For McCormick

December 8, 2007
It was December ninth, 2008, the air was a distant figure now, almost a complete stranger to him. Never, in all the years of his life had he ever become acquainted with such an icy beast as the one that surrounded him now. His hands were of no use anymore, the frost had shaped them almost as though fungus infecting within and without the very element of them. Twelve hours had passed, alone, in a vast unknown, surely the USGS was aware by now, he thought to himself. But even his thoughts shifted about without a single moments pause.
The United States Geological Survey’s William G. McCormick, was found under four inches of ice and three and three quarters feet of snow at the base of Rocking Winds Summit, Denali National Park, Alaska, a seventy six foot rock face. Every scrap of his equipment was discovered on a small shelf nearly thirty four feet above his corpse. McCormick had seven broken ribs, five of which were compact fractures, he had shattered his T7 vertebra, severing his spinal cord at nearly midback. His left femur was protruding from his upper left thigh. His collar bone had been broken. Autopsies had shown that he had third degree frostbite within every limb of his body.
The adrenaline surged through his every limb every time he had heard the helicopters, helicopters of course that did not exist. Nobody knows. His extensive training had proven useful in helping him realize a single solemn fact, this was indefinitely the beginning of the end, and the warmth of his heart was the only thing, keeping him alive. The single factor that played the biggest role in this assumption was the massive flow of blood from what seemed to be a thick white, stick-like mass protruding form his left thigh, a bone. This of course he saw but could not feel. His vision blurred, and rattled from left to right as he gazed into the starry skies over head. The moon watched on, motionless, without regret, without a second thought, giving the planet beneath it the ability to glow with such a heavenly radiance that William had suddenly remembered just why he had chosen the G98LAT107:LON130 parallel. It was the perfectly concealed beauty of Earth. Not only had it the mystery of the paranormal, but it was the last completely uncharted section of the Denali National Forest.
"Oh, dammit! April! Jaime left his gym shoes on the counter!" Haines, Alaska, was in fact the perfect place to live. The mountains cupped the sea in an almost immediate blockade. The town’s primary component was it’s fishing industry, especially during this time of the year, Fall, 2004. The misty weather acted as somewhat of a mask for the small tourist hot spot year round. William worked locally in the USGS associative office at the time, which is conveniently placed nearly twenty feet away from the Haines Bureau Public Library.
"Just put them on the table sweetheart I’ll be out in a minute!" a sweet nearly distant voice shouted back. This specific voice, a bit androgynous, spent what most would call "more time than normal" at the local fire department, a volunteer if you will. William was nearly late, but another moment in her arms would make up for it. The air of the cabin was thin, dry, a fairly bitter cool, and he felt every bit of that air move across his face as he tread to the master bathroom. A sweet smelling mist filled the air, with warmth and comfort in enough proportion to keep the gods at bay. The shower she had taken kept the bordering rooms smelling of mist and magic for nearly an hour. Such magic was as sweet as the Alaska seas herself, to William. Every step he took toward the fog in front of him was counted tenderly, this was hallowed ground. His right foot entered first, a shiny black tint that seemed alien to the angelic white tint around it, so angelic that she noticed it immediately in the mirror and turned, so slowly, to meet him. The clock on the wall ceased it’s tick. The rushing water within the faucet, rushed no more, and each individual molecule of vapor between the two froze instantly, as her long soaked black hair soared over her right shoulder.
"I love you."said William, and...
"I love you too."said April.
He reached for her gentle face but only clutched frozen air. Each and every isolated flake of hell pierced his hand with such a fury of a thousand needles cast from the mouth of the old Mr. Frost himself. The horse was dead now. It had survived the fall, but not the cold. The blood from the mare, unlike his own, decided to clot, keeping the senses of near starving predators at peace. But it was McCormick’s own blood that began to make him restless. The many daemons of the ice crept in every shadow, and it was only a matter of time before the stark winds encircling him carried the scent that they each craved. His fingered tips had begun to ice over, and unlike the protruding bone in his leg, this he could feel...
