DiscoverUrban Fantasy

Bare Chest on Everest



Two explorers, Jay and Tobias, secretly smuggle huge Ceylon Sapphires into Nepal. They plan to take pictures of the stones at the Everest base-camp to disguise and sell them as high-value Himalayan Sapphires, which are actually extinct. To take professional photographs their common friend Chris comes along with them.

As their journey progresses, they realize that fate had some other plans in store for them. From being kidnapped by a monk to performing a deadly ritual on Kala Pathar, the trio's mystical adventure slowly turns into a nightmare.

Will Jay and Tobias be able to kill a ferocious mountain demon, before it kills Chris?

Will they be able to fly back home on time, all in one piece?


There is no good, just bad to better

February of 2019. I started my new job in a new country, not

as a consultant but as a full-time slave to the corporate system

this time. Working in a cabin was sucking the life out of me

and every second spent in there was no less than torture. But

little did I know that my German business partner is planning

an expedition of a lifetime for us.

I was preparing some slides to explain this state-of-the-art

radar technology, that could show me what’s flowing in your

hidden tissues just by standing in front of you, when I received

a text from my friend Tobias, “Himalayas. Everest base camp.

Trip of a lifetime. You up for it?”

The unsatisfying cabin life and dealing with this new

technology at its nascent stage was turning my life into a

boiling pot of frustration. So, I agreed to go on this arduous

adventure of a lifetime. Listening to his plan, I realized it was

dangerous, but I was excited. The plan was to cover the route

to the base-camp in seven days. Four days uphill and two days

walk down.

My senior partner, Tobias, one of those rare humans who

like to live as a berserker. I call him the dirty old man! He lives

a life of dangerous adventures in order to seek the ultimate

truth while enjoying some adrenaline-rushing action under

8 | Bare chest on Everest

the table. Passed out from UC Berkley, this crazy woman-lover

has been to almost every unfathomable part of the

world. Professionally, he is a technical consultant for banks

and trading companies in Europe, the US, Brazil. Politically,

he is personal advisor for the president of an underdeveloped

country. But his real business is traveling to places with stories,

and gemstones. Where did I meet him? That’s another story to

tell, but first, I have to give you a chance to explore it yourself!

Thoughts of the trip called for a coffee. I usually don’t

like waiting in my office’s pantry as the H.R employees here

keep staring at you with their lifeless grimaced faces. One time,

I winked at one of them and instead of smiling, she actually

sneered back at me. Career is the real enemy of love! Sometimes

it seems like the ‘H.R department’ runs some kind of Voodoo

cult. So, unlike others, I prefer carrying the sugar and the wooden

stirrer to my table to make a ‘Starbucks’ double-latte for myself.

I informed our common friend Chris about the “dangerous-yet-exciting

trip.” Chris is an Irish-descent who lives in Germany.

He is a teacher by profession, specifically for autistic kids. Chris

teaches them to become self-reliant. The rest of his time, well,

he spends in seeking his spirituality and using his professional

camera. So yes, he is a liberal vegetarian with absolutely no

political views. He agreed at once and began to plan the trip.

As per the plan, Chris, the preacher, and Tobias the

precious met two days before I reached ‘cat-man-do.’ That’s

what Tobias’ phone typed when he dictated ‘Kathmandu’ to

his cellphone. Tobias flew in from Thailand, and Chris flew

in from New Delhi, India. He was acclimatizing to the high

altitude along with his diarrhea, up in Dharamshala, India.

The next day, I met them at their hotel.

My trip to their hotel was an adventure in itself. On 29th

March, I reached the airport in the morning, checked in with

Cat-man-do | 9

my backpack (my only luggage). After checking in, I headed

to the Irish bar inside the airport lounge, killing time while

enjoying my beer and checking out this woman wearing a white

t-shirt under black overalls. I remember smiling at her while

sipping the foam from my beer. I boarded the plane as drunk as

I could manage to be, but the 2-hour flight still seemed to take

forever. I guess, the more I get excited, the more I despise time.

I landed in Kathmandu (Cat-man-do!) at 2:45 p.m.

Though the crowd had the same vibe as any other place in the

world, there was something different about the atmosphere. It

was the smell of newness and, might I tell you, it was pleasant.

