When was the last time you were scared? Not startled, like rounding a corner and someone is standing there. Or being cuddled up to your significant other while a Hollywood movie monster wreaks havoc on your TV screen. But scared? Let me rephrase, when was the last time you were terrified? I’m not sure we feel that level of intense fear too often in our lifetime, but when we do, it’s memorable and it can be an exhilarating experience. May 19, 2017 for me, coincidentally my mother’s birthday, fitting as I was thinking about her quite a bit that night. That night, I was huddled in a cheaply made tent on the side of a mountain. High in the Chanshal Pass to be exact, hovering above the Shimla district in Himachal Pradesh, India. At 14,830 ft above sea level, I was buried deep inside my sleeping bag and covered with a thick woolen blanket, beautifully woven in the style of the Himalayan Sherpas, and I was positive I was going to die.
Mac took off his spectacles and the world around him became an impressionist painting, blurry yet somewhat recognizable. He tilted his head back. It was raining and he let the cold drizzle pelt his weathered face. It stung him a little, but felt good. Mac squeezed his eyes shut, knitting his thick gray eyebrows together and stood motionless letting the water purify him. Breathing in and out he allowed the salt air of Kingfisher Bay to fill his lungs. The distant cry of two gulls cut through the patter of the droplets on the pier as they argued over the ownership of a scrap of discarded fish bait. He returned his specs to the tip of his nose and flexed his arthritic hands. A sharp pain shot up his arm to his shoulder. Like an electric shock it cleared his mind and signaled him now was the time for action. The old man looked at the large burlap bag on the dock, his black Wellington boots straddling the object. Rainwater was soaking into the absorbent material, it was collecting and pooling in the crevices. The sack would be heavy. He stared, willing it to move itself. Mac swallowed hard as tears welled up in the corner of his eyes. If he permitted, they would roll down his cheeks and mix in his beard with the rain. A quick shake of his head cured that. He could not spare the moment to indulge in emotion. There was a job that needed doing.