"AHHH!Jesus! Please! Oh my god, sh**! Oh please God, please! This is nothing Bill. This is noth....this is no...this!"These were only but a single fraction of the screams carried throughout the wood, and it was all for not. He only laid his head back in an attempt to accept the pain. Ghosts of green, a radiance of red, and bursts of blue scattered the sky above him. The classic Northern Lights, God’s attempt to calm one of his most loved in the hour of death. Or could it have been the hand of that same being saying goodbye to the dying. Either case it was a glowing, and most magnificent, farewell gesture. McCormick squeezed his hands in the pits of his arms with such a force that he could feel the blood rush to his finger tips, but it did nothing. Screams were heard once more throughout his burial ground.
"There he is! Look at that champ!" Bill said aloud to himself, this of course due to there being no one for him to share it too. His son was seventeen, and exiting a locker room with what most would call a conscious guilt, he missed her. It was September, 23, 2005, nearly an entire year without her. His boy was just on the brink of being a man, and the constant thought of her kept him in constant melancholy.
"Hey,"he was bashful as usual, he knew he wasn’t that great at football. "Thanks." Bill grabbed him. The sweat from the boy seemed so sweet. Here was his little Jaime, his perfect prize. The last thing he had in the world of any value. The last thing he loved in the world. This was a hug that Bill would forever remember. Here was his little Jaime, his perfect prize.
"Hey William! Your boy did great tonight!" it was a friend of his. But no one had called him William in so long. William was the name of a man that had a simple life, a life without loss.
"Thanks, and it’s Bill, Jean. Bill." with that he turned to his car, only feet away from Jaime’s. His son still under his right arm. The crackling of his Jaime’s cleats on the pavement, released such a pride on his heart. The night was at prime, and the leaves of Haines blew all around them. A chill shot up his spine, but not one that most would regret, or scorn. No, this was the chill one gets when they believe their life has reached its most perfect moment. Bill turned to his son one last time before he left his side, and he saw her. It was April’s icy blue eyes that looked back. Her nose that turned towards him. Her beautiful black hair that soared over her right shoulder as she turned. Then in a single instant, he witnessed the crash all over again in the boy’s eyes. All the might of heaven and earth could not have comprehended his heart in that moment. Such a love for his son, and wife filled it. Such a pride that one could not imagine, and yet a remorse unlike any other. A tear, so fragile and tender, rolled so slowly down his cheek. The frosty winds around him froze it in almost that instant.
"I love you, Jaime." Bill said, and...
"I love you too, Dad."said his son.
Another tear fell from McCormick’s face as he lay, gazing out into the sky that was to take him. Then another, and yet another. It was only a matter of time before he realized these were not his tears, but the tears of the great Rocking Winds Summit he had attempted to descend from. She was melting only a quarter mile above him. Her fury was beginning to creep ever so slowly towards him. The snow and ice was melting, covering him in hundreds of tiny icy tears, that would soon form the thick ice of his sarcophagus. His hands were no longer in any pain. His sense of smell had long since left him. He was, without doubt a defeated man. The blood from his leg had finally stopped flowing, but not due to clotting, but rather freezing. But he cared not. It was his time and he had chosen to accept it, and all the while the Northern lights above him waved him on. Heaven was waiting. McCormick was waiting.
A great mass of uncounted hours had passed, and with the farewell of each one came the snow. But this was no normal snow. These were not the gentle beautiful flakes that one sees fall from heaven on a beautiful fall day. These did not fall from heaven, but rather the summit at his side. The hellish winds swamped her great snows and blew them down on McCormick with a stinging agony that he would never cope with. They smothered him, and now only hours from death they sped the freezing of the summit’s tears on top of him. He felt however only a undefinable fraction of these pains. He only continued to stare at the skies that would soon welcome him home. The night was dark, it was on edge. But McCormick was perfectly calm and accepting. The harsh nature of the conditions which he now struggled through would soon make him numb, and he would rather comfortable in the end.
