Story from a New Zealand volcano
I swung my skis to a standstill and tried to orient
myself. The driving snow absorbed most of the surrounding sounds
and the visibility seemed nil - but for those black volcanic rocks already
deprived of their white cover by spring sun and rain. Then an eerie thing
happened: those rocks came jumping at me. I tried to evade them, but had no
feeling of moving on the even surface of the slope. It was frozen and dusted over with a layer of fresh
snowflakes. Abruptly, the rocks came to a halt - then,
instead, slid away from me.
I rationalised: since I was not dreaming
almost doubted this
could not be standing still at all. I must be moving forward and backward. It
was weird, because I was not even aware of
any muscle movement. Suddenly, plowing through the snow, a sign
crossed-out skier painted on it. Such signs mark the edge of the
skiable ridge. Beyond lies "the GUT", a bluff of 100 metres.
I guess I panicked because the landscape,
or what was left of it, the rocks and the ominous sign, began to rotate around
me. I still had no feeling of moving at all. The crossed-out skier came
circling towards me. I desperately willed my body to move closely
so that I
could grab the iron rod holding it
I missed it!
Where was up? Down? I threw myself to the ground
losing one ski. Only
then did I feel my own movement. I was sliding
feet first. The uncanny sensation of being locked into
uncontrollable movement left me, but I became aware of sliding downhill with the
horrible sensation of being unable to stop myself. Frantically, I kept digging my gloved fingers into
the hard snow. I knew time was running out and the steepness of the slope would
increase rapidly. What had Beth said before we parted? "Look after
yourself!" I wish I could before the whiteness would swallow me. I have
seen a skier perish here. He slipped, fell, and sliding, gathered speed fast.
Then he was sucked up by the GUT like a rag doll bouncing into the abyss.
I felt myself slowing down. There I lay prostrate,
with my fingers dug in, hardly daring to breathe lest I would dislodge myself
from my precarious position. Carefully, I started digging one hand into
the snow, then the other. Having achieved a good grip, I ventured to scrape my ski edge
into the slope. Gingerly, I rose and started to climb up.
I was in control of my life again.
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