The pleasant change that you sense through your nose until

your body fully adapts to the new environment, turning

everything dull again.

Part of that newness was the higher altitude, which resulted

in colder respiration. When I walked out of the Kathmandu

airport, a hoard of taxi drivers surrounded me to offer me a

ride. It seemed like I was the last tourist ever to come out of

the airport. No wonder why celebrities get annoyed by the

amount of attention they get. It was annoying yet I felt special,

which is rare in my life. After a quick analysis, I finally chose a

taxi driver. I hopped in his taxi, and we headed towards hotel

Jagat in Thamel. The morning scene of the city was peaceful;

school kids were passing the local shops; the shopkeepers were

dusting-off their products on the shelves while men in groups

standing outside their shops sipped tea and sucked drags out

of their cigarettes. Some were heading to their respective jobs

thinking about their day ahead, and some were out on the

morning walk, thinking about their life ahead.

Kathmandu is a metropolitan city, so no one was in the

ethnic attire except the local women. The men only wore their

authentic headgear called ‘Dhaka topi.’ Some men standing

10 | Bare chest on Everest

in groups laughing while others walked with a stern and

conscious look on their faces. I could see more young women

than men, but still, it wasn’t crowded at all. Everything was

going smoothly until we got stuck in traffic. At that moment,

the smell of newness faded away and the usual diesel fumes

spoiled the refreshing feel.

As the taxi entered Thamel, I was overwhelmed by the

city’s crowd! Thamel is the main tourist area of Kathmandu

and a homogenous amalgamation of residential and

commercial constructions. It was suitable for the walkers. The

crowded lanes provided easy access to markets and hotels. The

city is densely populated, and Thamel is the most crowded

part of the city. I couldn’t wait to see my friends again, but

I had to complete a secret rendezvous before meeting them.

Due to a recent currency change in the country I arrived from,

the currency I was carrying was not approved by the money

exchange counters at Kathmandu airport. Luckily, my driver

was a friendly and resourceful guy who took me to a juice

vendor as we entered Thamel. The vendor exchanged currency

without a hitch. Meanwhile, my driver went to one of his

known peddlers and fetched me five grams of hashish as per

my request. It was a pure blue-green bead of hash. I didn’t like

the price he offered me the hash for, but I don’t like to think

much when it comes to recreation.

After arriving at the hotel, I inquired about my friends

at the reception. The clerk told me that I missed them by 5

minutes. I stood in the lobby and prepared my mind for a

long wait. However, 10 minutes after my arrival I saw Tobias

entering the 12 by 12-foot hotel lobby on the ground floor with

a warm greeting and a long “Heyyyyyy.” I jumped off the couch

and gave Tobias a short but strong hug and backed off in half

a second, preventing the situation from turning awkward. You

Cat-man-do | 11

see, there is a limit for man to man touch, anything more can

turn the situation super awkward. A short man-to-man hug was

mandatory as it had been six months since I had last seen him.

Observing our connection, the clerk yelled, ‘you all have

good timing with each other.’

“Always, man. No need for phones here. We rely on

promises,” I responded to the receptionist.

I hauled my luggage to Chris’s room and surprised him

with the bead of hashish. Tobias had nothing to express

towards it. The beers were already arranged before my arrival.

My friends had found out the best craft beer of Nepal. The

first sip made me roll my eyes back in disbelief, it was that


There was a numbness in my brain due to excitement.

We opened our cans and shared a cheer! And just then, Chris

dropped his beer.

“C’mon man, not again! Why are you so clumsy?” Tobias


“It’s okay Chris, relax man, we can clean it up later,” I


“I think I should really clean it all before I begin to smell

like a craft brewery,” Chris replied.

While he was cleaning the mess, I asked Tobias and Chris

if we could visit ‘Pashupatinath temple’ in the evening, as I was

staying in the city for just that one day.

Tobias laughed and said, “I think we have more important

things to do than visiting a temple.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Like buying all the necessary trekking gear! We are

already done with ours, only you are left now.”

“But you said we would be mostly walking in a t-shirt,” I

reminded him.