"Overdose."that was the only word he heard the doctor say. Granted there were in fact many others. But he paid them no attention. The conflagration of emotion within him nearly killed him then. "I’m sorry so sorry Bill." It was immediately after those words were heard that McCormick felt the greatest weight of any in history. A shuttered exhale nearly crippled him. McCormick fell to his knees with the weight of the world on his shoulders. There was no life in the perfect man lying in front of him now, but only a great mass of tubes cords and lights. It was in Fall, 2007, when the strong McCormick lost his son. In that day, there was not the faintest sign of hope with in him. His life had slowly slipped away from him. McCormick said nothing, next to his little angel. Just as he had said nothing nearly three years before, as he laid next to his everything.
"McCormick. Just call me McCormick." Bill was the name of a man who had something to live for.
The doctor said nothing, but only turned and walked away. The clock on the wall ceased it’s tick. The blinking of the machines at his side blinked no more. The rushing of the traffic outside of the window in the Juneau Streets below rushed no more. But rather a terrible pain and sorrow rushed as the hands of father and son touched for the last time. He quivered in such a way that most would say a man should not, but this was not a man, this was a father, this was a husband, and though evidence could not prove it so, he would remain such until the end of his days.
He tenderly held the pale hand of his son for the last time. Then looked into his closed eyes. Here was his little Jaime, his perfect prize. It was then that the door to the room shut with crippling force. It was then that a cry unlike any the wood had ever heard was released from the deepest inner corners of McCormick. The ice had now begun to form around him. His legs were almost completely submerged in the chilled blue glass now. The summit was melting faster now, and the small drops that fell before were tiny constant streams, freezing almost in the very instant they landed on him. He felt nothing, nothing but broken.
Rocking Winds blew even more of her snow down upon him. She showed no mercy for the freezing McCormick. His tears rolled on, however. They continued to fall, even they were warm to him, this however was so until they froze to the side of his face.
The man said nothing still. There were no furious cries of regret or anger. There were no pleas for life or cries for help. There were no longer screams of pain. But merely, single, nearly unnoticeable whimpers, and gasps of sorrow, from the great McCormick.
"Mr. and Mrs. now have a healthy baby boy. Congratulations." this was the ultimate proposal of happiness. This was the one phrase that William had awaited for so long, and as the doctor placed the child in his hands he felt a happiness that most would most push off as nirvana. It was the only perfect moment in time he had ever felt. April’s hands reached for her newborn beauty, and William passed on his precious gem. They both spent nearly an entire lifetime in silence then, but it was broken when he turned to the doctor, who looked on with such a pride for his successful birth.
"Please, call me William. McCormick is the name of someone who has nothing to live for... Can’t you see it doc? Look closely... This is what heaven looks like."
"Well, I’d imagine so William, I’d imagine so." Even the doctor saw the brilliance of it all.
"Thank you. Thank you so much." April cried while holding her gem. The tears that fell from her face were abruptly stopped by a smaller, gentler face. A tiny, lovable, squeezable face.
"You’re so much more than welcome, the both of you. You guys have a family now." he said with a smile, then left. The door creaked behind him so slowly that in that moment it seemed not to move at all. The clock on the wall ceased it’s tick. The blinking of the machines at his side ceased their blinking. All the powers of the world then lost power in that moment, the moment in which his April spoke few but great words.
"Jaime...I really like Jaime." It was then that they both looked at there son. Here was Jaime, their perfect prize.
"MCCORMICK!!!! CAN YOU HEAR ME!!HELLO!!! WILLIAM MCCORMICK! WILLIAM MCCORMICK!!" They had finally come. His shivers and shutters had finally come to an abrupt halt. His pains had finally left him, he had achieved the high honor of being completely numb. Lights shined throughout the trees in the distance, the beams of gold shown from the ground in the deep wood to the rock face above him. They were only one hundred yards from him at best, and if there was a time for his rescue it would be now. The ice had drowned out his legs, arms, nearly over his chest, and around his head, keeping it in one upright position. The snow had clutched his face with such a great frost that one would undoubtedly not be able to recognize him as he lay, especially with the night as a mask. But, that shouldn’t matter. The flashlights should be able to capture his arctic Columbia jacket long enough for them to spot it. That same jacket, due to its massive size, was the same article allowing his chest to expand and contract has he breathed in and out, while the ice shelled his chest. Combined, his ability to breath, and the fact that his mouth had been shut for such a long period of time, he allowed him to speak. He could yell if he wanted to. He could scream out a, "Help!" or an, "I’m over here!" but what kept the great McCormick from it? All of the evils in the wood had chosen not to approach his freezing body. They had chosen to let him lye. They had chosen to let him die. He was on the brink of survival. But what was the force keeping him from it?
