Avalanche: Part Three
It was as Jamie had suspected. Breck and Sally, the Ghost
Aishas she was supposed to be helping, were scaling the cliff as easily as if
they'd done it all their life. She decided to simply ignore them and turned her
attention to Reggie. He was fumbling to do up the last strap of his rock-climbing
harness; Jamie helped him.
"You ready?" she asked again.
The cloud Aisha nodded. "I think so," he said.
Jamie gave a nod in response. "Here, you go
first," she said. "That way, if you fall, I can try to catch you."
His reply was an ironic look. "Shouldn't you
be helping them?" He nodded up at the Ghost Aishas.
The spotted Aisha rolled her eyes. "I should
be, but they look fine on their own." She hesitated. "Though probably I should
go before you, just to keep up appearances." She swung herself up the first
few feet of the cliff.
"You make it look so easy," Reggie grumbled.
"It is easy. Look, put your paw here, and your
other paw here-" She helped him up the first ten feet. "Now you try."
Once she was satisfied that he was doing well,
she glanced up at Breck and Sally again. They were already halfway up, and going
The Ghost Aishas had reached the top of the
cliff long before Reggie and Jamie arrived at the middle. Reggie was learning
quickly, Jamie thought, but didn't say as much. He'd only look sarcastic again-and
in a way, he would have a perfect right to. She glanced around to see how the
others were doing.
Sonja, a Pirate Aisha, and her charges, Angela
the Plushie Aisha and two others that Jamie didn't know, were on the same cliff.
Sonja was down almost at the bottom, helping one of the ones Jamie didn't know,
but Angela was almost at the same height that Jamie and Reggie were. Jamie didn't
see the third Aisha at first; then she did. He, or she-Jamie didn't know offhand,
and couldn't tell at this distance-was three-quarters of the way up the cliff.
Jamie waved across the cliff to Angela, forgetting
that the Plushie Aisha was just learning. Angela, though, seemed competent;
she transferred her weight to one paw and waved back.
"Isn't this fun?" she shouted across to Jamie.
At the corner of her vision, Jamie saw the two
Ghost Aishas jump to their feet, and the Aisha three-quarters up the other slope
start to descend quickly. She'd heard what they did, too; the rattle of rocks
coming loose. She had a swift thought that it was good Aishas had such long
ears, and then she didn't have time for thinking.
Reggie looked up, startled. "What was that?"
he gasped, and looked around. Mistakenly, he looked down, and drew his breath
in. He closed his eyes tightly and reached for the next pawhold, missed it,
and fell a few feet.
"Reggie," Jamie said.
The cloud Aisha still had his eyes shut tightly.
Jamie shook his shoulder.
"Reggie! I know you're scared, but this is an
avalanche, Fyora curse you!"
With a whimper of pure terror, Reggie opened
his eyes. "Yes?" he said weakly.
"Go that way. As far as you can!" She pointed
to the right, away from Angela and the avalanche.
Reggie nodded and started to his right, slowly.
Jamie sighed, but she didn't worry about him any more. He'd probably have been
all right where he'd been to start with, but better safe than sorry.
The rocks that Angela's shout had dislodged
would be coming down on the Plushie Aisha's head fairly soon, Jamie realized.
She glanced around; Sonja had gotten her charge down the cliff and was looking
up in consternation, but there was no way the Pirate Aisha could get up to Angela
The spotted Aisha did something that every teacher
of hers had advised against; she spun so that she was facing away from the cliff,
then drove her paws back, swinging her out away from the cliff and along its
surface. The speed took Jamie's breath away; rock skimmed along at the edge
of her vision. She was sure that Angela was somewhere around here-but where?
Then she saw the Plushie Aisha, looking absolutely terrified. The Plushie pet
wasn't far from where Jamie was, not far at all. Jamie waited until the right
moment, then shot a paw out and grabbed Angela's waist.
Her momentum had slowed, so Jamie pushed her
free paws against the cliff, swinging her back to where she'd come from. Small
pebbles started falling down the cliff, hitting anyone in their way; the news
had spread, and the Aishas were quickly descending the other cliffs.
With a swift look around, Jamie saw an outcropping
of rock about twenty feet above her. The Ghost Aishas were standing on it, a
good idea, Jamie thought.
"Stay as limp as you can," Jamie instructed
Angela. The Plushie Aisha had closed her eyes; she gave a small nod.
The spotted Aisha made sure her grip on Angela
was firm; then she hoisted herself up a few feet, taking the Plushie Aisha with
her. If she could reach the outcropping, they'd probably be safe; if not, well,
Jamie couldn't think about that now. She had just to climb.
Jamie pulled herself up the cliff rapidly, only
using one paw to hold on to Angela. Her pulse drummed in her ears as she climbed,
and her adrenaline grew, letting her climb faster and farther than she usually
would've been able to. Though it seemed an age to Jamie, it only took her half
a minute to climb to the outcropping-a distance that usually would've taken
her five minutes to span.
