,’ he cried joyously, no longer sure who he was addressing.

As Kaapo approached, his warmth settling over the snow, Jyri closed his eyes and saw a whiteness unbroken by mountains or clouds. He smiled. In the soundlessness of the snow, caught between the heavens and earth, Jyri felt himself become insubstantial.


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