and you ran and

special thanks to fatesjoke, for his indespensible advice


a man

smart man

chosen for your lingual prowess among the University staff

would trade anything to be in their place right now and unmake the last few hours and boil the words from your brain

you smart man

city man

what are you doing here in the mountains?

what possessed you besides the temporary insanity of adventure?

(why oh why oh why did you say yes)

yes you scoffed cigarettes and laughed with the others

laughed like men with no concept of death

you were soft (couch-softened comfort even in your nylon-poly-parka)

you all laughed in your eggshell of glass and steel

(can’t remember what it’s like to laugh forgotten even how to blink)

you struggled up mountain passes rimed with ice so that when the sun touched them they lit up like heaven around you and even running you could spare a thought for how pretty it was until you tripped


and Jennings reached over to catch your clumsy ass (solid academic fat second only to the collection of it in your head)

and Jennings is solid Nordic bone and stiff muscle

Jennings is solid pragmatism and sanity but Jennings runs too

and Jennings went hurtling over the edge and

he fell and


Jennings who shared milky coffee and laughed with you on the ride up (academic like you going up to the summit for god-knows-what)

Jennings who was right behind you

who was right behind Quincy

who was the first to see inside the chamber (open after who knows how long made by who knows what but struck open by you proud pilgrims of science)

opened with a belch of stale air right in Quincy’s face

and he screamed and

you screamed

only now the sound won’t come out and air feels like ice in your lungs

you stand

but in your heart you know it’s over

even before you start running

you are 5 years of university breakfasts slapped over a cold skeleton

you are ice shards and sobbing fear

you are second in line

Quincy was the first in line and

Quincy was the first to get a good look inside the box

it was a box

it was prison bars and locks

it was stones and timbers to keep something in but could not keep you out

you set it free

and Quincy screamed but what was the point

no one else was around to hear it but you

you couldn’t hear it when it really mattered (on the ride up)

when you could’ve turned around and abandoned it to time

but you hadn’t heard and

you came and

you read and

told them how to open (spurred them with your tongue you smart bastard)

you saw the warning but didn’t say

you assumed they knew

they had to know

but Quincy looked awfully surprised and

they scattered like ice shards

no plans

they scattered

but you ran

and you ran

while it occupied itself with the others and

what were you planning to do fly out of here yourself? Jennings was strong and

Jennings was skilled but

Jennings was only a mountaineer

who fumbled for his ice axe as he ran

like you fumbled for words in your mind



and you remembered too late that they only said never to open

never how to put it back

maybe they were sure

so sure

no one could be as dumb as you

or maybe


there is no “Back” to put it in

they were lucky

they knew they were lucky

and you were dumb

doctorate in languages but you were dumb you forgot

dead languages die for a reason

no one is left to keep them alive

no one left with a warning on their tongue

and now you run and

is it gaining? you never saw what it looked like but Quincy did and

Quincy died and he died so hard part of him hit the back of your head as you ran and

you ran and

Quincy was a volunteer firefighter who ran in his spare time

Quincy was a claymore mine of flesh

you didn’t turn back to look behind you at what clutched at your arm

maybe Phillips

maybe not

you watched Burbridge by the entrance crumble

he could have run

but his eyes were behind you

your eyes were beyond him

on freedom

what did he see?

is it behind you?

it’s behind you and

pain splits your side and

you run but you can’t run forever and

there falls Jennings to the crag below

Jennings is white bone and red meat

Jennings is sanity and milky coffee

his life ends in a bright wet splash and you fall

to your knees and grab at breath

surely it must be behind you but you check and nothing’s there


it isn’t behind you

you’re alive and

you want to cry and

you gasp for joy

your lungs burn but you are alive

and in celebration you look down to



there is no below

no crag

nothing is swallowing up the mountain

they said never to open they never said how to put back and

they never said what was in the box nothing was in the box Nothing was in the box

and you gasp and

your mind clutches at thought

like Jennings clutched the air

but the fight has leaked out of you

you can’t run

there is nowhere to go

and it’s gaining

but you try anyway

you run

blind panic stirring your feet

you are broken bars and alarms, you are fat fear heaving on the ice

you reach camp

keep going

you reach the chopper

and keep going maybe if you run fast enough

far enough

and the sun suddenly shows

one last time

and all around you lights up with cold beauty


and you can still spare a thought for how pretty it is when you trip

again and

you are falling and

you are flying and

eternity is yawning up to meet you


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