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A few years ago, I went hiking in Northern Oregon with five close friends. Although we had planned the trip for months, we had no control over the weather, which had turned especially snowy and cold upon our arrival. Regardless, we decided to carry on with the hike. We were all quite experienced and well-prepared, so none of us really gave it a second thought.

The wilderness was stunning. The blankets of snow had given the landscape a dreamlike quality; it almost seemed like a crime to disturb the unbroken, white expanse before us with our footprints. As time passed, the sky became noticeably darker while the temperature dropped even more. At -23°F, you can’t afford to leave any skin exposed for more than a few minutes. It really is amazing how sensitive the body is to extreme cold.

I had the feeling we were being watched. I would catch momentary flashes of movement or a brief glimpse of something pale in the underbrush, but I could never make out the form. It was unsettling, but I tried not to think about it. In any case, it was hard to think about anything besides the temperature, which had fallen to -29°F.

One night, I ventured out of my tent to urinate. As I approached the perimeter of a heavily wooded area, I saw eyes which were undeniably human, staring back at me from the darkness. As soon as I saw them, they retracted back into the shadows. Spurred to action, I drew my hunting knife and ran towards where I saw the eyes.

I sprinted through the blackness of the woods, chasing after what seemed to be a naked human form. After following the figure’s winding path, I found myself at a huge, blank clearing that continued to the horizon, where I saw a faint gold glow in the distance. The vacant white field before me seemed haunting, yet inviting. I knew the gold light was civilization. I had no choice but to go there, since there was no chance I could find my way through the woods back to the camp site.

I started walking. The frigid air pierced my layers and made me gasp for breath. The cold around me was almost dense enough to be palpable. Slowly, figures began to take shape around me. They were pallid, naked people who appeared to fade in and out of the air. All of them were staring at me and speaking in hushed, synchronized whispers.

Set yourself free…

I kept my eyes to the ground and kept walking. In my state of mind, I didn’t care about the paranormal phenomenon I was witnessing; I was worried about the cold. My hands and ears had begun to go numb.

Don’t fight the cold. Become one with it…

I blocked out their whispers. They couldn’t possibly be real anyway; I must be hallucinating from hypothermia. Is that possible…?

You’ve reached your limit. Now embrace the cold and be liberated of all limits…

I couldn’t help but smile. I wasn’t planning on dying today. I was close to death, but even closer to salvation. I looked up to see two lines of the naked, ghostly figures on both sides of me, all staring.

Don’t curse the cold. You can’t understand its beauty until you transcend the confines of living…

Ha! Don’t they understand that the confines are what give life value? Of course death sets you free, but that would be meaningless without the vulnerability you face in life! I shivered. At this point, my hands, ears, and nose were completely numb.

A new existence awaits you. One without fear or pain…

A gust of frosty wind stopped me in my tracks. The cold was agonizing, but I wasn’t ready to give up. I was the most tired I had ever been in my life, but I couldn’t lie down. Not yet.

Do you take pride in your weakness? Why do you fear invulnerability?

I don’t fear invulnerability! I would love to be freed from the shackles of mortality; to experience the world in ways I couldn’t in life! My vulnerabilities prevent me from truly living out my dreams. But no, I can’t die now.

Suddenly a white, naked ghost appeared in front of me with a grin on his face.

Then join us.

The wind stopped. Silence filled the air. I looked at the spirits around me. Unburdened. At peace. Free. My whole body was tingling with frost. I took off my jacket, threw off my gloves and hat, and pried off my boots.

I shed every piece of clothing I had and I threw myself on my back. I gazed at the stars above me. Even as my vision started to fade, I smiled when I realized I was viewing eternity.

Credited to Dan