30-Day Flash Challenge, Day 16
Dazed, Gerald exits his cabin by breaking the window in the loft then dropping into the snow.
“It must have been Maude’s table that saved me, ugly battleship thing. Oh, and the table is no beauty either,” he cackles to himself. Maude was Gerald’s ex-mother-in-law.
The table was solid oak, quite sturdy and heavy. Gerald tells himself he must have dived under it when the wall of snow crashed down upon the log cabin. He tries to recall the moment, but he cannot pull it back into his consciousness.
Early spring is a dangerous time to be in the mountains. The snow on top melts during the day and refreezes, forming thin sheets of ice. Then it more snow falls. The cycle repeats until the mountaintop is a multi-layered sandwich of ice and snow. The whole stack is unstable as hell. That is why Gerald tries to quiet his thinking anytime he’s skiing the slopes behind his home. There are no lifts or resorts here, of course. Here things are a bit more freestyle and entirely unregulated.
He can remember the tell-tale rumbling from the couch. He had had his feet upon a coffee table, warming his soles before the fire.
Then the rumble.
Try as he might, he cannot load the next reel of memories. He writes it off while making a mental note to call Jeannie and tell her how her mother’s table saved his life.
As rustic and unregulated as it is, he does have a few neighbors. Similar free spirits that love nothing more than skiing on powder so bright it could almost leave you blind when the sunlight bounces off it or feeling romantic when the moonlight hits it.
There is a cabin just a quarter-mile east of his. Another sits a bit further away, to the west. Feeling lazy, he walks east over the tumbled piles of loose and crusty snow.
The wooded slope is so quiet he can hear nothing.
He lives for these moments. And for the skiing of course. Now that it’s fallen, the slope above should be safe to ski later in the day. His cabin will need substantial repairs, but at least there will be snow later.
Before he rounds the last bend, he can hear her crying.
Emily is holding her son, Zeke; he looks too limp in her arms. His body covered in melting snow. Beyond Emily, he sees the two shovels, signs of digging.
Christ. The kid was only seven, he thinks.
He starts to walk towards her and her husband, a man whose name he can never remember. Was it Doran or Donnell? It was something Irish, he thinks.
Gerald hates these moments, but whatshisname must have already spotted him, so he saunters over. The woman continues clutching at and crying over Zeke’s body.
Doran slowly walks towards Gerald, wearing a thousand-yard stare. Shock.
Gerald stops his approach, waits for the man to reach him. Gerald casts around for something to say.
What do I say?!
But Doran walks right past Gerald as if he were invisible.
Dodged a bullet there, he tells himself. Then turning, he slowly makes his way back home. There’s nothing he can do here.
He returns to his cabin.
Looking up to the loft, he notices the window is intact. It’s not broken even as the entire cabin is tilted 45 degrees, and the rear of the house lies crushed under tons of snow, ice, and boulders.
Understanding dawns fully formed in Gerald’s head. He remembers being in the cabin, dragging the poker through last night’s fire, putting on two logs, sitting back on the couch, the dry cracks as the wood caught, hearing the rumble of the avalanche, thinking he should get under the table, and then? And then there was only blackness. He doesn’t recall diving under the oak table because it never happened.
The back of the cabin is buried, and that was where Gerald had been sitting and where he still sits – a broken rag doll. His body a contorted mess of brokenness and impossible bends.
He whispers, “But..,”
Then it is over, and his essence dissipates to go where it will.