If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.
The snow muffled everything around Gary, making it seem as if the world around him were slowly disappearing, becoming inaudible and invisible, except for the white.
He hadn’t planned on walking this far away from the road. He’d driven up to the mountains on an impulse. Bored and disgusted with the “sameness” of each day of his life, he craved something different. He saw the online weather report about snow in the mountains, just a short drive from where he worked, got up and left.
His co-workers will get along fine without him for an afternoon. It’s not like he really adds very much to the team. Probably not even his boss will miss him.
Fortunately, he had a pair of snow boots and a heavy coat in the trunk of his car. The snow on the ground was already up to his ankles and getting deeper. It was like walking on magic. He didn’t even notice the effort it took to move one foot ahead of the other.
The trees were getting more numerous, but their natural flocking rendered them silent sentinels in a land of snow and ice, like ancient Frost Giants. Now all he needed was Aesir, beautiful, naked Aesir, the Frost Giant’s daughter, for a companion.
No, strike that. In Robert Howard’s short story, Aesir seductively led an exhausted Conan the Cimmerian into a trap to be slain by her brothers.
Better Gary take this trip alone, and let the Frost Giants remain immobile and benign.
Besides, he’d left his broadsword in this other suit.
“I need something.” Gary was surprised by the sound of his voice. White mist escaped his mouth as he spoke. “What do I need?”
Gary couldn’t tell if he was following a trail. He was meandering through wonderland, no longer concerned that the snow was filling in his tracks, the only map he had of the way back to the road and his car.
Fifty-two years old. Divorced. Sees his two children every other weekend. Works a dead-end job at a dead-end company. Sure, it pays the bills, plus child support, plus his bar tab, but what good is it otherwise?
“What good am I otherwise?”
His children were teenagers and didn’t want to be around a Dad who had nothing to offer them. Since the divorce, a woman here, a woman there, they’d come and go. No one had come into his life in years. They had all gone.
Surfing the web for porn, or watching mindless television night after night, or going to work during the week, those were his days and nights.
This impromptu trip to Mount Charleston was the first new thing Gary had done in years.
If Gary were a book, at best, the story told on each page would be repetitive and dull. At worst, his pages would be blank, white, like the snow, like the landscape he was traversing.
“What’s my next chapter? If I want things to be different, what story should I tell?” Gary’s answer to the query was as empty as he was.
Through his numbness, he was unable to feel the cold. Through the snowfall, the trees were mere shadows. Light dimmed as the sun began to set. Gary didn’t feel tired, he didn’t feel hungry, as he prepared to turn the page, finishing one chapter of his life and beginning a new one.
The trees opened abruptly onto a clearing, a valley. Gary took his first steps into a new world. Perhaps the beautiful, enchanting, and deadly Aesir would be waiting for him. Why not? What did he have to lose? One last flare of passion before oblivion.
Gary stepped away from the trees and gazed through the snow searching. Then everything unfolded before him, his life, his past, his present, and what he desired more than anything. He could see it all in the snow-covered valley.
Gary was beginning a whole new chapter in his life. He opened his mouth to read the first few words, and then they were gone.
The snow silenced everything.
“Everyone has a chapter they don’t want to read out loud.”
A man who felt as if he never had anything, and had lost everything, including self-respect and the desire to change. What is the chapter that Gary doesn’t or can’t read out loud?
The most obvious answer is that Gary lets himself freeze to death, ending a meaningless existence, one where he won’t be missed by anyone. In a way, Aesir did lure him to the end of his story.
Or he could have been inspired to leave his life behind in another way, retracing his steps back to his car, and then beginning to drive down a different road, finding another city, another job, another name, another life. The new chapter is unspoken because it is hidden from the story that came before this one.
Either way, the Frost Giant’s daughter did find Gary in the snow that evening and enticed him into trying something different.