Chapter One from the author’s debut novel of the same name
Remember, I told myself only minutes before we discovered the body, this was supposed to be fun.
I had thought I would enjoy carrying a heavy pack up fifteen thousand vertical feet of uneven stony trail. Now I was too miserable to laugh at my own idiocy. Every upwards step prompted a jolt of pain from the infected blisters on both heels, and my brittle knees ached and popped like a sputtering motor. My pack straps had carved a pair of red furrows into my back, each one filigreed by an itchy fungal infection. I had a nagging headache, shortness of breath, and nausea, a textbook case of low-grade altitude sickness. But what really made the whole situation unbearable was my traveling companion’s attitude.
“Isn’t it fantastic?” Gavin said, as I trudged behind him. “It’s just extraordinary. I’ve been looking at it for three days now and I never get bored of it.”
The it in question was the Annapurna Range of the Himalaya, the glorious snow-capped mountains that surrounded us, and even in my irritable state I couldn’t argue with his superlatives. Every time I looked around I felt like I had stepped into a fairy tale. But I would have preferred to appreciate its grandeur from the window of our lodge, preferably while eating momos and drinking an entire pot of lemon tea, rather than following Gavin to inspect the abandoned village. He had browbeaten me into coming with him, knowing that I didn’t have the mental strength to argue. Probably thinking that I would thank him later.
I’ll thank him with a two-by-four, I thought. I’ll show him my gratitude with a ball-peen hammer. Even without my pack, which I had left back at the lodge, each motion felt like a sacrifice. Step, breathe, step, breathe, stop, breathe, repeat.
“Acute mountain sickness, my foot,” Gavin said. “I feel fantastic. I’ve never felt better in my life. I think I’m suffering from acute mountain wellness.”
“How nice for you,” I muttered.
“Paul! Is that snow?”
Canada & its place in the world. Published by
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