A story of overcoming grief with a determined mind, against all odds, for the one you love
|The landscape was cold and barren, ravaged by an unceasing, stinging wind that moaned as it swept over the snow covered ground. In the distance, a lone figure could be made out, struggling against the harsh elements. The wind was blowing against it as though trying to push it away, but to no avail.
Frost clung to his eyebrows and eyelashes and his lips were blue with cold. The wind stung his face and his eyes watered as he struggled to move against it. Panting heavily, James Messings lifted his foot and took another step forward, ignoring his muscles as they screamed in protest. The snow crunched loudly beneath his feet, but the sound was drowned out by the wind. Slowly, he lifted his gaze to the great dome of grey sky above. It was darkening.
A boy and a girl were playing in a field at sunset. They were chasing each other through the tall grass. Suddenly, the girl stumbled and fell to the ground. The boy was immediately there, helping her to her feet, but the game did not continue. He was staring into her eyes in a way which indicated more than friendship. His hand, unconsciously moved to her face where he brushed some dirt off her cheek. They moved closer, their lips almost touching now…
Enough. Pushing all thoughts from his mind, he lowered his pack to the ground and started to pitch his tent. A few minutes later, he crawled inside and lay listening to the wind as it battled against the canvas, his only shelter in this cold and unforgiving land. Sometime thereafter, he drifted into an uneasy sleep.
The boy and girl were walking in the park at night, holding hands. They stopped under a large oak tree and sat down. He leaned in and whispered something in her ear. A smile worked its way across her face. He leaned in and…
James awoke with a start. Everything around him was quiet, the wind had died down during the night. The fatigue from the previous day had not left him and his whole body was stiff, as it had been for the past two weeks. The silence seemed to press in on him and it was then that he remembered. Today was the day. The growing sense of dread and pain that he had managed to ignore, push out of his mind and sometimes even forget in the midst of his current sufferings now threatened to engulf him. It was inevitable that this should happen, perhaps even necessary, but that would make it no easier for him to face.
After eating a hurried meal and packing up, he slowly and reluctantly continued his journey. More snow had fallen during the night and the wind had picked up again which made walking even harder than before. With every step he took, the sense of dread inside him grew and the pain grew too much to be ignored. He knew he was getting closer. Not only to his goal, but to the place where…
With great effort he pushed all thoughts from his mind and concentrated on the icy ground in front of him.
Sometime later, how long he did not know for he had lost all track of time, he came upon a hillock. His heart thumped in his chest and all the memories he had been struggling to keep at bay now flooded his mind. Somehow, grim determination and longing overcame his dread and he half ran, half stumbled up the hill.
At last, the unavoidable moment that had tortured his thoughts for so long, came to pass. As he crested the hill, on the leeward side, there stood an ordinary plank of wood that had been hammered into the frozen ground. Crudely carved into its surface were words which read:
Here lies Jennifer Messings
Beloved friend and cherished wife
May her brave spirit find warmth
The words brought sudden flashes of memories back to him.
A boy and a girl were swimming together in a rock pool, under a waterfall. The boy moved towards the girl, took her in his arms and held her closely, looking into her eyes, the look in his own spoke of love. He leaned in towards her and…
A tear rolled down his cheek only to freeze as it came into contact with the air. He tried to hold them in, but more came. Memories flooded his mind as remembered how she had collapsed onto the ground after many days of battling the poison from the cut. The wound had turned septic and slowly its poison had spread to her heart. He remembered holding her beautiful body against his as her heartbeat slowed and the colour drained from her face. He remembered cradling her body in the snow, telling her that she was not going to die, that he would get her home and how she had smiled at him. That smile, an all-knowing smile.
“I want you to finish it, finish it for me.” she had said.
He shook his head, not refusing to believe what was happening.
“We’ll finish it together.” he had said to her
She smiled again, her breathing became weaker and shallower. He held on tighter, warming her as much as possible.
He remembered, remembered then, how he felt her body becoming colder and how she had spent her last breath, “I love you.”
A sudden gust of wind brought him back to reality. He looked at the plank and thought of how he had taken it from their sled, carved the words and dug the grave…
The next moment he had fallen to his knees in the snow, hunched over as sobs racked his body.
A month later, a lone figure approached the Antarctic Final Base. The wind still stung his face and his entire body was numb with cold and pain, but he was ignorant to it. He had finally accomplished what he had set out to do, but unlike so many others that had also made the very same journey, he had not done it for glory or for himself, but for Jennifer and her memory. He had finished it for her, as she had asked him to.
As he bent down to write his name on the tattered American flag that flapped in the wind he saw, in his mind’s eye, a boy and a girl.
They were standing close together; the boy had his arms about her body. They leaned in toward each other and then, their lips touched.