We were climbing at the Alps with mates I don't know in real life. It wasn't the conquest of the lifetime or anything like that; the place we were climbing were quite easily accessible for the public but still needed some effort. There were about five of us and our main point was to cross a chine with a suspension cable. This was actually done only once before and one of us told the lively story how it was made. He told it because obviously some of us were little bit scared of crossing the chine.

He told us how there were two Norwegians on the same side of chine as we were. One of them was frightened to cross it but his friend tightened his harness and off them went. Once they had crossed the chine they went straight back. This time the scary-ass Norwegian didn't even bother to wear his harness but hanged on it with one hand only.

The Norwegians were considered to be nuts as we imagined a man crossing the chine and hanging there with his bare hands. Anyway, the story had its effect and people become more brave. My mates jumped one shelf down which seemed easy and harmless but was actually pretty dangerous because the snow underneath their feet could have collapsed resulting their inevitable death. Therefore I remained at the same place, safe.

There were these stone faces showing up everywhere. In trees, on mountainsides, buildings; on gas stations (especially gas stations); even in the clouds. Pretty damn big. Twenty, fifty feet high. Just hanging there.

Many of them were broken - had everything smashed out from the eyes up, or from the mouth down, or across the top of the nose. Some just had the top or bottom third completely cut off. Many more were just chipped, cracked or broken in a smaller place. They'd appeared like that; though some of them looked like they'd been sitting someplace else for a long, long time.

They were draining the life out of everything. We all knew this, and I guess everyone else did too, but there was nothing anyone could do about it. We decided the first step was to get out where there aren't so many of them. We had to go out to where there were no towns, and past there to where there were no paved roads. We passed some gas stations on the way, each hanging one of those stone masks on it, the hateful things.

I saw this all at once:

The meadow we stopped in was vast, with a mountain at its back. In front of us, at the other end of the long clearing, was a messy line of trees and undergrowth with another dirt road on the far side. Past there the fields of waving grass just went on forever. If I looked to the left I could see the last gas station we'd passed off in the distance, some more scattered patches of trees and maybe a fence.

In front of us, everything looked like the middle of New York state in the summer. Behind, the rising mountainside looked like a Chinese scroll painting, with rocky crags and twisted trees - complex, but blurry, and mostly covered with the leafy roof of the mountain's forest. There were clouds at the top of the mountain.

Of course, the faces were still there: One in the trees ahead, and another behind on the cliffs. Only two. Not everywhere you turned, like before. As I looked back at the one on the mountainside, I remembered an event from when we were in a town we'd recently left, a posh, opulent suburb where everything was a status symbol, full of people whose happiness or lack thereof could not be discerned.

I remembered:

A young girl had wanted her mother to get one of the stone faces in their garden. She thought it would impress her friends and their neighbors, and wanted to be the first one to have one of those things infest their home, instead of a public place. They had a back yard somewhat shaped like mine back at home, but rising at a steeper angle, and instead of naturally being taken up into the forested hillside, it was built to particularly look like a garden in a Chinese painting, looking similar to the mountain I later saw - less wild, but just as overgrown, and more natural than the type they build in botanical gardens for the public. The mother didn't want the stony visage at her home, though she didn't understand why it was a bad idea. But her daughter was persistant and implacable, and she gave in, so the ghastly thing looked down on them from that artificial hillock, gazing blankly and siphoning the vitality from all around their home.

My thoughts slowly drifted back to the present, and I was conscious of someone else beside me. She and I laid down in the soft grass, and looked up at the sky, and were happy.

I had died. I don't know how that had happened - probably a traffic accident on the way home from this trip. I was being a ghost of some kind. I didn't know much... I just was.

I had metal claws on my hands - they were folded back on top of my hands with the sharp blades facing out. I could snap them out to their real length. I knew the living people could see those claws, even when they could not see the rest of me. I didn't use them to harm them, but I knew that would get people's attention.

I was somewhere in an old building full of machines of all kind. And this is where I saw a friend of mine (Che). I unfolded the claws, knocked on the table to get him to notice me, and whispered something.

He took a camera from somewhere and photographed me - then asked others to come, and an old guy came there with a Polaroid camera. He took some more pictures, and showed them to me. They were all black and white. In the first picture I could only see the claws, but it also had some of my arm. But in the second, I was already fully visible, in a gray, transparent form. I was wearing coat and carrying bags and a camera.

I was able to talk to him then, and we talked. I was feeling happy, everyone else was happy. And no one was sad when I had died - I was, after all, still here, just in a bit unusual form! Later, I walked past mirror and saw that I was becoming even more clearer, but the hair looked pretty odd... A small price to pay for eternal life, I guess.

Then, I was about to contact the other people. I went to my computer and started to type a newsgroup article ("Hi all, I'm dead, but don't be afraid, that doesn't seem to matter, I'm okay!"), but the problem was that I couldn't type with my ghostly fingers. I needed to think who would type this stuff for me... (Would the claws have helped?)


Explanations: Well, I had just read Small Gods again (many people experiencing the life after death there), a lot of spiritual questions being thought of recently, and also been worried about the family's supposed health on this dangerous journey. (I guess none of us will now think a three-week trip by car is a good idea... =) And, of course, taken a whole lot of photos. Determination beyond the grave, indeed...

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