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Last Call · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
The Warmth
The warmth settles over him like a blanket. He awakens without opening his eyes and settles into it, feeling every part of it. It's under his shirt, his sweater, and his two coats. It's under his skin, flowing through his veins like warm water.

He remembers something about the warmth.

A woman had mentioned it to him. Her skin like worn leather. Her teeth firm and white. Her name was Sherpa, he recalls. She had mentioned the warmth to him. But what did she say? Perhaps it wasn't important.

He feels something else, apart from the warmth: a firm hold around his left bicep—a hold that's hotter than it is warm. A halo around his arm.

The bandana, he remembers. Deep blue—covered with constellations and shooting stars. Jane's bandana. He still has it.

He cracks open his eyes—shreds of snow flittering away before him. He sees the rocky floor of the cave. He can't remember when he stumbled in here. It was somewhere between a few minutes ago and a few days.

Perhaps it didn't matter.

He sees the walls of the cave. Water ripples over the rocks, causing them to warp and shimmer. He doesn't hear the flowing water, and then he does, like raindrops falling on a spring stream.

A thought crosses him like a bird swooping through his path. It's time to go.

He sees the light pouring in, dim and yellow, from the entrance. Gold dust infused in the air.

The light gets brighter, while the weight of his backpack gets lighter, and even lighter when he decides that it's not coming with him.

He realizes he's lost a memory. Of Jane. The event has disappeared, but the feeling is still there. The feeling of two becoming one. It was shortly after the journey began, when she turned around to leave. She said she couldn't continue, after all, but encouraged him to go anyways.

No. It wasn't. It was the avalanche—just after the halfway marker—that swept her away. Or perhaps it was that broken footing, whenever that was, that nearly plunged him into the clouds below, whereas she had not been so lucky. Perhaps she had left him a thousand times already.

He steadies himself against the rocks.

Had she even travelled to base camp with him? Or was he wearing the bandana when he got there? The bandana. It's still there. He still has it.

He stands at a cliff, unsure of where to go. But then the wind rushes in. It enters through his feet, lifts his heart, and leaves through his scalp, tingling everything on the way.

It turns him around. It lifts him upward.

He sees a rock. One of the million rocks that tore at his gloves and his fingers, so many times before. But it's so soft now. He touches it, and orange seeps out from his hand, turning it into clay. And clay, he finds, is much easier to grab. So he grabs for the next rock, and the next rock, and the next.

He sees a bright red flag flapping brazenly in the wind. There's no way to go anymore. No more rocks to grab. Nowhere to go but down, and so he sits. And as he falls, he reaches for a hole in the flag, a weak spot, and with a satisfying sound, he tears off a ribbon with the weight of his body. And in his seat, he tucks it underneath the bandana and lets it flutter there.

A draft forms in his lungs and rushes outwards. He is speaking. He is trying. The message doesn't come across like he wants it to, but the sound he makes conveys it for him anyways.

He sees the world above him, across him, below him, and around him. The sky arches overhead like a whale the size of mountains. The horizon juts upwards like strokes from a paintbrush, mixed to the perfect colour. The snow below twirls and dances at every distance. He feels the warmth again, and his vision multiplies, as if he was watching the world through a kaleidoscope.

And in front of him, he sees a thousand copies of someone. A woman. She's ascending. Coming to greet him. She's wearing a floral shirt, sandals, and sunglasses. Her golden hair flows out in every direction from underneath a blue bandana. She sees him, she smiles, and she waves.

His breath gets slower. He watches it, for a time, until he feels he doesn't need to anymore.
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#1 · 2
· · >>Miller Minus

Okay, it took me two reads to get a better grasp on what's going on here. Early on, I got that the MC is dying, that much was clear, and the Warmth and most of what he sees are products of his mind shutting down as the rest of his body does the same. I wish some of the symbolism had been clearer, though. Same with the backstory.

Nevertheless, I think this is a very solid entry, and does an interesting job at depicting the last moments of a man as his life draws to a close.
#2 · 1
· · >>Miller Minus
Once again, there’s a lot of talent on show here. I can’t tell – fortunately – if it’s an accurate rendition of a death by hypothermia, but the intent is certainly this. At least the sensation of warmth is part of what the survivors tell; now the confusion of idea might be another, but I’m not sure about this.

