Note: To read The Wishing Map from the beginning, click here.
The Wishing Map
Chapter Three: Aviar (continued)
Previously: Zack’s fall into Ismara continues…
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How had it happened? He thought back: he’d been in the house, in his sister’s room, on the Map and—
That was it! It must have something to do with the Map. Could he be falling into Ismara? But why would Aunt Aloysia give them something that would kill them?
Just then, he caught sight of a substance that was whiter and more solid than the clouds. Snow. On mountains. The most massive and beautiful mountains he’d ever seen. He’d once heard the Himalayas referred to as “the rooftop of the world.” Well, these must be the rooftop of the rooftop, he thought.
That was stupid; he wouldn’t repeat that to anyone, especially Gina. If he lived. How could he possibly live? In a matter of seconds he would be frappéd on some cold, blue mountain top.
“Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp! Auuuuuuuuuuunt Aloyyyyyyyysiaaaaaa!” It felt like his throat was being dredged with a fork. He grabbed at his neck, shrieking with pain. He let out a string of sobs and began grabbing at the sky again. Only by now he’d lost any hope of slowing his descent, so the grabbing was pure pantomime, the final desperate dumbshow of a dying boy.
Feeling twice as cold as before, he looked down at the cobalt blue mountain tops, and thought, with the resolve of a condemned lunatic, If I could only be warm I’d be willing to die. Yeah, a nice warm death.
The cerulean peaks thrust violently upward.Then, as if he’d gone from fast forward to play, his body began to stall, and before he could even fully comprehend what was happening…the frozen surface of a rock outcropping seemed to reach up and grabbed him!
Ow! It was like down stepping onto frozen stone with bare feet. No, not “like,” it was stepping down onto frozen stone with bare feet. Ow! If only he’d had his sneakers on. Ow! If only he’d had anything on! Ow!
It suddenly occurred to him that he was whimpering over sore tootsies when, just a moment ago, he’d expected to be smashed into a trillion pieces. “Hah-hah-hah-hah-hah!” His relieved-happy-freaked-out laugh pinballed across the rooftop of the rooftop of the world. Even though laughing hurt, he didn’t care: his raw throat was proof he was still alive, alive after being certain he was going to die! He threw out his arms and rasped, “Yes!!!!!!!!! I’m ali…”
He didn’t finish the phrase because the moment he flung open his arms, he lost his balance, and when he put his foot back to catch himself, there was nothing there!
I just fell ten thousand miles! What could a few thousand feet more matter? Plenty. He sensed this was different, that if he fell this time he would die for real. He threw himself down onto his bare chest and grabbed the snow-spattered strata in front of him. His lower body was hanging over the edge. Of what?
He pulled himself forward, scraping his nipples, navel, and knees in the process, then got up and turned around. Oh, a ledge.
A 9,000 foot high ledge! He stepped back from the crumbling edge, afraid that it would break off and take him with it. He turned. By the light of the double moon he could just make out a big half ring made of sticks and rocks. Somehow it felt sacred, except that half of it had fallen away, the half he’d stepped out onto a moment ago!
He squinted. Just beyond the half-a-holy-place he could see a big bowl-shaped area padded with straw and dry grass. It must have been forty or fifty feet across, as big as the foundation of a house. It looked thick and deep and warm. Zack suddenly remembered how cold he was. He may have survived death by falling, but if he didn’t get warm soon, really soon, he’d experience death by freezing!
He dove into the straw. The deeper he burrowed, the warmer he got. About three feet beneath the surface he touched something that felt like sticks. In the straw-filtered moonlight, he could see that they were white and smooth and brittle like bones.
He should have been concerned, but he was too tired to think anymore, physically and emotionally finished, done; his body needed to throw the breaker right now. Just before going into hibernation, he pulled a long, warm object against himself. It was soft but stiff, like a heavily starched towel or jeans or a feather.
A feather the size of a surfboard.
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Thoughts: Have you ever thought you were going to die, then experienced a reversal of fate, and suddenly remembered how wonderful life–the gift that encompasses all other gifts–is?
To read The Wishing Map 13, click here!