13 Zermatt

After surviving an uncomfortable Christmas with my parents, I flew to Switzerland for a skiing holiday in Zermatt, a village at the foot of the Matterhorn where the only modes of transportation were skis or horse-drawn carriages. As promised, I shared a room in a chalet with Barb, a fellow American student from Exeter. My daily skiing routine meant joining a small class that took the tram to the top of the mountain, skiing halfway down to a lodge for lunch, and returning to the -village before nightfall. Not so for Barb. She had never skied before and was confined to the bunny hill in town.

That night, Barb and I met back at the -chalet for dinner and an early bedtime. She didn’t hide her jealousy that I knew how to ski and she did not. As we lay in the dark waiting to fall asleep she mentioned Tom, another student from the American group at Exeter who had broken his leg.

“I did it,” Barb boasted.

I couldn’t imagine what she was talking about. “That’s crazy. He was hit by a truck.”

“Exactly,” she said. “And I’m the one who made the truck hit him.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“He organized a weekend trip to Oxford for some of our group,” she continued, “but he didn’t invite me. So I cursed him with the accident.”

“You’re wrong,” I said. “You can’t control something like that.”

“Oh yes I can.” She explained she had inherited powers from her father and they both could cause accidents.

From then on every night I dreamt I was falling off the mountain into a crevasse. My fears escalated until I decided to leave Zermatt early and return to Exeter before the term started. I made arrangements with the concierge, keeping my plans secret from Barb. My last day in Zermatt was a Sunday when no group classes were scheduled so I asked my instructor, Karl, to give me a private lesson.

It was a beautiful day as we ascended the mountain in the tram. I followed Karl down the mountain through deep powder, over moguls, and along narrow cliff-side paths, keeping my eyes on the white ski-patrol cross on the back of his red parka. But seemingly from nowhere, the sky turned black and a squall overwhelmed the mountain. Thick blowing snow obscured everything and I lost sight of Karl. I had no idea where I was and was afraid to keep skiing, so I stopped in my tracks and waited for the storm to pass. When it cleared, I was standing on the edge of a precipice. If I had gone any further, I would have fallen to my death.