Unknown mountain. Everything was damp, the climb was covered by flurries. I only knew I was climbing a craggy wall because I was hugged tight to it. Each breath borrowed through the snow and shifted tiny dimples where I’d place my mouth. It drew oxygen into the cloth covering my head. As long as I kept going, the more friction and heat I built up. Surviving, living through the storm below.

It was the roughest climb in my life. An inch became an excruciatingly frozen experience. I had the proper gear, but not the skill. I had the stamina, but not the will to keep going. Until I looked down.

The wiggling drew its shapes in the blanket of clouds. Soot hit my taste buds when I grabbed another mouthful of snow.

And I dragged myself higher.

Some of the black crept and broke, choked and crawled its way higher as well. It stayed twenty feet exactly, it rampaged the spotted snow.

I managed, after what felt like hours of work, to drag myself over an edge.

The top. The plateau set at record height, where the oxygen failed, where I had to place the mask connected to an singular tank half empty. It was shrouded in garbage, old flags and gear left by ancient climbers, at least two bodies frozen solid, almost preserved but ever much dead.

The black squirmed like worms, millions of severed fingers–rotted, sharpened nails, alive and bloody–clawed their way a bit higher. But couldn’t quite reach the ledge.

I forced my head to lolly to the side. Found a black horizon smeared with sunlight reflecting off each crawling decrepit finger. Billions upon trillions upon more than one could conceivably count.

The world might have been submerged. But the tip of the world still remained, the one place they couldn’t touch. The one place I could have gone.

Now frozen in time.

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