As Snowflakes Gently Fall
By Royce A Ratterman ©
Chief Winnemucca could have rescued us easily from destiny’s snowy precipice. He refused, however, because of who we were, because of who we had become . . .
The occurrences up on that bleak mountain summit elucidated the primitive animalistic instincts found within the deepest resources of the human immoral subconscious being. The heinous acts perpetrated by fellow emigrant party members that cold blistering winter echoed a somber decree to the levels of degradation mankind’s dignity and human integrity can cascade during the direst of circumstances. Those actions transcended the parameters of moral reprobation which even our most ancient of ancestors considered the vilest of taboos; the consumption of . . . yes . . . forbidden flesh.
We commenced our peril-destined journey during the spring of 1846, April, as I recall. Some two dozen of us departed from our farmland community in Springfield, Illinois to search for a new and better life in the bountiful frontier of the West; the territory that stretches beyond Sutter’s Fort to the coastal blue waters of the Pacific.
As we traveled, many families joined us, those who also shared the hopes and dreams of attaining a prosperous and exciting new life. Our party soon consisted of some eighty-plus individuals, maybe more, almost forty of which were children, almost half of those being under the age of six.
A schism developed, however, a faction of sorts. Many chose not to follow the direction and guidance of our party’s leader. We chose to traverse an alternate route, a route which, though shorter, proved to be the commencement of our spiral downward into the darkened depths of the human soul.
By the time we reached the mountain pass it was somewhere between late October and early November. A hard and violent storm deposited an abundance of snow on our frail camp. A snowpack far beyond those of the harsh Illinois winters we were accustomed to.
The wintry temperatures were especially hard on the children. Though stricken with colds and pneumonia, they remained confident in their adult companions. A confidence and trust that later would prove to be a fatal allegiance. As the temperature continued to plummet, we used all available and remaining resources to maintain our meaningless existences. Soon our supplies dwindled away as our morale deteriorated proportionately.
What transpired over the ensuing months I cannot say, for it balances on the fine border located between logic and insanity, suicide and murder, reality and nightmare. Did anything happen, or was it nothing but a horrible dream? Can anyone, would anyone, choose to remember those phenomenal occurrences from our sordid past? Can we deny we lived and breathed those dark moments in our lives? Will we deny them?
Almost fifty of us survived to live on, to live the rest of our lives with the memories of that dreaded winter. A dozen or more continued on to Sutter’s Fort, the rest . . . who knows? Maybe they escaped the temporal punishment mankind inflicts to carry their own mode of torture upon the shoulders of their minds. Perhaps we will never know. Perhaps we will never care.
I did what I needed to do to survive, to bear the bone-chilling cold of that icy grave-like winter. Could I do any less? Must I have done any less? Would the taking of my own life been a better choice? I cannot and will not say. I stand here before you, humanity, pleading to the depths of your merciful souls, to let us live our lives within the suffering with which we must convey ourselves alone… to free us to a miserable existence and to excuse us into our realms of painful thought and pensivity.
To live with this life is punishment enough. To tread the forever darkened pathways of our existence is more than many of us will be able to bear. I can say no more!
Monologue originally written for an audition 20+ years ago - but never used.