A dusty flury topped the ice-covered mountains as my cousins and I embarked on our dangerous expedition. Our clothes already clung to our sweat-soaked bodies despite freezing temperatures as we stood just ten steps above the base of the mountain we were about to climb. Our plan was hike up an double-black trail with two goals in mind: reach the top to look victoriously at the ground we had left behind, and then more importantly to race down the mountain, sliding on our butts, and watch the trees speed by that minutes ago had seemed unmoving at our slow pace.
My cousins and I began climbing, with me, as the oldest, and my excited younger cousin in the lead. We stayed towards the side of the slope, finding the least icy part, easiest to climb. As each skier zoomed by, s/he stared at us questioningly, wondering why we would not simply hike up the dirt road on the side of the mountain. The expression we returned was that of pure determination.
An hour’s work payed off at the peak of the mountain. Lakes exposed themselves, glimmering in the ever-dimming sunlight. Mountains rolled on hours into the distance and time seemed to pause all around us. Stillness groomed the sky and flooded the trees. There was something beautiful about feeling as if time was simply paused, allowing us to look over the world in a moment that would never end. I wanted to take a picture, but we had no camera. It didn't matter because the image was engraved in my mind anyway.
Like all things, the moment finally did end and, with a running start, we slid down the mountain at top speeds. The thrill I felt racing down that mountain surpassed even that of completing a half marathon or nailing a song on stage. It was pure and too special to be documented.
It was as we were nearing the bottom that a siren distracted our loud reenactment of Hamilton. We fell in shock, although the hill was steep enough that falling back only meant tilting a few inches. Our minds immediately jumped to the worst conclusions. The sirens truly sounded like air-raid warnings that each of us had seen only in movies. I composed a calm face to reassure my cousins, as they asked what the sound had been. Our minds flooded with ideas: imagination suggested it was a warning to take shelter from a potential bomb. Or maybe it signified an approaching hurricane or blizzard. Adding to the eeriness, the number of skiers dwindled until minutes would pass before we would see even a single one rushing down the mountain. However, as minutes passed by and the world remained the same, uninterrupted by blasts or strong winds, our nerves calmed slightly. But our pure delight never returned to pre-siren levels.
Upon reaching the bottom, we rushed inside and told of our adventure. Then, we asked my aunt what the sound meant. She explained the siren alerted people that the time reached 4pm, the end of the ski day, which accounted for the frightening lack of people we saw after the sirens. I first thought the story to be relatively anti-climactic. To build a dramatic start to a catastrophic or life-changing experience and then reveal it was simply a daily measure of time seems brutal. I soon realized this was fitting. We were shocked back to reality from the eternal bubble of our hike by a measure of time. It was not a bomb that would end our pure joy. Nor would it be a natural disaster. Time was the culprit, reminding us of its presence through sirens.