It was a beautiful day, the white of the snow brilliant against
the cloudless sky. The sun was warm on her face and the air icy
in her nose and throat. Marianne removed her sunglasses and, squinting
against the glare, felt in her bag for the binoculars. Holding
them to her eyes she could see it was Steve.
Marianne watched as he moved effortlessly down the mountainside,
turning first this way, then that, carving sweeping curves in
the pristine snow. It made her think of a swallow dipping and
swooping in a summer evening sky. She smiled to herself.
A deep crack rent the air. Then another. The sound echoed around
the valley. She felt rather than heard a deep rumbling. With the
binoculars still held to her eyes, she looked from side to side.
A blur of snow, trees and sky swerved back and forth.
Her heart pounding, she dropped the binoculars, and her eyes,
watering now in the cold bright light, were drawn to movement
at the top of the pass. She could see the mass of snow, it's outer
edges, darker with tumbling debris, spreading downwards and outwards.
Frantically she sought out Steve. She saw him, now no more than
a small orange peck just reaching the treeline. The avalanche
was gathering pace, the outskirts billowing like sheets in the
wind. She tried to cry out but there was no air in her lungs.
He disappeared. Marianne watched as, moments later, the whiteness
swallowed the trees.