Monday, 14 April 2014

Mallory's Last Photo

It had been ninety years since they had disappeared. 

Years of theories, of conjectures, of those who said that maybe they had, and those who said that maybe they hadn’t.

To commemorate their climb and to search for the final body, Jack was going to lead an expedition which would reach the top of Everest on June 8th. Perhaps this would be the final proof to show that the men had indeed been the first on the summit of the highest mountain in the world.

What happened on that June day in 1924? Had George Leigh-Mallory and Andrew Irvine died on the way up or had they perished on the way down from the summit?

When the news came in that they’d found Mallory’s body, a couple of thousand feet below the summit, Jack had been excited and disappointed at the same time. It had always been his dream, ever since he was a kid, to bring home the bodies of Mallory and Irvine and to prove once and for all that they had indeed been the first. He was excited that the truth would soon be known but disappointed it hadn’t been him.

“It wasn’t on him?” said Jack, who had to put a finger in one ear to try and hear the climber on the other end of the phone line.
“No sir. There was no camera on the body of Mallory.”

It was known that Mallory and Irvine had taken a Vestpock Kodak with them and if they had made it to the top then there would be photographs (assuming the film was still able to be developed) to show this fact.
The only other option was that Irvine, when they found the body would have the camera with him. There were a lot of bodies out there lost on Everest, at least 120 – a needle in a haystack came to Jack’s mind.

Jack’s expedition was got underway in May that year. It was on June 7th that Jack directed the expedition to another area near the summit, one – and this is the weird bit – that was given to him by a crazy woman. She was a friend of the family and some of the things she’d said had rung true with Jack. Not that he would have told anyone that.

One night not long after his mother had died, Jack had been given a message by the strange woman. “Your mother says ‘Tickety Boo’,” she told him. Right there and then Jack felt as if he had been hit by an ice cold bolt; one that ran from the top of his head to the extremities of his toes. ’Tickety Boo’ had been the saying that only him and his mother had said to each other, no one else knew.

The woman even told him what results he was going to get in his university exams. He’d worked as hard as he could to disprove her prediction. But in the end she had been spot on.

So when she told him it was important to search on the north east quadrant of the mountain, he felt he should listen to her. Jack could see the doubt in the eyes of his team – why there, they were screaming but he insisted on it and they followed.

On June 8th, the body of Andrew Irvine was found and yes, the camera was with him. Jack thanked whatever god had led him to that location. He was happy that he had accomplished what he’d dreamed of when he was only 10 years of age. He had brought the last body home. 

A few weeks later when he was back in New York, he got a call from the company that was developing the photos.
“It was like we feared, Jack some of the photos have been exposed by the cosmic rays. Some have decayed but we still managed to save three photos. I think you should get over here, as soon as you can.”
Jack didn’t need to be asked twice and within the hour he was driving north to Poughkeepsie to the film company. 

Dr Carter shook Jack’s hand and led him into the boardroom. 

“Can I get you some coffee?” asked Dr Carter. Jack said he was impatient to get on.

Carter made sure the door was closed and then displayed the photo on a big screen.

The first one was taken at the previous camp by one of the base team. The second photo was one of a smiling Mallory and the third, well the third was Mallory and Irvine standing smiling at the camera on the summit of Everest.
“They had made it. They had made it.” Jack started whooping and dancing around the room. “Wait until the world sees this.”

Then Jack looked at Dr Carter and wondered why he wasn’t as excited as him.

“You knew this and yet you don’t seem that moved about it all,” said Jack.

“Oh, I’m excited all right but not for the reason you think. Have you looked at the photo, I mean really looked at the photo?”

“I just see what you see,” said Jack “Mallory and Irvine smiling at the camera after they’ve made it to the top of Everest, and more importantly, thirty years before Hillary and Tenzing.”

“And what else do you see?”

“What else is there to see?” asked Jack.

“Who is taking the photo?”

“Perhaps they placed the camera on something, a piece of ice? or a small tripod?” said Jack.

“Look at the shadow at the bottom of the photo.”

Jack went up to the screen and looked closer. His blood ran cold. He saw what 
Dr Carter was getting at, but he let himself take a few seconds before he reacted.

“It looks like there is someone else there. The shadow looks like someone else is taking the photo other than Mallory and Irvine.”

“Now you see my concern,” said Dr Carter.

“Perhaps it is one of the team who went up with them,” said Jack grasping at straws.

“That was my first thought but all the rest of the team were accounted for,” said Carter. “There is something else, something in the second photo that I think you should see.”

Jack couldn’t see what he was supposed to.

“Look at the reflection in Mallory’s glasses.”

Dr Carter magnified the image and it was then Jack saw it. The person who took the photograph of Mallory standing on his own wasn’t Irvine.

“Who is it?” asked Jack.

“What is it, is probably more accurate,” said Carter.

“It’s a man...I think...and it looks like he’s got........but that’s impossible," said Jack.

Dr Carter stood up, “It looks like he has a pair of wings.... like an that what you were going to say?”

bobby stevenson 2014

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