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The sun began to set causing the sky to turn a radiant orange. To observe something so beautiful from the snow-covered Himalayas should have been illegal, it was absolutely breathtaking.
"Come on, Ned! We haven't long before dark!"
Ned Tubber turned and followed the voice to its source, his dapper and dark-skinned best friend, Orwell Thatcher.
"Right you are, Orwell!" Ned shouted in reply as he slowly advanced toward the newly erected shelter.
The snowfall and wind both increased in speed and intensity, causing Ned's visibility of the shelter to diminish. Ned raised his gloved hands to shield his face and goggles as the wind batted him with snow; had he not been wearing multiple layers of clothing, the strong wind would have blown him over.
Orwell Thatcher peered out the tent to see what was up with his friend's delay, he quickly ducked his head back in after becoming aware of the blizzard.
"Hey, Gil. There's a blizzard," exclaimed Orwell in frustration as he turned to the burly, red-haired man with enough metal in his face to rival a box of nails.
"Aw shit, Ned's still out there. What do we do, man?"
"Get some goggles and grab my hand. Our combined weight should prevent us from blowing away, not to mention it'll keep us from getting separated."
Ned Tubber flailed wildly as he waded forward through the snow. As if to retaliate, the wind picked up speed, blew Ned off his feet and onto his coat-covered stomach. Try as he might, the wind refused to allow him to stand. Eventually, Ned stopped struggling and gave himself to the cold snow.
"Something isn't right, Gil," Orwell stated ominously.
"How you mean?"
"Ned wasn't that far from the tent, we should have found him by now."
"Lord forgive me for even suggesten, but what if he wandered on the other direction?"
Orwell's hazel eyes widened at the thought.
The two men carried on for a time until Gil suggested what Orwell was thinking, but refusing to suggest. It was time to head back to shelter or they'd both freeze to death. Orwell relented after a minor debate. As the men walked toward camp, Gil tripped and let out a loud curse as his hand let go of Orwell's and he fell.
"Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm better than alright, man. Look at who I found!"
Orwell peered down and saw that Gil had tripped over an unconscious Ned. After helping Gil back up, Orwell lifted up Ned and swung his arms around his and Gil's shoulders. The two men carried their unconscious climbing buddy back to their tent. Ned awoke to find his finely groomed friend, Orwell, sitting next to him.
Ned replayed the last few events in his mind before speaking, "Thanks, Orwell," he managed weakly.
"Don't worry about it, buddy."
"That wind, it was so strong and unreal, it blew me off my feet and I just couldn't manage to get back up."
"It wasn't the wind."
"It wasn't the wind. Something clawed your back and knocked you down. We noticed a claw mark in your coat after we got back here. Luckily, it didn't penetrate beyond that, whatever it was just managed to knock the wind out of you."
"I suppose it could have been a Himalayan black bear."
"Impossible. Those are only able to live around 14,000 feet, we're at Camp II which, need I remind you, is at 21,000 plus feet."
"Well, whatever, the danger has passed. Is it day yet?"
"Yeah, you ready to start climbing?"
"Sure am, Everest isn't going to climb itself," Ned stated as he stood up and started toward the exit.
"Hold it. We should pass the 26,000 mark today, so we'll need the oxygen."
After the two men finished equipping their oxygen tanks and masks they headed outside. The two men were shocked by what they saw upon exiting the tent. A few feet in front of them stood Gilbert Sachs with smoke rising above his head due to the blunt in his hand. Gilbert gasped and tried to hide the blunt behind his back, but was too late. Orwell snatched the blunt from the red-head's hands and tossed it off the side of the mountain.
"Not cool, man." Gilbert mustered.
"I told you to leave that shit at home and you should have known better seeing as how drugs destroyed Orwell's family," Ned replied with disinterest.
"But it was for my Glaucoma!"
"That old excuse? Come up with something better, actually just don't smoke that nonsense, especially around me," Orwell said in a strained voice.
"Go get your oxygen so that we can pack up and get climbing."
The three men dug into the snow-covered mountain with their ice axes and continued their quest to reach Everest's summit. They were not rookies by any means, therefore they moved with grand precision, always carefully placing their feet into the fresh cut footholds. However, even experts are capable of mistakes and being caught off-guard, the wind picked up and produced a blizzard doing just that.
"I say, what the hell is up with this weather?" Ned shouted to Orwell and Gilbert.
"At this rate, we aren't going to make it back home, let alone to the top," Orwell replied.
