At first, I thought I’d imagined the voice. Perhaps it was a quirk of the wind eddying into my hood. I turned my head, and heard it again: a man’s voice, desperate with pain and the knowledge that the freezing night was no more than a couple of hours away.
You blasted an anabatic wind at me, making a mockery of the plea. You homogenised it with the air I breathed. I heard it from everywhere and nowhere at once. I turned in a circle, trying to sense the direction. The voice fell silent.
My eyes lit on a piece of ice, lying loose on the shale of the ridge. It couldn’t have been there for more than a few hours or it would have been frozen back into the ice beneath my boots. It had been broken by a boot that had trodden the ridge not long before mine. There could be only one other that passed this way.
But in which direction?
He could only have gone toward you. A man alone up here would be a man who would see the same heart in you that I did. Where else would he choose to go when he’d seen you from where I was standing?
I’d struggled to hear the voice, but I couldn’t mistake the sound of trickling water. The ice was melting. It warned me of a treacherous layer of water on top of the ice, while rocks it had bound in place throughout the winter would become loose again. It had already claimed one man.
When night fell, it would freeze again and replace the problem with cold and dark. A wise man would have turned around. A cry for help that no one else could have heard strips a heart of wisdom.
So I let him lead me where you led him. My mind knew if I found him at all, I’d be too late to help him. I was right. I did find him, and I was too late.
That’s why I’ve come back, for this heart to heart with you. It doesn’t matter to my heart of flesh and blood that your heart is made of stone.