Snowblind_FINALDEAD TIL PROVEN OTHERWISE

Two am. Ann chokes off the alarm on her watch. Her bones ache, even the sockets of her eyes. She probes her flesh, groping for her moxie. How much does she have left? Yeah, and how much will she need? Half breaths of wind rattle the fabric of her bivy sack. Ha! One vertical mile of snowy Alaskan beast below the foot-wide sleeping ledge she’s chopped in the ice, and the beast is snoring. Ann unzips the hood of her bivy sack. Stars! Bright goddamn stars. And cold. Cold as a wage slave’s soul. Perfect. Day three, and her weather window has held. She’ll meet the sun on top of the mountain.

The year she turned eighteen, Devi became a cashier in the Food Halls at Parkson Grand, Malaysia’s first fine department store, in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. Before that she’d lived with her family in their village in the north. She’d barely finished secondary school when Parkson Grand advertised around the country for a “Malaysian Rainbow.” They wanted to hire people who were Malay, Chinese, or Indian, like Devi was.

It wasn’t college (no one in her family had attended college), but it was a way to earn actual ringgit and a way to explore. She sent in an application; six weeks later, she climbed on a bus. Her mother wept outside the sputtering vehicle, shook her fist when it took off. That night Devi curled on top of the last bunk in a room already occupied by five other cashiers in a falling-down apartment building on the edge of the jet-black Parkson Grand parking lot.