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03.02.2013

Signosts (part 4)

We were close now. Mike reached up to try and catch one of her ankles and then - she vanished.

"My hand went right through her!" Mike gasped, his face ashen.

Before we even had the time to look at each other, hell was breaking loose. There was a gurgling and rumbling and moaning. The earth started shaking. We span around just in time to watch a whole portion of the ridge, where we had stood only moments before, liquidise and wash down the slope - rocks, trees and all.

Mike had turned as white as I felt. He swallowed hard then said,

"You're right. I think we'd better get back to the hotel. We can always come back when the weather is more stable."

 ***

Because we were back from our search so early, there was still plenty of time before dinner after having showered. I left Mike at the hotel bar, where he drowned his shock at our narrow escape in local beer, and went for a stroll through the village.

I don't know how it happened that I found myself in front of a house near the entrance to the zoo. The old-fashioned lettering on the painted façade read "BergsturzMuseum". Landslide Museum? It was almost as if something was pushing me to enter.


The exhibits inside show Goldau before and after the catastrophe on whose site we'd been climbing around all week. There were two models of the area. One showed a green, not very high mountain with villages and hamlets at its foot. On the other, half the mountain face was missing and rubble was covering the valley where the houses had stood.

"The second of September 1806," a soft, dark voice from behind made me jump. "The day the world ended."

I must have looked pretty faint because the man added in almost flawless English, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you. You're staying at the 'Waldgasthof', aren't you?"

"Yes. My husband and I came here to … walk."

"Oh dear. I hope you didn't actually go. After long periods of rain the ground still becomes very unstable."

"I'm afraid we did." Why was I telling him that so frankly? And why wasn't I able to stop? The words were virtually tumbling out of my mouth.

"Were you up there today, when the small slide happened?"

I swallowed, nodded.

The man nodded, too, as if he really understood everything.

"I see," he said. "There are people in the village who think there should be signposts to warn tourists. I'm not so sure if it's necessary. The old people share my opinion." He looked at me in a strange way then went on, "Fortunately you haven't been hurt."

"Yes," I giggled hysterically. Then I looked back at the model and suddenly couldn't help sobbing loudly.

The man waited patiently until my composure had returned. Then he offered me a handkerchief and I blew my nose.

"Can you tell me what became of …?" I asked and pointed with my chin at the rubble on the model.
(To be continued)

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