She climbed up onto the rock and tugged Angela
up as well. The two Ghost Aishas crowded together to let her have more room.
"Angela," Jamie said, but the Plushie Aisha
had passed out some time during their climb. She sighed and let her rest, standing
up to address the Ghost Aishas.
"Sorry," said the male one. Breck, his name
was, Jamie remembered.
"We didn't mean to climb so far-" the female
one began. Her name was Sally.
Jamie cut her off with a wave of her paw. "That's
not important now," she said, but looked at them appraisingly anyway. "You've
Sally glared at her brother. "Yes, we have,"
she said. She turned to look at Jamie. "We didn't think we were experienced
enough to be in charge of other people, so we said we hadn't been before."
"But you have." Jamie smiled slightly. "You
do realize that if we'd had more guides this morning, Angela could've had someone
there to tell her not to shout?"
The rumble of falling rocks drowned Sally's
answer. Jamie sank onto the ground beside Angela and watched them fall past
their outcropping. Small ones came first; then larger, until boulders were tumbling
past. Jamie suppressed a shiver. If she hadn't been quite so quick, those could've
been falling onto Angela and Jamie themselves.
That thought brought her up sharply. Where was
Reggie? She looked around quickly, willing him to be somewhere. For a moment
she didn't see him; then he moved, to wave cautiously to her. He was standing
on another outcropping, this one thin enough that he couldn't sit on it, but
large enough to deflect the falling rocks. His Cloud coat had blended in with
the sky, she realized, and laughed as she waved back, but the sound was lost
in the much-louder noise of the stones falling.
It was a while after the rocks stopped coming
that she realized it. The rumble lessened enough in her ears to let her hear
Breck say with a sigh of relief, "We made it."
"Not quite yet," Jamie said with a slight smile,
standing up. "You should tell Thomas that you've climbed before."
Sally let out a sigh as well, but of resignation.
"We have to?"
"You don't have to," the spotted Aisha said,
"but I'd advise it."
Angela stirred. "Have to do what?" she asked
"Nothing," Jamie said. "Just lie there."
The Plushie Aisha nodded and closed her eyes
again, slipping into sleep, Jamie suspected. She glanced over to see Reggie
descending the cliff, with no visible help. She smiled at that. At least one
good thing had come out of this morning.
"Hello," Thomas said, climbing up onto the outcropping.
"All right," he said, stooping to pick Angela up.
"She's just sleeping," Jamie said. "We shouldn't
The starry Aisha nodded. "What about you two?"
he asked, looking past her at the Ghost Aishas.
"We..." Breck trailed off. Sally elbowed him.
"We have something to tell you," she said, stepping
forward, her eyes cast down repentantly. Jamie wondered why the Aisha wasn't
in theater; she certainly had the talent for acting. "We've been climbing before.
We didn't want to tell because it would mean we'd have to be responsible for
Thomas shook his head. "Not all right," he said.
"But I suppose I can let it pass-that is, providing you come down and make a
formal apology to the rest of the group, as well as an apology to miss Angela
here when she wakes up."
Breck looked startled, and even Sally looked
"Jamie," Thomas said. "Would you mind watching
Angela until she wakes?"
The spotted Aisha nodded, then shook her head.
"I mean-I don't mind," she said.
"Good." He looked at Breck and Sally. "Come
on down the cliff," he said.
Jamie watched them go, and smiled. Come to think
of it, she was rather tired as well, she thought. Maybe she'd just lie down
here for a bit and rest for a while.
Jamie woke as the sun
was setting over the mountains majestically. Angela was just stirring, too,
and the spotted Aisha smiled. "Feel up to climbing down?" she asked.
The Plushie Aisha looked confused. "What happened?"
"Tell you later," Jamie said. "For now, let's
work on getting down that cliff."
Jamie and Angela arrived
at the bottom of the cliff to the applause of the others, who'd come out from
the camp when Reggie saw them starting down. For the last bit they had to climb
over the rocks piled at the bottom, but they reached their well-wishers soon
enough. Angela was nearly carried back to the circle of tents by the Aishas;
Reggie hung behind.
"Impressive," Jamie said. She grinned at his
puzzled look. "You going that far."
He shrugged noncommittally. "I just... had to.
The spotted Aisha nodded. "I know." She started
back towards camp, and Reggie followed.
"You were pretty impressive yourself. Going
all that way, that fast."
"It seemed to take ages."
They both fell silent; then Jamie smiled mischievously.
"So," she said, "what were you saying?"
"About how the Lonely Aisha's journey is like
the journey toward truth."
Reggie started to smile. Jamie started to laugh,
and Reggie soon joined in.