Tell A Tale in 500 Words

The Meaning of Life By Andrew Bond

“Eat your toast, it’ll do you good.”

“I just don’t feel like eating.”

“Nor do I, to tell the truth.”

It was the worst of times. Since their son David’s death on Cristallo Peak, Graham and Anne Julian had lost not only their love of climbing but also their love of life which seemed empty and meaningless. After three weeks of near starvation, secluded in the tiny Italian hotel bedroom, they were resigned to their own deaths. In his weakened, delirious state, Graham dreamed about David standing in a cave at the summit of Cristallo, holding a scroll. “The meaning of life is here,” he said.

“It was just a silly dream, but it felt as if David really wanted to tell us something,” he told Anne. Then Anne had the same dream, and it was decided: to climb Cristallo Peak and find the precious scroll.

A regime of food and exercise was followed, with reluctant determination, until skinny arms and legs filled out with restored muscles strong enough to attempt Cristallo Peak. But by now Winter had arrived, covering Cristallo with snow and ice.

A skiers’ cable car ran up the lower section beyond which only the fool hardy ventured in Winter as the Julians now did, clinging to the Via Ferratas, a series of iron ladders and rickety bridges built during W.W.1, and in a state of disrepair made more hazardous by freezing fog.

“We are mad doing this!” Anne cried, inching her way across the deep ravine on a horizontal ladder so cold her gloves froze to the metal if she stopped moving.

“Not mad Anne – we need to find the meaning of life – and David has sent us.”

Beyond the iron ways, they reached the peak itself, rising sheer in stratified layers of crumbling rock which made each step and hand hold a matter of life and death, as swirling snow swallowed them from the sight of all below.

Tiredness overwhelmed as breathing struggled to keep pace with heartbeats, but still they scrambled, reaching at last, a ridge, sharp and serrated, like a giant upturned bread knife.

Giddily, with tiny steps, they stalked across until, exhausted, they reached the cave. Reaching out like zombies, they stumbled into darkness. As eyes adjusted, Graham thought he could see something cylindrical on a flat rock: THE SCROLL!

Outside in the light, nervous fingers unrolled the scroll … which slowly disintegrated, and gently drifted away into the mist which began to clear, revealing an azure sky and below them snowy peaks, disused soldiers’ huts, icy streams and the distant town of Cortina all bathed in sunlight.

“Oh no!” Graham cried. “We’ve lost the meaning of life!”

Anne surveyed the view. “No we have found it. Every desperate step brought us nearer the meaning of life. We’re strong again, and look – the whole world is at our feet!”

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