Don't Go There
Written By: LaLa Leo
Part IV - The Mountain of the Dead
"First Love Yourself. Today, we fly!" -LaLa Leo
Several miles in and surrounded by utter darkness, aside from the dim hues of their man-made lights, the temperature dropped quickly without warning. They were enveloped within the ice, and at the very mercy of the monstrous beast that had swallowed them whole the moment that they stepped in. With no sure way to tell if the night was nearly approaching, they all moved as quickly and carefully as possible.
There were only footsteps, and the uneasy rattling of hiking clips attached to one another, and unnerving silence.
Lyudmila began to nervously hum "The Battle of New Orleans" by Johnny Horton, as Zina immediately chimed in within seconds as if in a trance. After a few awkward moments, a baritone, that was surprisingly the slender Aleksander, joined in, making it a relaxing chorus to all. He was in the back closing in on the rest of the group.
Igor slowed his tracks as he ventured upon an eerily dense clearing of about a few hundred feet. It stared at them, nestled deep within the ominous belly that made up the pass not taken. This showed them little if any view at all of the rapidly descending skyline in the distance. Barely halting in his tracks, he whistled lightly, alerting his team to a new command.
The humming and singing instantly suppressed as Rustik and Tibo cautiously approached Igor before anyone else had the chance to. They checked for his brief signal and passed him slightly to the left of an icy stalagmite, and continued on forward to a steep incline.
"Thin ice..." Igor voiced almost silently to the group as they closed in meticulously on each side of him. Sasha motioned to go alone before Igor as well, and as they locked eyes, he shook his head slowly; allowing the motion.
Sasha ventured as if he were tip-toeing on eggshells, and didn't look back. He followed a few feet behind Rustik and Tibo who had nearly made it across to the other side. Igor signaled for Yuri and Zina next.
As Aleksander and Lyudmila lined up alongside Georgiy to await their turn, Igor instantly sensed their reluctance. He tried to reassure them with words of encouragement, knowing that he and Georgiy would be the last two following them closely in case of any mishaps.
"We've done this a million times before..." Igor tried with Lyudmila first. She was bright and oftentimes fearless. However, the time at hand had everyone on edge more than ever before. Even he felt a little unnerved, but wouldn't DARE mention it to the rest of the team. There is no turning back now, or else they'd be short on supplies, even with the stored supply cache. Who knows what could happen before then on the way back? There was NO turning back in Igor's mind. There was only pressing forward.
Igor offered his hand to Lyudmila as she anxiously clutched the strap to her backpack, and adjusted her breathing slowly. She grabbed Igor's hand with a little rigor and hoisted herself onto the mirror-like glass that was reflecting from the light of the cave's ceiling and the edge of the end of the pass. It was like walking in a real-life dream. What was she to fear? Other than falling to her death within the slightest weight misappropriation about 40 feet to the icy spikes below. How many people had fallen to their deaths before now? She secretly wondered.
Aleksander steadied her frame from behind as Igor did not reach down for him, and he managed to elevate to the surface on his own. Georgiy followed up last behind Aleksander. He definitely did a great job of not showing his anguish and fear of what would happen before the end of the trip. He was there as a best friend should be for his buddy on his last expedition before graduation.
Catching Georgiy's gaze in the beam of his mining hat light, Igor smiled as he reached down for him. Before he could even secure his grip with Georgiy's left hand, he heard a blood-curdling scream that forced him to release his attempted grasp. He whirled around to find that Zina, Aleksander, and Yuri were standing around a gaping hole that had formed and nearly swallowed Lyudmila from existence. She grasped dearly, losing grip every few seconds as she unsuccessfully tried to pull herself out.
The onlookers tried to attempt getting closer, but the gaping hole cracked and spread around their feet as if a spider were weaving a web to trap them all. Zina screamed as she nearly fell in to her death, and jumped to a sturdier surface with thicker ice. Aleksander was able to safely reach his long, lean arm as an extension to Lyudmila from a safe distance. Unfortunately, he wasn't strong enough to pull her out alone. He sweated profusely with his face beaming red, and grunted as he clutched her hand for dear life. Igor rushed over to help Yuri pull Aleksander by his tall frame backward to more solid ice to save Lyudmila.
"Please... don't let go!!!" Lyudmila shouted as she slipped once more, having to reach with all of her might to catch Aleksander's grip. Aleksander began to cry silently as he could see the loss of hope in her pleading eyes.
"Do not LET GO!!!" Lyudmila cried once again, and Zina softly sobbed in Sasha's arms. Rustik and Tibo could not afford to come back onto the ice for risk of too much weight on the frail ice that they were only supposed to cross two by two. It was up to Aleksander, Igor and Yuri at this point while Georgiy waited helplessly at the beginning of the icy ballroom floor, just dreading his turn to dance. He watched in horror unable to help at all.
"No one is going to let go of you! Please stay calm!!!!!" Igor shouted back as Aleksander was unable to speak, at this point. And, Yuri could not hear anything as he pulled and heaved with all of his strength, and seemed to block out anything other than that.
Aleksander soon got a grip, being called back to reality by Igor's sudden booming voice of alarm. He heaved and pulled Lyudmila up and onto safety as she dropped her bag below. She hugged Aleksander and sobbed into his chest as everyone else quickly helped her up to skid across the icy floor as quickly as possible. This left Georgiy to proceed alone.