Gilbert, who was taking up the rear, looked to his left and noticed a cave that was embedded into the side of the mountain. "Hey, man, there's something over here, it looks like a cave. We could wait out the weather in there."
The three mountaineers climbed over and made their way into the cave one by one.
"If we head in deeper, we might find an exit closer to the top. We'll get out of the wind if nothing else," Orwell stated.
"Sure, beats just sitting here and waiting out this hormonal weather," Ned replied with enthusiasm.
The cavern darkened the further they went, at least briefly, until they reached a point where small holes in the mountainside were present and small rays of light shone through. Ned ran his hand across a few of the holes.
"This feels strange, like it was cut or carved. It feels chipped," Ned stated in disbelief.
"Huh, you're right. There's no way that's natural," Orwell replied in an astonished tone.
A shuffling sound echoed from farther down the cave, it gradually became louder and louder. It was getting closer!
"Let's head back the other way. There shouldn't be any life this high up and I'd rather not deal with whatever I'm hearing," Ned whispered to his two friends.
Before another word could be said or any action taken, a large white figure lumbered into view. The four beings stood still, eyeing each other intently. The white of the figure was snow, its fur was naturally black and was that of a Himalayan black bear. However, upon closer inspection, Ned came to realize that the fur wasn't the creature's own, it was no bear, the others seemed to realize this truth as well. Gilbert Sachs dropped to his knees and produced a cross from one of his coat pockets.
Gilbert raised the cross up to his eye level and began to chant, "The power of Christ compels you. Oh God, help me, man."
The creature's purple eyes peeked out from underneath the fur coat and regarded the speaking human very briefly before it raised a fur-covered appendage and shot forth a black tentacle-like appendage with three sharp prongs. The prongs struck the praying man in the stomach and acted as a fishing line which reeled the screaming, wounded man back to the beast. Ned and Orwell momentarily stared in disbelief before making a run for it.
Ned felt a mix of sadness and relief when Gilbert's screaming ceased, the relief was momentary however. As if the two men's imagination regarding the fate of their friend wasn't enough, a loud popping sound could be heard followed by something that sounded like marbles hitting the floor. Although they had a considerable lead, a shower of crimson managed to coat some of the cave wall in front of them. As Ned ran he noticed a rolling sound which was getting closer, as the sound passed him, Ned saw that it wasn't marbles rolling across the floor, but some of the metal that had been in Gilbert's face.
Another horrible realization hit the man as he neared the exit, the blood wasn't splashing the wall in front of him, the creature's tendril had been trying to stab him and was missing, causing it to smear his friend's blood across the wall.
"Shit," echoed Orwell's voice as the cave exit came into view.
Ned knew full well why Orwell had made the expletive when he was also able to see the exit; the blizzard was going at full force.
"Ready the rod, we'll abseil down!" Ned barked at his friend whom had a lead on him.
"This is nuts," Orwell complained as he forced the metal rod into the mountain ground and secured the rope to it.
"It's do or die, Orwell."
Despite the head start, the creature had pretty much fully caught up to its potential prey as they had reached the cave exit. It shot a barbed tendril at Ned Tubber, but overshot again, Ned greeted the tentacle with his ice axe. The beast let out a mighty roar as it shot out its other tendril in response, although the prongs missed, the appendage struck Ned and sent him off the side of the mountain.
Orwell heard screaming and cursing as he descended the rope, he saw Ned fall right past him. Ned reached out as he fell and by sheer skill, or perhaps luck, caught the rappel rope with his right hand. Orwell grinned at the sight, but his grin quickly became replaced with a frown when he looked back up and saw that the snow creature had lifted the metal rod, which secured the rope, out of the ground. After letting out a bloodcurdling roar, the thing threw rod and rope off the side of Mount Everest.
Orwell tried to use his ice axe to dig into the mountain and hang on, but wasn't quick enough, while Ned's was still firmly placed in the beast's appendage. Both men fell.
Ned up-righted himself off the snow, he had been fortunate enough to not have such a falling distance, Orwell was not so lucky. Orwell had broken nearly every significant bone in his body and died on impact with the ground. Ned staggered to Base Camp II despite the weather conditions. A separate group of mountaineers spotted Ned and helped him down the mountain.
Ned Tubber went home to his wife, Sam, and young son, Elliot. He'd spread tales of a snow monster which he believed was a Yeti, only his wife believed his claims. Ned would often relive the event in his nightmares and would carry the worst sort of guilt for the rest of his life; survivor's guilt.
Written by Doom Vroom