Later, Angie will tell herself she didn’t consciously make the decision. One moment, the weight
was there, and the next it was gone—a split second. That was all. How could anyone make a
conscious decision in a moment that short?
Angie’s therapist will ask if she actually believes that.
Angie will just look at him and laugh. Of course I do, she’ll say. Of course I do.
Of course she does.
Ed suggested the trip. They’d been planning it for years, ever since their honeymoon, but Ed
pointed out they both had vacation time, and wouldn’t it be nice—
Yes, Angie cried, and leapt into his arms. Ed spun her around and they kissed, and kissed, and
kissed some more, like they were on their honeymoon all over again.
They had gone rock climbing on their honeymoon, which had brought up the idea in the first
place. Most people went to romantic spots, but Ed and Angie had gone to Japan—but not for Tokyo.
For the climbing.
They had met in a beginner’s class at a small gym in Boston. They were both freshly out of
college, recently moved to the city, and looking for friends.
Somehow, they both decided on rock climbing and, by luck or fate, they were partnered
Don’t drop me! Ed had yelped, slipping from the wall and jolting in his harness, and Angie
laughed, tightening her grip on the belay rope.
Don’t worry! I’ve got you.
And she did. For the next fifteen years, Ed and Angie travelled the world together, climbing
rock walls that slowly grew more difficult and setting their gaze on the peak every climber dreamed
Mt. Everest. The Goddess of the Sky.
The skies are clear the morning they head out from base camp. Ed and Angie are part of a small
group—just three brothers and their guide—but they might as well be on their own.
It’s gorgeous, Angie breathes, her eyes wide as she takes in the miles of sparkling snow and the
way the sun gleams golden on the peak. I’ve never seen anything like it.
I have, Ed says, and Angie turns to him. His eyes are on the wisps of hair that always come
loose from her bun, floating around her face, and she shoves him.
Ed! Can you be anymore cliche? But she’s laughing.
He always makes her laugh.
The skies are turning gray.
It’s been easy climbing so far, but they eventually reach an ice wall. Their guide stops them,
points out the hooks already in place—where he’ll thread the rope as he free climbs up—and checks
their knots. They’ll all be on the same rope, but it’s perfectly safe, he insists.
Ed and Angie nod. They’ve done this before, though not for such a long climb.
The others have never climbed like this, so the guide asks if Ed and Angie will go at the bottom,
so he can help those in the middle.
A quarter of the way up, it starts snowing.
Angie slips a little on the ice, then digs her shoes in. She shivers, but gives Ed below her a
thumbs up—she’s fine.
The snow had slipped into the nooks and crannies of the ice, though, and it wets down the ice
wherever her hands and feet go.
The guide has slowed to accommodate everyone else, so Angie eyes the distance between her
and the person above her. It’s not far. Short enough she doesn’t want to bother moving, anyway, and
she takes a moment to check her gear.
The snow has melted into the rope and turned it hard as rock, making it difficult to maneuver.
Like that was a sign, the snow turns to small pieces of hail when they’re only halfway up.
Angie nearly runs her head into a boot, and she pauses, squints up: The guide has stopped, and
Angie thinks he’s looking around.
The mountain rumbles.
Do you think he’ll turn us around? Angie asks, looking down to Ed.
He frowns and shakes his head. Cups his ear. He says something, but she can’t make it out.
Angie shrugs. Ed shrugs back. She grins, mouths a teasing love you, and watches as her husband
gapes in horror.
The cliffside is shaking.
Angie looks up.
It’s snowing again, she thinks at first, blinking at the bits falling past her.
But there’s more coming down. Too much, gathering and deepening and washing away
everything in its path.
In the end, Angie will remember this in moments:
The guide burying his ice pick in the wall, and then stabbing a knife in for good measure.
The jarring of the ice breaking under her own pick, and then her knife.
The snow covering the guide, and then the brothers, one by one—
The hooks shaking loose from the ice, and the rope lashing free into the air before being
pummeled back to the wall—
The cold wave of snow down her back.
A sudden weight, her harness digging into her stomach—
Her pick beginning to slip from the ice. The snow-caked rope. Her knife.
A split second.
That was all it took to cut Ed loose.
Olivia Elle lives in Virginia. She graduated from Emerson College in 2020, and currently attends Johns Hopkins University’s Master’s program. In 2015, she self-published her book Tales of a Navy Brat: An Anthology, and has since had two short stories published in Generic. Her poem “The Gay Experience: F for Faith, F for—” was selected as a semi-finalist for the 2021 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award, and subsequently published in ArLiJo. Her poetry can also be found in Dodging the Rain, and Olivia herself can be found on most social media sites under the name @OliviaElle98.