Confusion is also a bit why the story is hard to follow in places. There are a lot of elements thrown in and stirred together, and it’s hard to reconstitute a coherent broth out of the mix.

Sherpa might be a bit on the nose as a name in this context.

But other than that, I can’t really think of anything to blame here. Good job, author.
#3 · 1
· · >>Miller Minus
I'll be the nagger here and say that, even though the theme and what's happening to the MC is clear, that wasn't enough for me to enjoy the story.

I think it's mainly due because I, along with the character, am wondering how he died. Unfortunately, there are a lot of "perhaps" and "maybe" but not really a clear enough answer.
Another thing is that he is going from one place to another with any clear indication he has moved. FIrst, he is in a cave, then he is on a cliff, then on top of a mountain I guess?
The moment he started falling was somehow clearer, and the image you tried to convey more precise.

All in all, pretty much what my colleagues said, but not enough engaged by the story.
#4 · 1
· · >>Miller Minus
This is a nice prose/poem of a mountaineer freezing to death. I like the creative imagery. We don’t know which of his actions are part of his chill dream and which are reflections of what his body is doing, but he likely wouldn’t be too clear on that either. This one stands out from the pack, to me, and is in the top ranks.
#5 · 1
· · >>Miller Minus >>Miller Minus
I liked this, and I can definitely say that the writer has upper-tier talent, but this just didn't land with me. If I try to come up with a more concrete reason why, I think it's because Jane died just a little before him. Yes, it's completely plausible that multiple people might die in an avalanche, but from the standpoint of a story, it feels convenient to upping the level of tragedy, to the point it starts to lose its authenticity. I actually think it would have been far more effective if Jane had died some time ago. I don't think there's anything here that couldn't be worked around that.

The other problem for me is that this story is very vivid with its imagery, but there's not a lot of emotional engagement. This guy doesn't really feel much about what's happening to him and what he sees. He's the one most affected by it, too, so why would I be more emotional about it than he was.

I get that you're trying to convey a sense of numbness, but part of the story's point, to me anyway, is that as he slips away from the confines of his body, he becomes more alive, yet his tone doesn't change at all. It's left more as a philosopjical piece than an emotional one, and yet it doesn't really delve into the philosohpy at all. Just the sensations, which are left pretty vague.

But getting back to that numbness, this is something I say to authors a lot. If you try to show that something is dull or boring, so you write it with a dull and boring tone, I can see the aim in an academic sense, but that still makes the story dull and boring. Despite mirroring the character's mood, you doo still have to keep it interesting. This is entertainment, after all. So I wonder if in trying to create this detached, numb mood that you've made a detached, numb story. It's hard to make boredom and inaction interesting, but it can be done.

To the comment on "Sherpa" beeing too on the nose as a name, I took it more that she was "a sherpa," but that in his current state he didn't quite comprehend that anymore and took it as a name.

So while I'll credit you for having wonderfully evocative imagery, it just didn't engage me on an emotional or concrete level. You'll go pretty high on my ballot, though. I'm one who tries to reward "I can recognize this as good" over "I liked this."

I guessed authorship right based on only two factors: believing Miller Minus is a good enough author to have written this quality, and using the spelling "colour."
Post by Miller Minus deleted
#7 ·
· · >>Pascoite
P.S. >>Pascoite, you're correct, her name was not actually Sherpa. But to your first comment, about having Jane die some time ago, I don't think that interpretation is unavailable to you. In fact, I think it's more plausible than the avalanche story. After all, how would he have ended up with the bandana?
#8 ·
>>Miller Minus
I did say that the story could support an explanation where Jane had died some time ago, but to me, that's even more supremely coincidental, they she'd also died mountaineering in a completely separate incident. And coincidence is usually not your friend in writing. Though I'll make the same argument back: just because he has her bandanna doesn't mean she had to have died some time ago. She might not have had it on during the avalanche, he could have found her body, it could have fallen off her, etc.