The Pattern

Terry tumbled while climbing Mt Negra. Jen had told him not to climb it. “My dad was a mountaineer,” she’d said. “I know how fit you should be; how much training you need; how you should never climb alone.” He’d hoped that she wouldn’t go on about it but she had. “It’s great you want to do something special for your thirtieth birthday. If you‘d have thought of it last year, and we were well prepared, I’d say, ‘Woo! Let’s go there!’ But you thought of it last week. It’s stupid. It’s ridiculous! There’s no way I’m climbing that mountain, and neither should you.”

He’d said, “I told you already, babe. I’m going.”

“Well I’m not going to hang around, knowing you’re going to kill yourself. I’m pregnant. I don’t want the stress. I’m going to the city to visit my parents.”

He’d only made it half way up before he slipped on gravel and rolled down thirty feet. Thank God it was only that. If he’d fallen on the dark ledge further up, he would most likely have ended up as a corpse in the river. He’d suffered only aching bones and heavy bruising.

His bones needed hot baths, yet the bruising called for cold packs. Which would be better overall? He went for the full bath treatment, with classical music, mineral salts, and candles – like he’d seen Jen do. He should have told her about his accident, she’d have come back running, he knew; but it was his own stupid fault; let her enjoy getting spoiled by her folks.

Terry emerged from the bath and noticed that his veins were visible, like they are after vigorous exercise, but more so. The veins stayed raised all night. His skin looked like the underside of a gnarly blue leaf. Maybe his bath was too hot. Jen had told him often to cool down the water. He should listen to her more. It was hard to take her seriously though, like when she was talking about “bad energies”.

“What are those?” he’d asked her.

“Evil spirits and black curses,” she’d said. She should be more rational; they didn’t live in a fairy tale.

Next morning he seemed more tired than usual. He woke up late and wandered straight into the shower. When he emerged, the raised veins were still there. The shower was quicker and cooler than the bath, yet had caused the same effect, or had the veins never gone down?

He put on his glasses and looked himself over. The veins were raised all over his body. He looked like a rolled net, or a very old cheese. They could be map contours, or crazy etching. He was reminded of his visit to a surgical museum where he’d seen a baby’s corpse, its blood vessels were filled with red plastic, and all of the flesh removed. It was a curious exhibit, showing the flow of life but also its stagnation.

Terry’s blood vessels branched outwards from his heart as if reaching for life. But unlike the baby, all of them were blue. There was only used blood returning from everywhere; none of it being oxygenated, rejuvenated. The dark mountain at the end of the valley had coloured his blood and claimed him for her own. Was he now filled with bad energies?

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