These words so painfully earned will serve in inadequacy to describe the veracity of the storm that possesses our camp. It is a pagan force whose barbed breath tears at the fissured and frozen tundra that abounds, an unearthly landscape so barren and uncaring of the needs of men. As my ears hear the rasping wail calling out across the horizons, my heart feels it’s eternal torpor. The sound of tempest and squall, a barbaric tone that reaches inside the cowed aspect of our expedition tent. Our timorous structure a squat resident in isolation, encompassed and bore upon by the unrelenting vigour of that white fury. Ever encroaching and unwaning this noise of barberry reaches into the souls of us dour men and constricts us each in our own personal misery.
We five are now four. Evans is gone. I should say he fell, but those words would only peck at the heart of truth in this whole sorry endeavour. To fall so in more common lands would have posed little trauma. It is this epic land of absolution that has in truth seized upon our departed companion. It has flicked his life away from our cares with a ethereal power borne of absolute majesty over mans existence.
My being is all biliousness, my mind now ruinous of thought. Bowers, a husk of a man once proud, casts a jaundiced eye in my direction. I hesitate to meet his glance. Death is a close companion and I do not wish to catch its eye in the reflection of any of us. His breath wheezing and whistling is punctured by a stumbling coughing, dry and erratic. Each note seems to punctuate another cacophonous burst of squalling savagery that breaks against the sides of the tent, the flapping canvas beating a rhythmic discord crying out for a sympathetic companion.
Then there is Oates. Dear Oates, ridged and proud. There is the cloying smell of sweat and scum that pervades us all. It reaches into the back of the mouth and coats the tongue with a grimy soiling stew. But even this is hewn at by the noxious decomposing finality of Gangrene. Oates feet and hands are lost to it. There is an end and it approaches him and how we dare not speak of it any of us. For it is as written in his pallid betrayed face as it is in my avoidance of his gaze.
I am lost in my thoughts. Bound in misery and despair. When Oates to my great surprise rises to his feet, his once solid frame bent to his ailments. His voice cracks the deafening silence of communication that has risen above the clamour of the symphonic cacophony of elements around us. His words are borne across the frigid air with pride and pain.
“I am just going outside and may be some time.”
The silence that follows these words, lasts but one moment which stretches to eternity with a power that quells the raging elements to a diminutive whisper. I cannot convey with my mortal tongue the feelings we shared as a single whole in that brief and levelling moment. Despair and proud elation at the courage to face ones fate with noble conviction. These thoughts merely brush the surface of the possession of humanity that encompassed our shared perception.
It is as this fleeting moment in time passes from us and away into the dark beyond lost forevermore, that the last of our number of companions speaks. The resonant voice of Captain Scott rises above the colourless hue of melancholy that cloaks our collective souls, with these words.
“Yeah. Nice one. See you later mate.”
From the diary of Edward Adrian Wilson
17th March 1912, Antarctic
© 2012 E.J.Motler
All references to persons living or dead are entirely coincidental. I made all this rubbish up for a laugh. Even the expedition facts are probably wrong. I dunno. Don’t blame me if you read this and then fail your history class. Not that I care. It’s probably no more inaccurate than Wikipedia anyway, people put what they want on there.
April 10, 2012