It is right over there... Emil thought. The blazing wind made everything around him white, but now and then he would catch a grey glimpse of the rock. Only 10 meters more... He had to use his whole bodyweight to advance in this weather. His hiking sticks pressed in the ice under his feet. Go with it, don’t fight against it. You can never win a fight against nature. Yes, I’m there! Emil put his gloved hand firmly on the icy rock. He rubbed on a lower part of the cairn to reveal the markings, carved more than 3 generations back. It was more for reassurance, because Emil knew exactly where he was on the trail. He had lost count in how many times he had crossed the ice.
Without losing his grip on the stone, Emil crawled his way over to the other side of the cairn, where the stone of ages would protect him more or less against the storm, raging over the ice. He took the leather canvas out of his backpack to improvise an emergency tent and isolate him against the cold. Damn this storm is cold, the heaviest one in years, I think. I remember the first time I crossed this glacier alone. I was so proud... My first message. A storm like this hit me, just as I reached the first glacier cairn. Old Aron came all the way running from the village of Tenns, for he had seen the storm roll over the glacier. He forced me on my feet when he found me after the storm, kicked me all the way down to Pannygar. The man saved my life. I should make a little detour after I delivered, I know he lives somewhere near the coast outside of Arnetys these days.
Nowadays Emil knew how to survive. He had learned the hard way, but he took proud in the profession of messenger. In a landscape like this, many people had no means of travelling between the scattered villages. Even in summer, visiting nearby villages was an adventure that required lots of preparation. The messengers provided fast communication, whole year round. I’m almost as old Aron was back than. Today, Emil had his own pupils.
Outside the canvas, impenetrable whiteness howled over the ice. The storm was getting fiercer. The atmosphere of expectation told that the worst was yet to come. Soon I should send young Geri for his first message alone. Maybe not yet over the ice, but the route along the coast to the villages in the north. What kind of storm is this? I haven’t seen this in years... So cold... Stay awake Emil, you know how to do this...
Snow started to pile up against the leather tent, covering Emil from the world. Outside the ice, night started to appear. Sculpting hours of black and white. In the morning the sun warmed the leather canvas, waking Emil up. He stumbled out of the tent into the yellow light. Outside red flowers had pierced through the snow. “You fell asleep son; you shouldn’t fall asleep Emil boy.” “Aron?” Emil answered to the old man standing next to the cairn. “What are you doing up here?” “I knew I had to get you son. Now, have I taught you nothing? Get up! We have a message to deliver.”
Down by the sea, Irja arrived at her grandfather’s house. Her own daughter Sia, running in her footsteps. “Papa?” She asked while knocking on his door. “Are you awake?” She tried to open the door, but the storm of last night had frozen the handle. “Sia, give me the hot water please.” Irja told her daughter. She entered the freezing house and opened the door to the bedroom. The cold hit her right in heart. “Sia.” She said when she heard the girl enter the house, stopping her before she was halfway through the living room. “Go back to the village for me. Tell mother Ida your great grandfather died last night.”
Out on the glacier, 2 figures walked along the horizon.
I got the inspiration after hiking from the Kaldalon glacier lagoon to the foot of Drangajökull glacier in the Westfjords of Iceland. Read more about it here.