“Don’t do anything yet!”
James releases Karen’s hand and grabs the safety rail to look down. “Who said that? Where are you?” Seeing nothing, he looks around, even up.
Karen punches his arm. “You said it, just in a funny voice.”
“It wasn’t me. Fuck! Can’t work out how high we are. Can you see the ground that side?”
The male voice, sounding close – unbelievably close, speaks again. “Wait, don’t do anything. There are two outcomes to your current predicament and one is where you both die … and not very nicely.”
James tries to located the speaker. “Who are you? … where…?”
Karen says, “OK, it’s not you, not this time. Am … are we hallucinating?”
Their ski lift hangs motionless except to creak as they squirm to peer through fog. A female voice, coming from beside Karen makes her jump. “Almost ready. Keep wiggling your toes, young lady. Get those hands off the rail and into your pockets. You’ll need to run and scramble shortly. Numbness won’t help. Ditch the snowboard: it’s no good to you. James, your board too: drop it.”
Karen shouts, “Where are you? What’s happened? Why’s the ski lift stopped?”
James speaks too, “How do you know my name?”
Either the cloud clears a little or another four-seater chair appears, impossibly facing them. Two figures become visible, holding hands. One appears hollow, her naked skin – a semi-transparent and infinitely complex pattern of weaving grey, blue and white – moves, colours intertwining. The other person looks exactly how a humanoid tiger would be represented in sophisticated CGI, the face also patterned in white, bronze and black fur.
The female speaks, “Call me Kay and…” she puts her arm round the man, “call pussycat here Jay. Drop your snowboards. That is a critically important thing to do. Drop them now and do anything you can to keep your toes and fingers warm.” Her voice rises to a shout, “Now: drop them now or you’ll die!”
Jay leans forward, staring into James’ eyes. “Now: do it now. You’re going to be amazing. Life gets better from this moment on, and you, you both, become highly influential people and do something wonderful. If you don’t drop your boards as we say, Karen eventually jumps and dies in the wet-snow avalanche – which is a slow and ghastly way to die – and you, James, are beaten to death in prison before the year is out.”
James, his mouth open to retort, shuts it again. Jay continues, “Yes, three women, starting with Bella, whom you abused from the age she was nine, is already thinking of telling people all about it. You are an abuser, a sexual abuser, a rapist.” He nods towards Karen. “She’s your next target. Remember that moment in the ticket queue yesterday when she looked lonely, and scared of the ski lift? Just a moment ago you were holding her hand for the first time – all part of your scheme.”
Kay speaks, “Karen, you know exactly what James is up to; it’s happened to you before, again and again. You just hope he’ll rescue you from the present situation you’re in with your mother’s boyfriend and things might turn out a little better. None of it happens. We know what happens, but you have a choice because there are two outcomes. Stay as you are now, waiting for rescue which never comes, well, until too late, or do as we say. Drop the snowboards. That’ll tell us you’ve chosen the path which leads to you both becoming a powerful team who begin a social revolution which saves so many people from suffering.”
Karen’s snowboard disappears, spinning down into the mist. Wide eyed and tremulous she turns to James, and whispers, “Please, please… They know all about me. They know things. We have to do what they…”
He takes a deep breath. “This thing cost the earth. If I lose it…” His board follows hers.
Kay lets out a huge sigh, her empty chest relaxing. “Phew, at last. We have very little time: no questions until the end…”
James interrupts, “But who … what are you?”
She waves him silent. “You’ll work it all out soon enough. You two,” she looks at them in turn, “are going to form a team. It’s going to be hell at times, but you, Karen, are a whole ton stronger than you think.”
Jay grunts as Kay elbows him. “In a minute or so you’ll feel vibrations transmitted along the cable. It’s a wet snow avalanche which has already shut the top of the lift down. It’s slow but heavy and unstoppable. Once it reaches the pylon just up the hill, there will be a lot of creaking and collapsing. This chair will tilt sideways and trees catch the cable; that’s the moment you would have jumped, Karen. You’ll be out of the avalanche’s path and can rescue yourselves. Move quickly downhill through the trees, not the slope at first. You then help a man and his two children get away to safety – and later on both enjoy a brief moment’s celebration as heroes. James, get on the first flight home and turn yourself in to the police. Be really quick; you have to get to them before Bella does. Your complete confession gains you a shorter term in jail. It’s not going to be pleasant though.”
Kay takes over, “You must both keep in contact. Karen, keep visiting James and get your plans together. Between you, you’ll start a popular movement called JK but gets changed to Judge Knot. Bad name and causes problems but those problems get noticed and that benefits you in the long run.” She waves Karen and James silent as they both try to speak. The cable above whips from side to side.
“Quiet,” shouts, Jay, snarling, “Can you hear that rumbling and groaning? We’ve only a few seconds. James, you are a very intelligent and skilled manipulator of people. It’s you who holds the movement’s course through almost impossible times: so many people will fight it. Being like you many of them are in positions of great authority, but you’ll be able to understand how they think and act. You can predict and outwit them: this is your power. Take care of Karen, I mean make her the most important thing in your life. Be prepared for anything – a lot is going to happen and it’s going to take more skill and strength than you can currently believe to keep Karen safe. She’s the other half of this team and can do things you can’t even imagine let alone accomplish. Allow her to do what she wants even though she will make some crap mistakes. You need her as much as you need yourself – she’s the brains in this.”
James asks, “What’s this all about?”
Kay puts a hand over Jay’s face. “Pussy cat talks too much. This is about communication, Karen. Your abuse stops today – forever. You are about to tell your mother everything, today, this evening: everything from the very beginning – and that includes all about her brother. It’s going to be awful because James won’t be there to support you.” She holds up her other hand to command further silence. “What you two start actually works. You’re going to make it easier for people like James to speak about what’s happening in their heads. You’re going to speak openly about why you’ve never been able to tell anyone about what’s happened to you. It’s all about judgement – fear of judgement.” She pauses for breath. Karen grips the safety bar as vibrations shake the chair.
Kay goes on, “You start a process which is picked up, badly sometimes, around the world. It takes decades, rocks governments, makes you heroes and villains, loved and hated. It ends up changing culture, making people realise we don’t need to pretend we’re perfect – we have so much crap inside each of us and it needs dealing with – not hiding in dark corners where it grows and becomes dangerous. Fear of judgement causes suffering, but it causes dreadful evil to fester inside people – and that evil can cause yet more.”
James snorts. “You’re mad. People not judging other people? I can’t see that happening, besides it’s one of their biggest weaknesses that I can use to get what I want.”
“Oh it happens all right – this movement does anyway. Besides, you’ve seen the end of one revolution in your lifetime. One generation despised gays, lesbians and the rest. Some countries put them to death. They had to keep themselves secret. Two generations later and we’ve got our sexual preferences printed on T-shirts. Revolutions happen: you two begin a massive one.”
Jay leans forward. “What you start leads to a world where problems are talked about freely, get sorted out while they’re still tiny and not causing trouble. They are dealt with by friends,” he shrugs, “even strangers sometimes, and less by the police and courts after people are damaged or lose whole years of their life to pain, humiliation and terror. People will be able to say anything and not get judged, just supported. It’s OK not to be perfect, to be a screwed up mess.”
Kay adds, “To be a human.”
Karen looks at her. “Next time we meet I’ll be sitting where you are? Nice skin, by the way.” She shrieks at the sounds of collapsing metal.
©Gary Bonn, 2021