Revenge of the Free Skier

By Ed's Chain

I materialize at the top of the hill once again. Around me, skiers of all ages laugh and enjoy themselves mindlessly. Only I know the truth. This is no ski resort. This hill overlooks Cocytus, the frozen lake at the center of Hell, and I have been sentenced to endless punishment at the hands of a relentless gray monster. He always comes for me after a few minutes of skiing and devours me; all the others just carry on as if nothing is happening. I don't know if the skiers around me are fellow lost souls, but I am the only one with a free and awakened mind.

This is it. I'm not going to let myself be eaten one more time, only to reappear back where I began. This time, I'm not going down without a fight.

I leave my gloves behind to afford myself a better grip on my ski poles, the only weapons at my disposal. In the numbing cold, I make my way down the hill as straight as I can, veering left or right to avoid the occasional rock or tree. My uncounted hours of skiing have given me great skill; I barrel down the mountain like an Olympian.

Soon I see him in the distance. Quickly sizing up my surroundings, I plan my attack.

I turn suddenly toward a ramp on my right, launching myself into the air and a series of forward flips. I time the monster's approach perfectly; he is directly beneath me as I throw my left ski pole downward into his flesh. Only after I touch ground again can I look behind me to gauge the damage I have done. I jerk forward in fright at the realization that I only grazed his side, and he is coming after me at full speed.

I know I can't outrace him for long. I've got to come up with something.

There are no more ramps in sight, but I take to the air using a large mogul. The monster has made up for the time I bought myself with my last jump, and he runs ahead of me, planning to catch me when I hit the ground again. Letting my right pole dangle from my wrist, I bring my hands to my ankles and force my skis off. The force makes my bare hands bleed. The skis fall sharply to the ground as I reach the apex of my jump and take up my pole again. The monster stands in place, something I have never seen him do before. He seems amused that I want to defend myself this time.

As I land, I fall to my knees and grunt in pain. I've prevented myself from tumbling into the arms of the monster, but I think I've broken my right leg. I hold my ski pole in front of me like a lance to counter his charge.

I've seen the monster from up close before, of course, but each time I see him he seems even more horrible. His spindly arms and legs support a massive, bloated gut, and his long claws and teeth are like rusty black needles. He never makes a sound. Of all the things about him that terrify me, the worst is his total and perpetual silence.

When he's close enough for me to spit on him, he brings his left claw around and grabs onto the middle of my ski pole. I can't match his strength, but I force my body forward, knee him in the groin, and grab both ends of my ski pole. Miraculously, he staggers back in pain. The pole bends, then snaps in two. I still have the sharp end.

I can barely walk, but I must use this second of opportunity. As the monster bends to the ground to recover for a moment, I stumble onto him and drive what's left of my ski pole into his head. Even his insides are monstrous; his head feels more like a rubbery plum than the skull of a living creature. The monster digs his claws into my back and opens his mouth grotesquely wide as though he were screaming, though he still never makes a sound. I try to focus through the pain; I force my weight to the side and send us rolling downhill. I scream loudly enough for the both of us.

As we fall, I can think of nothing but stabbing him over and over as he tries to tear me in half. I'm getting weaker. This hurts much more than being eaten ever did, and yet it somehow feels better to know that I'm no longer alone in my suffering.

We collide with a rock, which tears us apart from each other and leaves us both immobile in the snow. I lie there trying to breathe for what seemed like hours.

Turning my head, I see that the monster has dissolved into a mass of steaming gray pudding, dead at last. Content in my victory, I let go.

My body is whole again. I see people of all ages around me, laughing and enjoying themselves. I'm back on top of the mountain. Crap.

Even slaying the Beast didn't free me from my sentence. Even so, I take to the slopes again with a smirk on my face. If my enemy has been brought back to life, I will not fear him as much as he now fears me.