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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Death of John Grimes

They said he was the best skier of his kind and that no one could match him. He was strongly built and had taken everything that life had thrown at him without flinching. His cheeks were round and covered in a bushy beard. His body was as carved in rock and showed no signs of fragility. But he had one weakness; he was ill tempered and had no sense of danger. He would never give up. He knew of no such thing as enough being enough, or how to say stop. He had taken a left turn parting with Jack on his way down the rocky mountain of Tignes. Jack was an experienced skier who had tried to warn him off: “Skiing below thirty is too dangerous, the cold will get to you”, he had shouted as they halted at The Two Passes before parting. In hindsight there was a painful catch to these words. He had hitherto ignored them and treated them with ridicule: “Skiing off piste below thirty is no problem for an experienced skier… People who fall for the cold under such conditions are the young and the inexperienced.” he had thought to himself.

As he now lay in the blistering cold vastly covered in snow, he realized the true grit of Jacks words as well as the fallacy of his own. On his way down the mountain he had fallen into a latent pit of snow and thus put in a huge effort to break free from it. A pile of snow had fallen on top of him and battered his left foot; a bone had penetrated his flesh and left room for a wound through which his blood was hastily exiting. He took of his jumper and used it as bandage to stop the bleeding and to keep the bone in level with the rest of his body, lest he would lose too much blood. Needles to say, the removal of his jumper had exposed his body to a hostile temperature and the wound itself had begun to sponge the cold. He knew he had to move, if he was to make it home, let alone survive.

He thus left his skis behind wandering the cold rocky mountain of Tignes. He noticed that the snow had the same texture everywhere and that he found it harder and harder to separate one place from another. The cold was getting to him and he knew it. It exhausted his navigation skills. He knew this because he usually had excellent navigation skills. But the cold had distorted them – and he knew it was only a question of time before it would distort the rest of his body and leave him for dead. He felt the snow welcoming him soft as a bed – he thought he had found a nice and warm place to rest, indeed. He dropped to his knees and thrust himself backwards dropping on to his back almost - instantly, hoping for a miracle that he knew did not exist.

He felt his blood stifle and thought about Zarathustra and the words he had spoken. He knew that nature would not main him, nor suspend her laws for his sake. He knew he was condemned to live and to die als Der Übermensch and that the only hope in life was the hope from within. Suddenly Nietzsche was no longer of much consolation to him. But he knew that it was true: One could either rule, be ruled - or die. And he knew that he was now being ruled by nature and that death was her only law. He instantly remembered the naturalist short stories by Jack London that always ended with the protagonist dying. Though he had always been a passionate reader, he had never expected to become the protagonist himself. That was it! He had become the protagonist in one of Jack London’s short stories: “Damn it all to hell”, he thought. He knew he was no longer capable of ruling. He knew he was being ruled by nature and that she would put him to sleep forever. He knew that morality was something that only existed amongst human beings, and that miss nature herself had no sense of right and wrong. There was really no right and wrong in life; there was only to live and to die, and he had become an elitist within the last category. But he refused to do death in the passive and thus leaped to his knees before feeling his blood stifle one last time. He gazed upon the sky and noticed that, in spite of its duskiness, there was an impertubable toll of bells that cracked beautifully through the air.


  1. Interesting attempt at narrativizing some philosophical issues. That is always a little difficult, because the plot tends to stop while the philosophical considerations are unfolded. The protagonist being trapped and near to death helps in this case, because we don't expect too much action in the situation he is in.

    There is only one passage where this is less successful in my opinion: where Grimes uses the word 'naturalistic' about Jack London's stories. To me it seems unlikely that a dying man would think that term...

  2. I agree. Do you think it should be more indirect? It seems to me that the sayings of Nietzsche, as well as the references to Jack London, are a little too obvious.

  3. Yes, they would benefit from being more disguised or indirect. That would increase the pleasure of the reader who recognizes them (one of the main functions of intertextuality)...


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