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“Everybody ready?” Our tour guide called out from the front of the bus. All of us let out a collective, “mmhm,” in agreement. “Great, because we’ll be there in ten minutes.” He said back to us. I stared out the window at the beautiful white landscape, it was like something out of a dream. A blanket of white covered the surrounding hills to the side of the road. After a few minutes of observing the beautiful atmosphere, we arrived.
I stepped outside the bus, and gazed up to see the tallest mountain in the world. Everest. Everyone else was staring at the colossal chunk of earth that stood before us, as well. Our tour guide explained to us, that this would be the most physically taxing thing thing we would do in our life, and it’s not too late to turn back now.
No one turned back.
I looked around me, and saw three men and two women. There was Karl and Lara, the young German couple. Leo, the Italian college student. Ivana, the middle aged Russian lady. Nabin, our Nepalese tour guide. And of course, myself. These people would be like my family for the next few days, we would need to support each other if we wanted to survive this experience. After Nabin made us sign a last batch of waivers, we began our ascent up the mountain.
It wasn’t bad at the beginning, but as we got higher, the air slowly grew thinner, making it harder to breathe. As we were climbing up a particularly steep surface, I remembered why I came on this expedition in the first place. All throughout my life, I’ve played my cards close to my chest, and avoided most risks. I had an ordinary nine to five office job, until something suddenly changed in me. I realized I wanted to do something extraordinary with my life. Something my wife and kids would be proud of me for. I felt like my children found me boring and uninteresting, if I come back and tell them I’ve climbed the tallest mountain in the world, it might change the way they see me. I need to do this, and if I die trying, at least I’ll die doing something brave. We climbed a bit further, until Nabin told us that it was time to set up camp.
We found a plateau on the mountain, and set up our tents. We talked for a bit, and learned each other’s purposes for partaking in such a risky expedition. Karl and Lara had been married for a year, and wanted to do something to celebrate their first year of marriage. They were major adrenaline junkies, and frequently went skydiving and bungee jumping. Leo was an art student, and thought experiencing everest for himself would put him in the right emotional mindset to paint the natural beauty. Ivana was bored of her monotonous routine back in Russia, and wanted to do something risky and dangerous. At around 10pm, we all went back to our tents to get some sleep. I was going back to my tent when I heard a scream echo across the desolate, white mountain. It wasn’t a human scream, I knew that for sure. It sounded like something was angrily yelling at the top of its lungs. My blood curled as I heard the high pitched expression of pure malice. Needless to say, I quickly walked back to my tent.
We’ve been climbing for about a month now. My ears have grown used to the faint howling of the wind. It’s often the only sound any of us will hear all day. It creates a feeling of loneliness. Sometimes I wonder if I should’ve done this at all. A lifetime of playing it safe hasn’t prepared me for this, but I keep going anyway. Even if I die here, at least people will remember me for something. It’s better to burn out, than to fade away.
As we climbed higher I began to think about my wife and kids, and if they could see me right now. They would be so proud.
I kept ascending.
After a few more feet of climbing, we came across an opening in the side of the mountain. The hole was extremely rough and uneven, almost like it wasn’t natural. Nabin seemed cautious about going in, but with a bit of persuasion, he led us through the jagged entrance on the side of Everest. We were surrounded by an expanse of darkness, along with the sound of water dropping from the stalactites that hung overhead. We couldn’t see a thing. We trudged through it, until we came to a wide open area, at the end of the narrow pathway. There were torches hung on the walls, so the area was mostly visible. As we entered the wide cavern, a pungent odour entered my nostrils I saw Leo run to a corner and violently throw up. It smelled like urine and rotting flesh. I looked around and my stomach sank. The room was filled with human skeletons, all brutally murdered in different fashions. One was impaled on a particularly jagged rock, another was missing its head. We continued to move through the collection of death, until we heard large footsteps moving in our general direction. Whatever this cave belonged to, was returning.
