The cars quietly drifted up and down the cables all night long. Talking to each other. Mumbling. Thinking.
Good evening, Totem, sang the red gondola.
It was a low, drone song.
Good evening, Ewe, sang the blue gondola.
Up and up went the Totem.
Softly down went Ewe.
Once they were past each other, they couldn’t say any more.
They were empty. No souls in their stomachs. Because it was night… and the town had been abandoned.
Every night they made a conference, a talk of philosophy. They wondered: why haven’t they switched us off?
The question hung in the air like a skier’s breath. Zip, zip they used to go down the pistes. They had filled the gondola’s tummies, stuffed to the brim, and then clump-clumped in their boots onto the slopes and then zip, careered down the snow. Some slalomed, too. Some raced. People.
Now the smart cars just mumbled, and asked questions. About where they had gone. About why.
It went on that way for years.
And then, one day, some thing walked into the purple car.
And sat down on the inner bench.
It didn’t have skis, and it didn’t have boots, and it didn’t have a helmet.
It was furry. It moved like a person. And it had a bag slung about it.
Sage was silent. He knew it was better to yield. Do without doing. May this creature who has entered me reveal its secrets, Sage thought, without my prodding.
Sage felt a kicking inside his abdomen. He turned his eyes in. The creature was bouncing a basketball off the floor. It made a light thud on the metal. Clum. Clum.
Totem was scrolling into view. He saw the thing inside Sage. And couldn’t help but ask, Who are you?
The thing looked up.
“That’s a good question,” it said. “My name’s Grizzly. I’m off to practice. I like to train at altitude.”
Totem was just able to ask, as he fell involuntarily down, down the wires, Grizzly Who?
“Ah,” the creature smiled. “Don’t try that. I’m incognito. Bear. You can call me Ms Grizzly Bear.” And she dribbled the ball off Sage’s floor.
Sage, who stayed quiet.
This being will tell all. In time. No prodding.
Chalets below shrank as the car kept creeping up.
Lady Grace swam beside them. She saw the bear dribbling its ball, and she wasted no time.
“Why did they leave? Why didn’t they switch us off?” the yellow car sang.
The bear caught the ball and rested it on her thighs.
“Oh, they didn’t go. You mean the hairless apes?”
That was all Grace heard, before she dipped out of hearing.
The bear kept talking anyway.
“They didn’t go. They died.”
Sage was stolid.
The car arrived at the top and the doors opened. The bear walked out to a flat stretch at the head of the slope and began to dribble.
“All burned up,” she mumbled.
She bounced the ball off the wall.
“Well, they have a theory in sport. It’s called overtraining. To build yourself up, you have to break yourself down. You have to stress your body, and then recover. And when you recover, your body adapts to the stress. But without recovery, you don’t adapt. You just break down. The hairless apes who used to ski here — they did that. And not just in skiing. In everything.”
Sage was just leaving the station, to make the descent.
“Snowboarding too?” he asked.
The bear stopped dribbling and stared at the falling gondola, moonlight bouncing off the snow onto its frame.
“Uh, yeah,” the bear replied. “Snowboarding too.”
Sage had caught the bear’s drift. But he feigned naivete. It was too late in the night to think about it more.
Will Lloyd is a writer from Northumberland, UK.