“Fuck it! I’m dying here,” Brig yelled into the storm. He closed his eyes and waited for hypothermia to set in. Snow had already begun covering his body when Brig thought he heard a motor. He blinked his eyes open and saw three distinct lights moving towards him. Brig remembered reading stories of people that described how they had died and seen themselves floating above their dead bodies, and something about a bright light. Was he supposed to move towards, or away from the light? Brig wasn’t certain, and impulsively stood and yelled at the lights, “Mother! I’m over here!”
The sound of the motor, or motors, grew closer. Was God coming to usher him to heaven on a motorcycle? Or was it Satan, come to drag him to hell on Harley? He hoped it was the former, but thought the Devil was more likely to be riding a motorcycle on the slopes of Everest.
It turned out to be neither of them. Brig was not dead and watched as three snowmobiles charged up the hill, tracking him down. Brig slowly realized he was being rescued, and thought, “Why didn’t anybody tell me they had snowmobiles?” Then, remembering where he was and why he was there, Brig hurried to hide behind the rocks, hoping he hadn’t been seen. He moved slowly in his bulky climbing gear, like a bundled-up toddler making his way outside to play in the snow.
The snowmobiles pulled up to his gravesite and came to a stop as Brig struggled to scale the waist-high wall. A figure that had been sitting on the back of the lead vehicle, leaped off and ran effortlessly toward Brig.
“Brig!” he heard the form yell. “It’s me. Jesus!”
Awkwardly straddling the pile of rocks, Brig stopped and turned around, confused. “Jesus?”
The apparition grabbed Brig by the shoulders, pulled him down off the rocks, and steadied him.
“Brig! It’s me, James.”
Brig was suddenly angry. “God damn it, James. Go away! You know why I’m here!”
“Brig, I know. But Tommy’s here, too. You need to hear what he has to tell you.”
“Tommy’s with you?” Brig asked. James pointed towards one of the other figures that had been riding on the back of a snowmobile. A man roughly the size of Tommy struggled to get up from his seat and fell to his knees. The driver of the snowmobile rushed to assist him.
“Hurry! He’s not doing well.” James prodded.
Brig’s shoulders slumped, realizing he had run out of options. He obviously couldn’t run. He had tried that already. He apparently couldn’t die. Everest was supposed to have taken care of that and failed.
Brig allowed James to tow him to the bent figure he said was Tommy. The man was coughing violently, not unlike Brig had experienced earlier. Brig knelt down and looked at the man’s face. He could see the resemblance, but it wasn’t Tommy. This man was thinner, older, and weaker than the man he knew as Tommy.
“James. There’s been some mistake. This isn’t T….” Brig began, but was interrupted by the man as he ceased coughing long enough to blurt out his name.
“Brig!” The man’s entire body shook as he fought to suppress the coughing. The snowmobile drivers had joined them and were pointing nervously at the ground. Small flecks of blood sprayed the white snow where the man had been coughing.
Brig bent down again and reached for the man’s shoulder. “Tommy?”
“Brig, you must listen to me!” The poor lighting and his diminished form had made it difficult for Brig to identify him, but the deep, commanding sound of Tommy’s voice was unmistakable. “Tommy! What the fuck are you thinking!?” Brig had never seen it before, but Brig had read enough about Everest to recognize the symptoms of HAPE. “I begged you not to follow me.”
“Brig. Stop talking!” Tommy commanded in a voice louder than seemed possible. Blood-tinged sputum frothed at the corners of his mouth. “You have to return to Hong Kong! Happy’s pregnant. With your son!”
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