(The challenge … linearly write a novella online. No editing, no tricks, just out there. No prewriting, no hours of research. I must be thoroughly insane, but I’m not one to shy away from a challenge. My attempt is entitled Your’s Truly. Yes. Completely insane)
“Because helping you would cheapen the experience.”
Will’s brown eyes narrowed as his proffered hand closed into a fist. His body twitched as his center of gravity shifted and he felt his feet slip slightly against the scree-covered slope.
“Bastard,” Will muttered.
His companion’s blue eyes danced, laughing above him. Will watched the blond head glance up—over the valley from which they had ascended. Snow-capped peaks stretched away from him into the distance. The two hikers were high enough that the sky was cast in that strange blue of altitude, it glowed where it touched at the mountains even though it was only early afternoon. “Look,” he continued, his smile twisting, “if I were to help you up–” He hesitated as his friend slipped a little further down the slope, his hands scrabbling madly for any purchase against the loose, angular scree.
“Jerk,” Will breathed, setting his teeth, his eyes closing as his arms shook with the effort of pulling himself upward.
“You would hate me forever,” his companion continued as if Will had not spoken. He chuckled. “And I’d have to tell Maggie how I saved your sorry ass.”
“Piss off, Eric,” Will growled as he blew out his breath, pushing himself flat against the scree in an attempt to arrest his slide back to the valley floor.
“That’s not how you do it,” Eric offered as he sat back on his heels, still smiling.
Will’s chest heaved with his breathing as he looked around for any decent handhold against the side of the mountain that seemed to be slowly sliding down toward the valley. His gloveless hands ached with the effort of curling his fingers among the jagged rocks. At least he wasn’t bleeding a lot of his blood.
“That’s it,” Eric encouraged him from the top. He gave his blond head a brisk nod that Will did not see. “Wedge your fingers in between.”
Will reset his teeth. “Shut up, Eric,” he grumbled. Will groaned as he pulled himself upwards toward the top of the slope where Eric sat back on his heels, having shed his pack and shirt, letting the sun warm him even as snowpack surrounded him.
“Don’t be a pussy, Will,” Eric continued by way of encouragement. He smiled anew as Will cursed him under his breath and scrabbled against the rock that continued to slide.
“Skinny bitch,” Will snarled as his Hi-Techs found purchase against the rock and pushed him higher.
Eric laughed and stood up, shielding his eyes as he took in the view. “Told you when we planned this that you needed to work out more.”
Will Jouray did not reply. He was not going to let Eric Mattheson beat him. No way would he let him win. As Will’s muscles strained to pull him higher up the cliff, he closed his eyes. He saw himself with Eric in the bar in Fairbanks, the music droning around them, Maggie astride his lap, his hands gently cupping that fabulous ass as she reached past him, her long, brown hair tangling around him, toward the table to retrieve her beer.
“Twelve days,” Eric was saying as Denise slipped her arms around his waist, playing with the belt loops of his Carhartts. He nodded. “Twelve days from Ice Lake through to Amy Creek. We’ll hit the Yellowcreek Mining Site and call for a pick up.”
Maggie shot Denise a glance, but Denise just shrugged.
Eric smiled wickedly before he brushed back her black hair, kissing lightly at her neck as he reached for his beer.
“What’s the catch?” Will began, thoroughly enjoying how Maggie insisted on shifting across his lap, glad he would not have to stand up for a while longer.
Eric chuckled, those blue eyes sparkling. “We agree,” he continued, his voice dropping lower, “A thousand calories a day.”
Will took the beer Maggie offered him and hesitated before he took a swig. He switched an unsteady gaze to the bottle. Twelve ounces of Alaskan Amber… 180 calories. He did the math in his head.
“Fifteen miles a day on the equivalent of ten beers.” Even then, Will could hear his speech slur.
Eric chuckled. “Five and a half beers, Will.”
Will sighed as his hands tightened around Maggie. “What will you do without me for twelve days?” he started as he nuzzled against her long, brown hair. He smiled as she took his face in her hands.
“I’ll miss you, babe,” she whispered softly against his lips. She glanced at Eric and Denise before turning her gaze back to Will. “Kick his ass,” she breathed, her lips tantalizingly close. Will felt his eyes close as he leaned closer, his breathing ragged.
Eric’s voice snapped Will back to himself and his situation. He glanced up and saw Eric smiling, gesturing down to him. “You’ve got a good foothold, dude! Make use of it!”
Will glanced down and saw that his right foot was, indeed, secure against the mountain, half-buried against the scree. He chuckled and pushed. It was all he needed.
© 2010 A. K. Marshall