"Marcus! For God's sake!"
"Marcus! Wake up!"
Marcus was cold. He could not feel his hands through his ski gloves. His legs were heavy, and his feet, encased in heavy plastic ski boots, were dead weight. Jessica was shaking him, and a coupe of other people seemed to be about. He didn't want to get up, but roused himself into action. "What do you want?"
"Mr. Gallin isn't responding."
This didn't make much sense to Marcus, so he got into a sitting position and looked at the teacher.
He looked - Marcus thought instantly - very bad. His lips had gone a purple colour and his eyes were closed, his skin leeched of proper colour and his breathing deep and slow. Bloody hell, thought Marcus. Could this possibly be - ?
"Hypothermia," he said, turning round to face the others.
"That's exactly what I said," said Jules.
"Not just any hypothermia, either," explained another, and Marcus recognised her as the silent, bookish Amy Chen. "It looks like moderate hypothermia," she added, as if this explained all.
"What d'you mean?" asked Jules, not unreasonably.
"I mean," said Amy bluntly, "it will turn into severe hypothermia, and then he'll die if he doesn't get help."
"There's got to be something," Jules gabbled. "We've wrapped him in all our coats...tried to keep him awake...time's just running out...and nobody's even come for us..."
"Listen," said Jessica.
They all did. Nothing could be heard. Nothing, but a slow rumbling on the horizon. It got closer and closer, and Marcus realised that he was listening to the sound of a helicopter - the soound of rescue.
"Quick!" he shouted. His voice awoke the barking of the wolves down below, but he was no longer afraid. "Has anyone, by any chance, got a lighter?"
He had known that tall, greasy Lucien Quois would. The boy smoked so many cigarettes it was a wonder he'd managed to ski the entire day without fainting from exhaustion. The lighter was handed, and, looking around, Marcus took off Jessica's scarf, and, as the rumbling got louder, tried to reach for a branch near the pylon -
"We haven't time!" shouted Jessica.
The helicopter - their one hope of survival - was almost directly above them. Marcus ripped off his own jacket, and desperately, set it alight. It burned voraciously. They shouted, they cried out, they waved the burning jacket - the helicopter passed them, lowering towards the ground -
And kept going.
How? thought Marcus. We're waving the jacket! We're shouting! We're on top of a pylon in the middle of nowhere, one of us has hypothermia, and we're making noise! The wolves are howling! - and they were, from hunger or agitation, Marcus didn't know, but to his complete and utter surprise, the helicopter veered off into the night. In his hand, the remains of his ski jacket crackled and eventually died.