"Denali? Really? That’s sort of, far away sweetheart. I mean, what about Jaime? He’s in seventh," She would eventually give in to him.
"Seventh grade, I know, I know. It might be a little harder on him sure, but this is the opportunity of a lifetime! The pay is outrageous April! We’d be making three, maybe even four times as much as we are now." That was undoubtedly the decision that led to the end of William McCormick’s life. Had he not taken the mapping opportunity his wife would have never driven to Fairbanks to meet him. She would have never been sliced apart as she flew through her windshield and into the Ford’s in front of her. McCormick’s son would have never had to move to a highschool with twenty six convicted juveniles. He would have never gone to that party and snorted enough cocaine to make his heart explode. He would have never taken the Rocking Winds Summit. He would have never over looked to sheer drop through the snow. He would have never been buried alive in snow and ice.
The voices were closer now, maybe fifty feet, then thirty feet, then twenty feet, and he still refused to speak. That was when the great McCormick began to grit his teeth to stop the screams. The reason for his decision was more than clear. Clenching his jaw as tight as he could the tears that had long since rolled, began to roll once more. The men were nearly upon him now.
"William McCormick! Will..."
"Just stop it Sam. It’s no use. If he’s been out here for nearly twelve hours then I doubt he could call back. I mean sh** man, he could be inches away from us and we wouldn’t even know it."
"Shut up! You don’t know that! Maybe we just aren’t close enough. We’ll try the west edge of the summit, then we’ll call for full scale."
"Whatever man, but I’m telling you it’s a lost cause." With that, they left him. Life was of the strongest odor for merely a minute, then just as quickly as the ice had formed around him, it had vanished. The lights were seen once more in the wood, but pointing towards the west. As he lay, and heard the voices calling for him over and over again, only one thought ran through his head. This was the thought of seeing his family. He was an hour at best away from seeing her long black hair soar over her shoulder once more. An hour at best away from seeing his icy blue eyes and healthy tanned hands once more. The love of life was no longer his. It was a greater thing waiting for him. McCormick then began to cry in such a way that most would say a man shouldn’t. But he was not a man, he was a husband, he was a father, he was in love.
The stars began to blur away from him now. The beautiful lights that he so enjoyed watching before faded, blended with the stars. The few images flashing through his mind in the hour to come would be memories that the most heartless of men would envy. Flashes of warmth and comfort lasted long enough to keep him that way. William McCormick was feeling the comfort of the family he had only briefly had. His tears stopped in almost a single instant. He could cry no longer. The faces and faces of his life carried no more meaning to him, the only thing of significance to him was the life ahead. The ice had worked through his jacket and had begun to freeze the skin beneath it, making it solid, breaking it in parts. But no blood would flow no pain would come.
All the stars of heaven grouped together to form a single image, they slipped next to one another in such a brilliance that no God, of heaven or earth could paint. William McCormick may have had made it to heaven to see his beloved. William McCormick may have been cast into the pits of hell for killing himself in the ice as well. But there is a single fact that is known: McCormick died in the snow and ice of December, 2008, to embrace his wife and son. When he was found nearly two weeks later there was a thing that seemed queer: he had unzipped his jacket, letting all elements of winter to him. I cannot for the sake of all understand the love that this man must have felt in his final moments. Nor do I know if he blamed himself for the death of everyone he love including himself . But his life will never be remembered by many. He will never be mourned or missed. His ashes would be flushed away in the Alaskan Gulf only two and a half weeks later. He will never be given a memorial, not even an obituary.
My name is Samuel E. Young, and I had the opportunity to save him. He could have lived. God, has there ever been a more sorrowful death as this William G. McCormick.

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