12 | Bare chest on Everest

“Yeah, but what will you do when we reach those ice-falls

at the base camp? You need proper clothes for it, or else the

weather up there is cold enough to freeze your bile juices,” he


“Well, fuck the bile juice!” I responded.

“Hey guys, the joint is ready,” Chris interrupted.

Chris lit up the perfectly rolled joint, sucked in a long

drag, and then passed it to me. I could taste the mountains in

that fragrant drag of hashish. Tobias chugged his beer while

making a shit face as he could not feel the high that both me

and Chris were feeling. It is against the religion of Tobias to

smoke anything- his religion of ‘fanatic health freaks.’ But he

told me that he wanted to see how it feels to get high.

High on my hashish, I addressed Tobias, “I promise you

Tobias, one day I will get you high as fuck and you wouldn’t

have to smoke it.”

All high, we headed out for my ‘trekking shopping.’ As

we walked down to the reception, I saw a few people slurping

their hot soup. I instantly felt the gush of saliva in my mouth.

In all this travel excitement, I never realized that I hadn’t eaten

anything solid in the past 24 hours. I asked Tobias if we could

eat first, but he cruelly dragged me out of the hotel, saying

“We don’t have time!”

Its moments like these where he makes me feel that I don’t

matter. We headed out of the hotel with our beers in our hands

like it was Germany, not cat-man-do. Even Chris seemed to be

okay with it and didn’t remind us that it was against the law to

drink outside in this foreign land.

However, being high bestows upon you an ability to view

the world from a completely different perspective. As I entered

Thamel, I saw people of every skin during a ten-minute short

walk. The crowd of this town was always moving — gushing

Cat-man-do | 13

like a mountain stream that never stops flowing. Every corner

looked the same. The streets were narrow and partly shaded

with buildings on both sides. It was really dense. The buildings

looked like a melted candle. All the constructions were falling

onto each other as if they were sick of being old.

“So, where did you guys shop from?” I asked Chris.

“Oh, it’s on the other side of the market,” he replied.

‘What? Why are we going this way then?’ I inquired,

shaking my head.

For a moment, we got caught up in hysteria and started

laughing our lungs out. The hash was stronger than we had

anticipated, as Tobias was under its influence just by being

in the room. Beer didn’t seem to take away the dryness in the

mouth. It felt so diluted.

“Oh, come on, we are just looking around, a little bit of

dirty tourism,” Tobias answered.

The fun time has started. We were just laughing

and dragging each other from one shop to the other. The

shopkeepers were laughing at us whereas other tourists and

monks were just running away, wondering why are we not

enjoying the peacefulness of the atmosphere like all other

tourists. My beer was still cold. It was a pleasant climate for us

sailors to drink. We lurked around for another twenty minutes

until we got ourselves together and started ‘serious’ shopping.

After entering two wrong shops, we finally made it to the

right one. Without wasting another minute, we jumped over

the jackets and started going through the colors. I chose the

green north face as Tobias had his hands over the black, and

Chris already bought the blue one. Tobias made me try the

jacket and pulled my jacket zip up and down to make sure it

was not a defected piece. The shopkeeper took out the plastic

pants. I didn’t try those and just bought it. We also bought

14 | Bare chest on Everest

three gloves as both my soon-to-be-travel buddies forgot to

buy a pair for themselves. I put my jacket on and carried the

pants and gloves in a plastic bag.

The next items on the list after my thermal insulation

were the trail nuts. They had already bought the breakfast

essentials, so I just picked up trail nuts, some protein bars, and

Toblerones. I paid NPR 4000 for four products and rushed out

of there as shopping does not amuse me at all. After stocking

up on trail-nuts and protein bars, we headed to a shop where

Tobias and Chris had already ordered two cashmere shirts.

We reached there only to find out that the shirts were not

done yet, what a bummer! The shopkeeper offered them their

money back, but they told him that it’s not about the money,

it’s about them looking like a savant.

I smiled at the shopkeeper while chugging on my beer.

He took us to his workshop, where we saw a single woman

working on the sewing machine under dim light. Surprisingly,

she was the only manufacturing unit. She told us she had been

working since morning, and it was 9 pm already, one hour past

her shift-time. I was hungry and bored to death. My munchies

demanded some food in my belly.

