She glides out the door, brown hair momentarily suspended in her wake. Quick glance backward. The hair swings over her face, a muslin drape fluttering in the breeze. “I’ll text you when we get back.” A brief exchange of I love yous crosses the threshold in the instant before the door thuds shut, final punctuation to a conversation interrupted by life as usual. She’s got a train to catch. You’ve got clothes to hang on the line and supper to prepare. She’ll entertain you with marvelous stories when you she returns from holiday.
Sometimes Death creeps in on kitten’s toes. More often it ruptures life with seismic force.
One minute she’s looking back at him, an impish grin below sparkling green-flecked eyes.
“Perhaps we should turn back, he suggests.”
“Oh come on. You can do it. Just one step at a time. The view will be worth it, I promise.” Off she goes, a force of nature hell bent on summitting once more—no adventure too large to embrace.
His stomach churning, he watches her pick her way through the rocks; light, with goat-like dexterity, she lengthens the distance between them. At the very moment he masters his fear and lifts his right leg to follow her path, he hears a pebble shift. It releases the massive weight of the boulder above it. By the time his eyes have shifted from the rocks under his fingers to the rocks under her feet, the geometry of the mountain has changed. The boulder that anchored a narrow path to the summit is gone and so is she. Their voices join in a duet of surprise and fear that echoes through the thin air and through the viscous memory of his life.
One moment she is there. Full of life, of passion, of plans for future adventures, future holidays, future work assignments, future family, future children, future marriages, births, deaths, and scandals. And in the next moment she is gone. A broken body to be retrieved, to be mourned, to break open rifts of despair, recrimination, accusation, guilt, and gut-twisting agony.
She died doing what she loved. But what of those she left behind? Death, you are a cruel thief, stealing the life from one so young, so full of things yet to do, so full of people who will never be the same after your uninvited appearance.