Igor called back as soon as everyone was to safety with Aleksander and Lyudmila grieving over temporary loss of both of their sanities. Georgiy called back when he found out that the coast was clear.
"I am coming!" Georgiy called out and glanced behind him. Out of the corner of his eye, he could have sworn he saw a dark figure looming. He couldn't quite make out whether it was a human or animal, but something was definitely there.
He hoisted himself onto the icy glass floor, and proceeded to step as lightly as possible across. He dared not look back as he may have lost his balance until he came upon the first snowy clearing that seemed to have the footsteps of everyone else engraved in its texture.
Igor could see his bobbing headlight in the darkness. As Zina and everyone else were preoccupied with comforting Lyudmila and Aleksander after their near-death experience. He was trying to make sure that the last traveler of the pass survived this horrific scene. In his mind, he had to admit that this was not on the map. However, this was nothing new to him. There had been treasure maps that were not quite the same as the terrain that he had actually traversed.
As Georgiy stepped out onto the thinner ice, making sure to avoid the huge hole that Lyudmila had created with her near death experience. He felt a warm breeze from behind, which was definitely unnatural for the below freezing temperatures of the Ural Mountains in an icy, dark pass. What is this? It almost felt like the warm breath of something... or someone.
Georgiy stopped and looked back as he fished his flashlight loose from his hiking clip. He frantically clicked it on and the beam shakily loomed across the entrance of this icy bottom. There was nothing. No one. Just him, and then he faintly heard footsteps that he didn't even stay long enough to detect.
He hurriedly made way across the creaky ice that seemed to crack with every step, in his mind. He could not doubt what he heard, and it fueled the fire of urgency to return to Igor, and the rest of the group. He hopped onto the ledge as everyone waited patiently and Igor grabbed Georgiy's shoulder and glared deeply into his eyes.
Georgiy must have hidden his fear quite well, as Igor smiled his signature gap-toothed grin and charismatically laughed heartily as they all had just escaped death. A conflict of interest has developed between two best friends, Igor and Georgiy. Igor is now more confident than ever, as he was able to secure and protect his team from the extreme external elements of the mountain range. Georgiy is now ready to turn back, but denying the existence of what he could not possibly reason. What could be following them? How could he tell everyone that they were in danger?
Igor could not even deliberate with his team after regrouping from Lyudmila's incident. Everyone was super quiet while he awaited Georgiy's delayed arrival. After retrieving his best friend and turning to face the inevitable, he now knew why...
The icy pass opened up in a few hundred feet to a full-on blizzard. Igor would never forget locking eyes with Georgiy in awe of their new dilemma. He'd never forget Aleksander holding Lyudmila as she was partially sitting on the ground wailing, or Sasha's exasperated pose as he threw up both of hands. He'd never forget Zina and Yuri gazing over a map as their flashlights frantically illuminated the parchment in the dim light, seemingly ready to argue over the next best route. Lest he would not forget, Rustik and Tibo already edging their way towards the edge of the cavernous pass exit as they were ready for anything to come.
Inadvertently, Lyudmila never had the chance to mention that she felt as if her snow boot was viciously pulled through the dense hole in the ice right before her deadly fall encounter. No... no time for that now.
Yuri laid fast asleep, safe and warm, yet shaking in a cold sweat in his bed. A sole flashing bulb illuminates the room every few seconds, displaying Yuri's distraught state and the newcomers in their neighboring cots.
He yells out in his sleep, "NO! Nooo... please!" He turned about as Lyuda entered the room with the same steaming hot water bowl as before with a sponge to soothe the patron.
Yuri was still asleep, and she sat by him, patting him profusely as the bullets of cold sweat collected on his brow. He continued to mumble and jerk sporadically. He finally awakened abruptly, surprising Lyuda as he sat straight up wide-eyed in apparent distress.
"Please... Oh my God! You have to help them!" He screamed in terror.
"Help WHO? Please try to calm down!" Lyuda responded in a concerned, hushed tone. She tried to comfort and reassure him as best she could. She looked around to see that everyone else was still in a deep sleep, and this puzzled her, but only for a second. She couldn't believe that the other patients had not been awakened.
"You have to send someone out to rescue them! Please! NOW!" Yuri responded frantically with flailing arms nearly falling out of his infirmary cot as he attempted to steady himself.
"Rescue who? It is the wee hours of the morn!" Lyuda whispered loudly. She tried to convince him that he was safe. She had learned so little about him upon his arrival that she had no idea who he was referring to. He wandered in almost a week ago, breathless and collapsed in the small lobby. As she was the first to find him, she expressed sincere concern, and motioned for him to not wake the other patients in the room. As he calmed his breathing, he prepared to explain to her the reason for his urgent manner.
He sat back in the bed and sighed, glaring at her intently, and began his new life unbeknownst to him.
"You're going to think I'm mad..." His voice softened, but did not lose his hysterical countenance as he desperately tried to regain composure of normalcy.
"Try me..." Lyuda responded in a daring tone as she sat up ready for whatever he could possibly have in store for her. Over the years of senseless war and violence, she had definitely heard it all. Until now...
Part V - Otorten Coming Soon!
Thanks for reading.