Bodies Down the Gorge

Submitted into Contest #129 in response to: Write about a skier who accidentally strays off-piste.... view prompt

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Adventure Fiction Mystery

This story contains sensitive content

Out of the darkness a man with a belt walked slowly toward another dark corner. The man's steps were heavy and sluggish. His vision was blurred, his eyes clouded with blood and tears. He knew he shouldn't have done it, as the blood left marks of regret through the dust on the attic floor. He leaned into the gloom as if he were the one to be feared. Soon there was a piercing howl, as continual as if someone had been rubbing his arteries with a dull knife. The crying went on for nearly two hours, until it finally stopped. A desultory sob replaced it.

With a thud, Esgar woke from his half-consciousness to find his steel-frame snowmobile hurtling uncontrollably towards perdition. He didn't understand what was happening and looked back suddenly to find that the drive track had cracked. He struggled to keep control of the steering wheel and almost hit a man strolling down the track with his head down. For a moment he was distracted. But in a blink of an eye, the drooping head, dressed exactly like himself in the army-green ski jacket, had vanished.

"Shit. Essardas. I lost control of my sled." But all that came from the intercom was a hissing sound, a husky pant, as if someone was hesitating to decide whether Esgar should live or die. The steel-frame sledge finally burst through a U-shaped notch and plunged into the bloody sunset.

"…Five days after the accident, search teams found only a torn body at the bottom of the canyon, draped in a military-green ski jacket… They also found a pair of goggles split down the middle, buried in the snow… But they didn't actually find the casualty… The ground was covered in his blood, as if he had melted… No bones, no other soft tissue…"

Escribano from the forensics department was mincing back and forth in his mind, but physically stagnant. This was his way of meditating: in his mind he often saw strange things. And those strange had always whispered inspiration in his ear. But this time he felt uneasy and restless, and a sense of necessitation, though he didn't really need to take over. The ski jacket was identical to his own. Another bizarre homicide.

He suddenly remembered a few years back when he and Elano went to work on a case. The victim was skinned, which was unusual already, but still, died an acceptable way. But when Escribano opened another door in the apartment and looked up to find the full skin dripping with blood hanging directly in front of him, two testicles embedded in the eye socket of the corresponding area...

But sometimes Escribano's recollection of that nightmare changed, as if the killer who was never caught was trying to recall it from another angle. He would look at his blood-soaked hands holding the skin with hatred in his eyes." Father... "He would murmur, though he never knew any father.

He was 57 years old, and the cumulated amount of shock could only hurt his body now, no longer his soul. He felt a whiff of evil, a pang of nausea, as he pondered how the skier might have died, or where he might have gone.

But he had his job to finish. He reached down and searched the garment until he fished out a wallet and a work journal from its inner pocket. The victim wasn't one of the staff of the ski resort or the participants, as the others had confirmed. Leafing through the plain log, he found obvious eraser marks in the column that should indicate occupation. The victim's name was Esgar Escribano. That's just bullshit. No photos.

Escribano looked at his watch. Backup was not here yet. Impossible. He looked at his watch again, for he was sure that something very strange had just happened.

He saw with certainty that the hour hand on his watch had moved for an instant. Two hours onward, he saw clearly. He didn't understand. He remembered two hours ago... But he couldn't remember. He meditated again, but found only a cardboard box buried in a shadowy corner of his memory's empty attic. He dropped to his knees and slowly lifted the lid with trembling hands. A sheet of human skin was neatly stacked inside. But he did not feel the sickness. He just felt the similitude. And just as he was about to leave, alone, with no inspirations offered this time, the door of the room opened and a tall and robust man, completely hidden in his own shadows, entered. The man had got the bloody whip in his hand, but he wasn't looking for him.

He didn't even remember how he had got here. All along he remained alone, as the pictures cast off, kneeling in the snow, facing a pool of blood. As the blood gave off a little hot air.

But the ski jacket, spread in the pale patch, the one he had just rummaged, was gone.

Escribano felt a sudden foreboding. He turned slowly, to find a man nailed to a red-dyed cedar by the back of a steel sleigh. Thank God he found him.

He tried to get up quickly, but felt a piercing pain as his screech split the evening sky. Escribano found himself impaled in the lower leg by a piece of stainless steel from the sled. The blood was pooling in the trenches of the snow into the deep red in front of him. He finally realized something, and reached deep into his pocket.

He found it. That portrait of himself. The photo that was missing. It said on the back, "Step 1: Think about how your dad died. Step two: You are not a normal person. Step 3: You live to die unburdened. Now, have you fulfilled what you had planned?"

As he questioned himself, loud, sonorous voices from the gray sky forced him to look up. He looked at the surge of snow roaring down the mountain. He couldn't move. Escribano clutched the paper from his memory, and bellowed and cried for himself until the avalanche buried him.

"Have you done it?" He asked himself two minutes ago, as he stared to the direction of the cedar. Uncanny. The body was gone. The red was gone. "Have you done it?"

The wind rifted what was left of his broken, torn throat. Esgar took a deep breath and came out of a complete coma. Just couldn't believe he was not dead. He felt deeply powerless. The man didn't leave him dead like that. He stared at the surroundings with bloodshot eyes, tried to move, but from the bottom of his heart let out a piercing howl.

The electric sleigh nailed him mercilessly to the tree behind him. "Please, please..." A few soft words flowed from the corners of his mouth. He tried to die, but he just could not.

Esgar looked at his dial, eaten away by blood and congealed ice, as two hours had passed for no reason. The blood had dried up, but the avalanche had not yet come, which meant he could not die.

"... Professional skier Esgar Escribano Essardas, the World Ski Championship winner, missing for nearly four weeks, was found dead this morning in a horrific condition. Please be vigilant that... The bereaved father spoke to the media this morning. Facing the heavy news, Mr. Essardas calmly said..."

January 22, 2022 03:04

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