She didn’t like it here. The cold, the distances it put between us, the risks I took scaling the cirque.

Darling, come back! Your life is not only your own!

At nearly 10,000 feet the fog is thick, banks of chilly gray breaking over unseen crags above and rolling down the headwall. The vastness around you is invisible. What you see—rocks and alpine shrubs, a dwarf pine grown sideways like a reaching hand—drift in and out of view, more like memories than tangible things. The meltwater flows down the cirque beneath the wasting bed of snow. If I stop moving it’s the only sound, save the cold, changeless breath of the mountain.

She lost an earring up here, little gold thing fashioned like a lion cub. She was upset. We looked for it, but with all this space to cover, what was the use?

The week before there’d been a mudslide, pretty far away, another prefecture, but people died. So she was worried. She wanted me to take her home.

I scan the ground, maybe hoping to find her earring—wouldn’t that be some luck. The snow bed becomes grittier as it evaporates and sediment remains, dark stuff collecting in the sulci textured crust. A little bird flits across—to think: a spark of life entrusted to so slight a body—there he goes.

She didn’t like it here. The distances it put between us. So why do I come here to look for her now, as if the mountain could be hiding her under the ice? Where is my wife?I think to scream into the gray, but I don’t. Maybe I’ll stay up here until I find that earring. How long could it take?

And why, as I struggle along the path in search of that little trace, can I not shake the feeling that someone is walking beside me?

Matthew Chabin is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He worked as a journalist in the US Navy and studied literature and philosophy at Southern Oregon University. He is the winner of the 2015 Miglior Press Essay contest, and his work has appeared in Gravel: A Literary Journal, Southern Pacific Review, and the Ghostwood Books anthology Cthulhu Lies Dreaming. He currently lives with his wife and two cats in Nagano Prefecture of Japan.