By Lorenzo Novani
I woke to howling wind and all the hostility that it brings: the little door to the shelter rattling violently, snow fluttering through the sides, cold air reaching up to sting my face and leave me numb.
I thought about my predicament. I was 1,345 meters above sea level on the collapsed dome of an extinct volcano, surrounded by snow, fog, and darkness, in freezing temperatures, miles from civilization, with nothing but the clothes on my body, a rucksack with a bottle of water and a biscuit.
Why did I climb this fucking mountain in the first place? Had I wanted to die up here? I don’t think so. My lack of preparation was reckless, but not suicidal. When I set off the conditions were reasonable. Fog had descended as I was in ascent, but I knew I was only a short distance from the summit at the time, so I pressed on. It was both naive and stubborn. The sense of risk superseded by my need for a sense of triumph. Pride wouldn’t allow me to be beaten by the mountain, but after reaching the top, the fog quickly thickened to a dense dark grey. The fog kept me lost long enough for darkness to surround and darkness kept me occupied until wind and snow blew me to the only suitable conclusion for the night: a tiny wooden shelter built by and for climbers seeking shelter; a humble haven in the eye of a storm.
I think I had just wanted some solitude. I had got it. Now I just wanted some sleep, but it was impossible. The storm was a distraction, still the pain was unbearable. I’m not talking about my feet, which were throbbing, battered and blistered from the climb, nor the intense ache in my back and knees, nor the stinging of the cold against my bare skin. I’m talking about a much older wound that had been gouged open with a few words. The words repeated in my head alongside voices arguing heatedly about self-worth and identity.
I skimmed over sleep until daybreak and as the sky began to glow a hazy white, I wondered into the fog, searching for the path again. Where did I come from? How did I get here? My search took me perilously close to several ridges which would have been the end of me. On one occasion I was so startled by the drop that suddenly emerged from the fog in front of me that I slipped on the ice and found myself on my ass, feet in the air, a few inches from the edge! I scrambled back into the safety of the fog. I found the shelter again. I stood on the metal step outside, still shaking with adrenaline after my encounter with the life-threatening drop. I looked around, the wind and snow had stopped but I’d underestimated how dangerous the fog could be in itself; I could barely see a few feet in front of me. I had no choice but to wait until it cleared. At first, I was indignant, “There must be some way I can find my way out of here!” Quickly I resigned myself to the situation. The fog was indifferent to my will and would clear when it was good and ready. I stared into the fog. It began to glow as day pulled the sun from the horizon into its full glory. It was as the light poured from behind me, that it emerged in front of me, the specter. At first, I doubted its realness. I hadn’t eaten or slept properly. Was it a hallucination? A lucid dream? I willed it away but it didn’t move. I pinched myself but I was numb. It was human-like with 2 arms, legs and a head but it was about 5 or 6 times taller than me and there were no discernible features on its face. I stood frozen with fear as the gigantic phantom grew taller and more certain by the second, until it towered over me still, dark and ominous. I couldn’t look at it. It was unbearable. Overwhelmed by fear and awe, I cowered beneath it, crouching down low and covering my face with my hands.
Why do we let shadows of the past dominate us? Who could we be without them?
I removed my hand from my face and stood back up to confront it. My shadow. Cast onto the fog by the sun creating the illusion of a huge entity standing in front of me. I stared at the illusion until it gradually dissipated with the fog, unveiling blue skies, wispy, candy floss clouds, and lochs below that stretched out catching the sun and dividing it into a majesty that the eye could safely behold; a million little sparkling stars on their rippling surfaces.
It was time to go home. I still couldn’t find the path that took me there, but it didn’t matter now. I would find my own way down.
Short Bio: Lorenzo is a 32 year old writer and performer from Glasgow, currently living in Florence. An Equity/Spotlight Actor and professional magician, Lorenzo primarily writes to perform. His debut theater play “Cracked Tiles”- a one man play inspired by his relationship with his father- received critical acclaim at Glasgow’s West End Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015 – www.lorenzonovani.net. Lorenzo has also produced and performed several successful magic performances over the last few years, most recently “Poet of the Impossible” which weaved sleight of hand wizardry with spoken word poetry – www.r-e-n-z.co.uk. He is currently writing his 2nd theatrical play.