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Aliya looked out over the vast expanse of horizon.
The sky was painted in beautiful streams of blue and purple, and the air held a cool, crisp feel. She breathed it in, feeling as though the cold air was giving her a renewed source of energy. Being this high up in the mountains tended to do that for her.
Her family had made the six-thousand-feet climb the day before, and now, after their nightlong stay on the mountaintop, they were getting ready to head back down. Aliya wanted one last look at the snowy wonderland before she had to leave. She knew that, after today, she most likely would not be able to see the snow until next year. Even though her parents and brother were fed up with winter, she adored it, basking in the cold and the freedom.
“Ally?” Aliya’s brother, Arlen, called to her before coming up. “Come on, sis. Dad wants us to take down the tent.” He saw her standing, looking down at the snow-covered terrain. “Still over here? Aren’t you cold?”
“I’m fine.” She accepted the jacket he tossed to her anyway, sighing as she felt the comforting cold whisk away. No one really understood her love for the cold. She couldn’t exactly explain it either, she admitted, though the extra strength she felt from the chilled air couldn’t just be her imagination.
Aliya and Arlen headed back to the campsite together before taking down the tent and helping their parents pack up the rest of their things. Finally, it was time to go. Aliya cast one last, longing glance at the snowy rocks where she had stood only minutes before. Then her family began the journey down the mountain’s slope.
After they were about a third of the way down, their father decided they could take a quick break. Aliya propped herself up against a bolder and took a bottle of water from her backpack. Arlen sat next to her, gazing out at the path ahead of them.
“How far do you think you’d go?” He asked. “If you could run forever?”
Ally turned her gaze to her brother. “What do you mean?”
He kept his eyes on the trail and shook his head. Aliya’s expression turned quizzical, but he didn’t respond. They sat in silence for a few moments.
A branch broke, and they looked up. Powdered snow fell over their heads and came down in steady clumps. Aliya grinned, looking up at the tree that had practically attacked them.
But the snow kept coming down, and the source wasn’t a single tree.
There was an avalanche coming from the mountain itself.
“Aliya, honey, get to the side! Arlen, get you and your sister away from the rock!” Their father yelled, attempting to shield their mother in the process. Arlen pulled Aliya towards their parents, and the family hugged each other close. The snow fell steadily. They headed for an indented rock in the side of the mountain, which provided some shelter.
Aliya shared one desperate look with her brother.
Then the snow came crashing down on them.
Everything was cold.
But it energized Aliya.
She was dimly aware of someone buried next to her, though she couldn’t place who it was. She couldn’t breath, but it felt like she didn’t need to. The cold was seeping into her, making her feel powerful, like she could burst out of the snow.
Somehow, that’s what she did.
Aliya looked around, momentarily blinded by the sun making its way through the trees. What had happened? There had been an avalanche, and she had tried to take cover with her family, and then…
She began to dig around in the snow beneath her, searching for her brother. After several minutes of searching, she found the top of his light auburn hair and dug deep enough into the snow to pull him out. She could see the outline of her mother as well, and she kept shoveling snow out with her hands until she had released her entire family from the white powder- and yet, something was wrong.
Aliya had a sinking suspicion that she was the only one still alive.