I awoke with a jolt as the sound of thunder crackled and rolled across the charcoal sky above me. Springtime in the Rockies is synonymous with dangerous and unpredictable weather, so it was not unusual that my friends and I had our rests cut short once again. Thunder rumbled again as the rest of my friends finally arose with groans, moans, and complaints about having to move once again. I called out to the others on the ridgeline and told them that we needed to head for safety amongst the trees down in the valley. Life had been troublesome for our tribe recently as the weather had been even more unpredictable than usual and caused us more movement than ever. This constant movement had forced the strongest and biggest of us to lead and care for the others. I was petrified to lead the tribe just a few weeks ago, but now I had transformed into one of the leaders the others seemed to trust the most.
The hail pounded the light foliage around us as Luc, Jack, and I led the tribe down the rugged mountainside towards shelter. Our youth amongst the slopes of Mount Elbert had guaranteed our expertise and we skillfully yet cautiously led the tribe down the jagged rock faces, landslide beds, and loose boulders that composed the landscape we called home. The hail continued to batter our backs as the shrubbery gradually changed from dead trees and bushes to a forest of dense pine trees. The distinct smell of pine invigorated me and heightened my senses, bringing me back to the place I was born, just a few valleys north. I trotted towards the end of the tribe and hustled my friends and family towards the deep tree wells that would provide us with enough shelter to wait out the painfully large hail. I looked out at my tribe with pride before I drifted off, nestled against the pearly, soft snow of the tree well.
The warmth of the sun peeked through the clouds, and I awoke to a pile of slush plunging onto my head. I startled and leaped out of the tree well quickly. The others around me peered over at me until I realized that the storm had passed. In order to cover for my clumsy and embarrassing spook, I cried out to the tribe and told them it was time to feed. The tribe sluggishly liberated themselves from their respective tree wells and we uniformly wandered towards the center of the valley in search of our favorite food: raspberries.
Our raspberry hunt proved unsuccessful, but we continued to find other kinds of delicious treats to eat around the valley side. The sun blistered down on us and in just a few hours our valley became devoid of snow and uncovered our favorite foods that had been burrowed away for the duration of the long winter. We feasted and gorged ourselves for several hours before the sun’s position had dipped behind the mountains enough to signal our return to the high peaks. Luc, Jack and I assembled our formation once again and led the tribe back up the perilous mountainside. This time, however, I was to be in the very front, as I was the most adept climber. I scouted our route and walked ahead of the group by about 1000 yards. I whistled out to the group, signaling the correct path to choose before I heard a twig snap. My head whipped around, listening to everything in the environment around me for anything out of the ordinary. I stood still, waiting, before a crack whistled through the air and I felt something implode in my chest. I dropped to the ground instantly, wheezing and screaming, desperately trying to warn my tribe. In a few short moments, my vision blurred and my legs began to twitch less and less. Before everything faded to black, I witnessed what appeared to be two tribesmen dressed from head to toe in orange and trotting on two legs emerge from the tree line. One of the two pointed a matt, black tree branch towards my head before another thunderous crack forced my vision into constant darkness.