On top of that, I drank up the last sip of my beer. So, I

took out a note of NPR100 and put it on her desk and told her

that we would be obliged if we can get it tonight. She started

running the sewing machine as fast as she could as we headed

out of the workshop. Tobias appreciated my move by telling

Chris that if he had the chance he would have done the same.

It is good how one of us always takes care of the tips. It leads

the way for good karma for all of us.

Just a few minutes after leaving the shop, Chris found

a food stop, a Chinese restaurant. We rushed upstairs to the

dining hall and acquired a table in this authentic china house

Cat-man-do | 15

with hot soup as their signature dish. I decided to go for their

hot soup while Chris kept skimming through the menu,

and Tobias was repeating that he wants hot soup. It felt like

Tobias was trying to convince himself. The Chinese owner

was waiting beside our table, observing us with curiosity. He

seemed nervous as if he didn’t want us to order anything else

besides the usual hot soup. It was warm inside, and the hashish

in my blood hit me again. I looked at the waiter and asked him

to get us three red Sherpas while we were deciding what to

order. He understood it well and rushed back to the kitchen.

Nodding his head three times, the boy just vanished from our

site. Tobias, once again, was proud of my decision. It was

the second time during the night in Kathmandu that Tobias

acknowledged my decisions. The beers arrived, and by that

time, we were ready to order. I was experiencing severe hunger

pangs that I was just good with anything. Finally, we were able

to relax. After a long time, we three met again on a round

table. I told Tobias that I was excited about the trek!

“I am too,” he replied. “And I am happy that we all made

it in such a short window.”

Chris has a habit of quietly waiting for the food. I guess he

likes to pretext his dinner before he eats it. Meanwhile, Tobias

showed me his cashmere scarf that he bought while shopping

for the trekking essentials. I suggested him to order a cashmere

underwear for himself too, as the man seemed obsessed with

the fabric.

As I finished half of my beer, the food finally arrived.

Man! The food looked good, but I was still skeptical. So, I

followed what Chris did and filled my bowl with stuff, then

just like him, I poured the hot soup in my bowl. The war with

the chopsticks began, and I guess we didn’t even talk for the

first 15 minutes while eating. Just kept slurping in as much

16 | Bare chest on Everest

food as we could in one breath even though it was a strange

soup, full of oil. My intoxicated brain was pondering over the

amalgam of oil and water in my bowl as Chris came back,

cussing at the amount of oil in his bowl.

After eating, my crew decided to head back to the shop

to collect the cashmere shirts. But I wasn’t in a mood to walk

anymore, so I told them that I would wait at the square. I sat

down on the stairs of one of the shops, put on my Sennheiser

earphones and listened to a deep house song. I lit a cigarette

and carried the session for a while, quietly, motionless, lost

in my abstract thoughts, slowly realizing how tired I was.

We had to catch a plane early morning, so this shopping

spree had to come to an end. I decided to get up and find

my travel buddies before I succumb to my lethargy and end

up being another drunk ass of the day to be carried to his

hotel room. I stood up slowly and started walking towards

the shop. Tobias and Chris were still nowhere to be seen,

even on the streets. Later, I found them trying their cashmere

shirts. It was a good fit for Chris, but I guess Tobias messed

up with his measurements. It looked like a tight full sleeve

blouse on his body. His upper torso looked huge, like Johnny

Bravo. Chris knew it was looking good on him, but Tobias

asked me if it looked good on him. I told him that it looks

perfect on him.

“Don’t lie to me,” he replied to my compliment.

“Well, it’ll go under your jacket Tobias,” I justified. He

knew I was tired, so he just took the t-shirt, and we headed

back to our hotel.

It was past 11 pm. Streets were free of pedestrians, but

there was no change in the extent of pollution. I felt so big

walking among these small buildings, which was not the case

when I walked among the skyscrapers in LA.

Cat-man-do | 17

About the author

Jay Vikram is a debut author who writes poems and novels based on his research on realism and philosophy of action (karma). As a research engineer in competency technology, he travels around the world. His writing style is witty and aims to tantalize the subconscious through strings of humor. view profile

Published on March 19, 2020

Published by Notion press

70000 words

Genre: Urban Fantasy