FROM THE GRAVE
I am dead. For 5,000 years snow and ice hid my body on the side of the mountain I crossed many times. Dying seemed so final. One minute fresh, alpine air breathes. The next minute that same air rattles stale of all oxygen, leaving me gasping and empty.
As I died, no light of the new spring warmed me, only the cold darkness of failure. My murderer’s arrowhead pierced an artery deep within my left shoulder, paralyzing my arm and filling my ribs with blood. My body staggered, dropping to one knee upon impact. My vision glazed from the attack.
He had hunted me expertly, felling me with only one shot from behind. The slow sound of distant snow crunching under his boots neared. Struggling to stand, the puncture wound set the mark deep. I fell to kneeling, almost praying. He soon would have my life. The past four moons marked his patient tracking. How could I have been so careless?
The Iceman's reconstruction by Alfons & Adrie Kennis
© South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/Ochsenreiter
The hunter had arrived despite all my efforts. He had hidden in wait roughly thirty paces back behind a brace of trees and a large rock. The perfect position to catch his prey. The perfect place to aim his bow and send his arrow to his mark. I wanted to stand, but the will to breathe was stronger. The bitter taste of blood wet my tongue.
I tried to form words of a curse, but none came.
The air was too thin and too biting at this height on the alp. Consciousness wouldn’t linger much longer. My quickening heart pumped more and more blood through the hole, pooling and gurgling inside like a mountain spring. My chest felt tight heat from
the straining of my heart. Sweat soaked through my fur coverings, leaving a deep cold as the blood in my skin retreated to be nearer my weakening heart.
His hand squeezed my shoulder, twisting the arrow’s shaft. Pain, pulsing pain, rushed to my brain as the flint broke off, causing me to lose sight for a moment. In the darkness I sought courage and found realization that courage shouldn’t matter now. Hope’s cry was being drowned out by blood’s surging waves in my ears.
He pulled the broken shaft from its mark before grabbing the pouch from the cord around my neck. Snow crunched to cushion my head, but the rock my lips landed on bruised any last words that might have escaped. Drool formed, freezing me to the rock. My eyes struggled to lock onto reason through the haze that was forming;
and then I knew.
Life had come to this, and a betrayal never felt so deep. Removing his axe from his belt, he shifted his weight to deal my head a crushing blow. My sight grew dimmer, the haze clouding out the light. Wanting to see the vision of Mara. Trying to picture the flowers that would be coming soon—the festivals of the people. These images of comfort faded and abandoned me. Fear forced my aloneness in close. I had
Realizing the secret would die with me, I felt tension ease and I let go. Courage to send my spirit to the afterworld found me. She carried my spirit out, escaping through a sigh before he brought the jadeite axe down heavy upon the back of my skull.
My name was Gaspare, a descendant from an age of tribes.
My tribe, Ankwar, was based on the three fathers who had come together
—one from the south and two from the east. We groomed the land to reveal secrets of survival, tamed the animals to create herds.
We were not like the Grundiler, who were comparable to beasts living underground. We were curious about the cycles of growth, the potential of life from a seed, the power of a tribesman to grow in status with dominion over these seeds, and the strength of those who had an ability to not only grow life, but take it.
Our Ankwar tribe chose peace. Those from within our tribe, like spores that itched with anger, however, broke free, traveled an eastbound wind to the horsemen, and returned to extract revenge we weren’t ready to defend against.
I was a son and brother. Some thought me a worthless coward. Someone, I hope, had found me brave.
The mountain became my tomb. Silence alone mourned me. The wind, which had once guided me, brought a gentle snow down for cover. The spirit of Chealana protected my remains. She was present in the snow that lay gently on my shoulders. She howled in the wind that blew more snow, pressing me into the ground. No one
found me dead until the numerous blankets of snow and ice receded thousands of years later.
As the icy blanket slid off my lifeless form, my story found hope again to live. My destiny in death was not the absurdity I had relinquished my life to once being. I walked the land long before the birth of pharaohs. The secrets I keep are not from the tomb, but from the times of the first kings, when man felt it his right to rule over
other men and to determine the destiny of a people.
Fate’s futility melted with the glacier’s thaw. I still have a role to play in the saga of men. May this new era bring light into the darkness I once knew and understanding of the power that lies hidden within the hills of the ancient tribes.
I am the Iceman.