An IN THE AIR Excerpt: “One Foot” by Lillie E. Franks

“I’ve heard there are spirits in these mountains,” Alan said from behind me. Was he coherent or had he started raving?

“That’s good,” I said. “Keep talking. Keep your mind off the pain.”

Snow crunched under my feet. Everything was snow. Snow-covered rocks, snow-covered ground, a snow-covered sky, clouds of snow. No warmth, no direction, no life. Just us and the cold. The cold was more alive than either of us. It wanted something. What did I want?

One foot in front of the other. That’s all it is. Just one foot in front of the other.

“I grew up around here. There were lots of stories that kinda floated around. One kid heard them from another kid, and they just, you know, kept going. Not much to do in Angoon but tell ghost stories, I guess. Most of them were just local takes on the same stories that happened to everyone’s uncle’s friend. No idea how they got up here, but they sure did. But one of them that wasn’t was the spirits. The spirits in the mountains…”

I glanced behind us. Energy I didn’t have, but it felt good to know the airplane was out of sight. A small charter flight to Anchorage that got caught in the storm and crashed. There were fourteen passengers on the flight, including us. Alan’s leg had caught under the seat in front of him and snapped. All the others had died. I could have left him there. Maybe I should have, but instead, I dressed us up in some coats and clothes from the overhead, strapped him to my back, and now…what?

We both knew the odds. They weren’t good.

“I heard it from Craig. Craig Lopez. He was kinda cool, as Angoon goes. Really smart kid but always got in trouble. I wonder what he’s up to now…”

“Probably something better than this,” I said.

“Ha, that’s a good one. Fuck. Yeah. Better than this. It was a party. One of Gizelle’s parties. When it got late, we turned the lights out, and he started telling the story about the ghosts. Not really a story, I guess. Just a legend. That every person who ever froze here stays here. You couldn’t find the bodies or bring them down, so they just stay here. And they want company. That was the creepy part. They’ll beg, plead, do anything to make you stay with them. Stay with them and freeze…Good story, huh? When he told it, it was a good story.”

His voice drifted off.

I shook him slightly. “Don’t fall asleep.”

“Right. Don’t fall asleep.”

Walking had been my bad idea. I told Alan we could to the other side of the mountain where the hikers were. Were there hikers? Or had I made that up?

He shouldn’t have listened to me.

I shouldn’t have listened to me.

We both had, so what was there to do?

I walked on. The wind whistled around us and broke into all kinds of strange sounds. Almost like singing. Or whispering. I had to be careful about listening to it. When I listened too much, I could feel it lulling me to sleep.

“You know, I still think you should leave me…” he said, as if musing to himself.

“Not happening.” I put my foot in front of the other. My muscles burned already. All I wanted to do was lie down. But I couldn’t do that. I had to keep walking. I had to put the next foot in front.

“You know you won’t make it with me like this…”

“I won’t make it anyway.”

One foot in front of the other.

 

 

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Lillie E. Franks is a playwright and storyteller based in Chicago. At the end it will be revealed she was the murderer the whole time.

 

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