The chairlift was on fire.
Look, I don’t know how it started. Some kind of friction from the wiring? Maybe some oil was used to reduce squeaking and the sun reflected off some metal and… I don’t know. All I knew was that my friend Joss and I were sitting on a chairlift that was somehow on fire, still being pulled to the top of an alpine ski hill, the ground at least eighty feet below us.
We both leaned forward, the flames licking the back of the chairlift seat. The bar held us to our spots, but the only alternative was a long drop. Death by fire or fall? What kind of choice was that?
“It’s getting closer,” Joss said. He didn’t need to. I could feel the intense heat on the back of my neck. I pulled off my hat, at first because of the warmth, and then so I could slap at the fire with it. I only succeeded in fanning the flames, and lighting my toque while I was at it. I threw the toque off the chairlift, watching the little fireball hurtle to the hillside.
Our clothes were winter resistant, not fire resistant. We’d be cooked alive. I looked at the hill far below again. We were getting close to the top. The longer we stayed, the shorter the fall would be if we had to bail. But if we stayed too long, we’d go up like my toque.
Oh, God. It was starting. My back was burning. Joss was snarling in pain, pushing himself hard against the railing to escape the fire, but it wasn’t far enough.
We wouldn’t make it. We had to make that choice. Fire or fall. We might be able to survive the burns, if we get to the hilltop and get medical attention quickly. Maybe. More likely we’d slowly roast to death in unimaginable agony. Alternatively, we squeeze over the bar and throw ourselves down. Maybe the snow would cushion the fall. We’d either be paraplegics or we’d face an instant death. But wouldn’t instant be better than slow?
Two choices. Black bones or crushed bones. Bones on the top of the hill, or bones on the bottom.
If we waited, a choice would be made for us. Did we want to leave the choice up to fate?
Day 181’s three random writing prompt categories were, “‘Is something burning?'” “Chairlift,” and, “Too many bones.”
Well? What choice would you make?