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I was content to keep my distance. I closed my eyes, held out my arms, and felt the glacier breathe.
Glaciers do breathe. It’s a scientific fact. Cold air is heavier than hot air, and so, depending on where you’re standing, you can feel the cold air breathing off the glacier, or the warm air rushing in. I always thought it was more than that, though. A glacier’s breath is not a soulless thing. It’s vital and fresh. It’s the reason why tourists can’t capture the truth of it on film. Because it’s not what you see; it’s what you feel when you stand in front of a wall of ice.
As I stood there, feeling the breath of the glacier flow around my upturned palms, I finally realized the reason I had come. I had come to ask a question.
Why did you take those people?
What had they ever done to you?
And I didn’t just mean this couple, but all the people who had lost their lives to Exit Glacier over the years. Ice climbers who tried to scale it and fell. People who slipped into a crevasse and were lost. And the many who, like this sad couple, became victims of falling ice.
And then I heard a voice behind me.
“You look like an idiot!”
I put my arms down and turned around. I knew that voice better than anyone’s in town. It was Rav Carnegie, all spiky black hair and smirks. I hadn’t spoken to him yet this school year, since we were giving each other a mutual cold shoulder.
“At least I have to work at it,” I told him. “But you look like an idiot without even trying.”
He laughed at that and then climbed to the top of the moraine with me. “Have they found the bodies?” Rav asked.
“They wouldn’t still be digging if they’d found them.”
Rav is what you might call my off-season boyfriend. During the summer, we hate each other, mostly because he’s jealous of the summer boys I date, and I’m jealous of the summer girls who are always hanging around him. Then the summer people go, we make up, and it’s back to old times.
Rav is short for Raven, which he hates, and Carnegie is a name his parents made up because they were musicians and had once dreamed of playing in Carnegie Hall. When it didn’t work out, they’d settled for stealing the name. People think he’s part Tlingit because of his dark hair, but he’s not. I am, though, on my mother’s side. Maybe that’s why I’ve always felt a connection to the ice.
“They’re never gonna find them,” Rav said as we watched the bulldozer haul away another heaping shovelful of ice. “The glacier moves forward faster than they can take the ice away.”
“It’s so sad,” I said.
“They were stupid,” said Rav. “Tempt fate, and guess what? Sometimes it gives into temptation. Starburst?”
He handed me the piece of candy, and I took it. This year a Starburst was the signal that we had made up.
We stood there for a while talking about the new school year and how tenth grade wasn’t much different from ninth grade. As we turned to go, I felt a chill that penetrated deep. The breath of the glacier made my neck hairs stand on end, and there was a rumbling in the earth.
“Did you hear that?”
Rav shook his head, maybe because it wasn’t a sound at all, it was a feeling—that vibration in my bones. I looked to the glacier just in time to see a hunk of ice the size of an eighteen-wheeler break free from the face and begin a long, slow plunge.
The workmen ran for cover, but the bulldozer driver was caught in his cab. He kicked at the door in a panic until it finally swung open, and he leaped out just in time. The massive chunk of blue ice hit the bulldozer, completely burying it.
“No way!” said Rav.
The workmen, now a safe distance away, peeled off their hard hats, scratched their heads, and counted their blessings.
Then I noticed something that no one else had seen yet. I had to focus all my attention to make sure it wasn’t just my imagination.
Rav must have noticed the look on my face.
“What is it?”
“The glacier. It’s moving.”
“Glaciers are always moving,” he pointed out.
“No,” I said. “This glacier is really moving.”
And then he saw it, too. The glacier was pushing forward. Another chunk of ice fell, then another, then another. It was coming toward us. Not at the speed of an avalanche, of course—maybe just an inch or two per second—but for a glacier that’s lightning fast.
Now that bone-deep feeling was stronger than ever, and I knew that Rav felt it, too, because he looked almost as pale as the cloudy sky.
Then something dawned on me, like a secret whispered in my ear—but it didn’t come through words. It came in that bone-feeling shinnying up my arms and legs, vibrating in my joints.
The glacier wants something.
It wants something, and it’s coming to get it. . . .
Glaciers are just like rivers. Watch a glacier in time-lapse, and you’ll see it surging forward, digging into the earth, dragging hundred-ton boulders along with it. Glaciers are forces of nature as powerful as floods or hurricanes. They just do their devastating business much more slowly. Most of the time.