She thought about John sitting behind her empty seat in the van. She should be there with him, instead of plunging into this unknown world. It wasn’t too late to turn back. John had said the Karmapa was the most important religious leader in Tibet. She could leave the manuscript with him and return to the hotel. The Chinese might be angry with her, but without the manuscript there was little they could do. She could see John again. She could take a hot bath and forget her fears. It was a compelling idea. She would wait until she met the Karmapa, before making up her mind.
The valley narrowed, and the mounds of wheat were replaced by hundreds of yaks wandering through the snow foraging for food. Near the far end of the valley, a series of prayer flags stretched across a nearly frozen stream, signaling their approach to the Tsurpu Monastery. They rounded a bend, and she saw the monastery’s roof line tucked against a hillside of tortured rocks. What a happy sight it was! She leaned forward like an excited child on her way to Disneyland.
To her surprise, the driver stopped the car and signaled for her to get out. When she hesitated, he pointed to his eyes and said something that sounded like “spiis.” It took her awhile to understand he was saying spies. He was telling her she couldn’t go any further by car, because spies would see her. He pointed to the side of the road. She had to wait there, but for what? For someone to fetch her? For dark? She pulled her jacket around her and looked at the icy landscape outside her window. She had dressed warmly enough to visit the Potala at dawn, but she hadn’t prepared herself for this. When she opened the car door and stepped outside, thousands of tiny icicles assaulted her face and lungs. She shivered and frantically looked around for a place to escape the wintry air. The driver pointed to a small cave in the rocks by the stream, and she gingerly made her way down the icy slope to its entrance. Sigourney looked back in time to see the driver put the car in gear and drive off towards the monastery.
Panic flooded her, and she clambered part way back up the slope, before resigning herself to the fact that she had been abandoned. She watched the car disappear around the mountain before returning to the cave. Sigourney peeked into the dark opening, half expecting a bear or other wild beast to leap from the shadows and devour her, but only an eerie silence greeted her. As her eyes adjusted to the low light, she was relieved to see that the cave was empty. Cautiously, she stepped into the small opening and sat down on a rock near the entrance. The air crackled with an icy edge that made her shake uncontrollably, and her breaths hung in the air in a series of ghostly shrouds. She wanted to move about to keep warm, but she had to stay hidden from the road. The cave was too small to walk around in. All she could do was wave her arms and hug her chest.
Sigourney's Quest - Excerpt
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