We ran in the opposite direction of it, towards the opening that we came from. As soon as we started running, the thing must’ve heard us, because it let out a terrifying yell, and started moving much faster. Adrenaline poured through our veins as we started running as fast as we could, First Nabin got to the opening, then Karl and Lara, then me, then Ivana, but not Leo. I looked behind me to see Leo sprinting towards us, but an outstretched arm reached out and grabbed him. He was desperately struggling to get loose. Tears were pouring from his eyes, and he was screaming at the top of his lungs for someone to help him, but there was nothing we could do. We watched as the creature pulled Leo back into the darkness. Agonizing screams came from Leo as we heard what sounded like limbs being ripped off. Leo suddenly burst out of the darkness. It was the most horrific sight. Leo’s arms and legs had been ripped off, exposing us to the gruesome image of the torso and head of Leo, squirming out of the darkness, desperately trying to escape whatever was following him. A large hand then reached out from the darkness, and pulled Leo back in. We heard a deafening scream, then suddenly a loud snap, and the screaming quickly ceased. We quickly re-embarked on our previous path. The wind howled as we climbed further up the mountain, no one dared to speak a word about what we’d just witnessed. Finally, Ivana broke the silence,
“Maybe we should go back.” Everyone was silent once again.
“No,” I finally said. “If we turn back now, we forget everything we’ve fought for so far. I don’t know about you people, but I won’t stop until I’m at the top.” My heart was racing. I felt empowered, like I could do anything. “Now let’s keep going, and if anyone doesn’t make it, at least they’ll be remembered as courageous. Like Leo.”
Everyone nodded their head in agreement.
We kept ascending.
We were about one day from reaching the peak at this point. The air was growing fatally thin. Everyone was in obvious discomfort, but we pushed forward. The wind was howling in our ears. The cold was numbing our faces. But we pushed forward. Our eyes have grown used to the same two colours, blue and white. The blankets of snow grew thicker the further up we went. We kept climbing until we came across an unusually large plateau. We could barely see anything in the distance because of the snowy wind that was crippling our vision. I thought I made out a tall bipedal figure in the distance, but I was probably just seeing things because of the lack of oxygen. As we trudged through the plateau, the figure seemed to become more visibly clear than before. I suddenly knew that I wasn’t imagining it. It was real. Everyone stopped when they saw it, a look of terror dawned on all of our faces. We had all realised, that this was the same creature that had mutilated Leo, earlier on our journey. I told everyone to stand their ground, maybe we could intimidate it. It suddenly started running to the side, becoming invisible in the snowy wind. Our hearts were pounding through our chests, we didn’t know when it was going to attack…until it did. It lunged out from the side, in a blur of white, and grabbed a hold of Ivana. It crushed her head with its massive mouth, and threw her to the side. It then grabbed a hold of Karl’s arm and Lara’s arm, and ripped them off. Their blood was pouring out of the stumps on their arms, painting the snow crimson red. The creature then dragged all three of them back by the legs, creating three distinct red lines in the snow. My heart was about to explode, but I couldn’t lose sight of my goal. I was going to get to the top.
It was just me and Nabin now.
“Maybe we should follow the blood, it’s possible they’re still alive. If we get there quick enough-”
“NO!” I shouted furiously. “We don’t have time for distractions.” “I don’t care who dies, as long as I reach that peak.”
“Do you have no empathy?” He said, as he gave me a disgusted, and walked away.
I continued to ascend.
As I walked up the last few kilometers of the mountain, I heard a bone-chilling scream of anguish. It was Nabin, no doubt. I kept climbing until the peak was in sight. I was immediately overwhelmed with joy. I ran to the top like it was a long lost brother. I fell down into the snow and took a moment to look down from the the top. It was the most amazing sight I’d ever seen. I was enjoying the view, when I heard something breathing behind me. My heart sank, and I knew it was over. This started as a way for me to prove myself and take risks, but turned into a deadly obsession. At least I made it to the top. Tears were streaming down my face. I knew this was the end for me, but I was so proud of myself for doing something courageous, for once in my life. I turned around to meet the face of an eight foot tall hairy humanoid creature, covered in white fur, soaked red with blood. In one swift motion, it pushed me off the edge.
The higher you are, the farther you fall.