The Mountain – G. Scarletti

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The mountain loomed above him, its summit vanishing into the thick clouds. Up there a storm was raging. The sound of thunder broke through the clouds and every now and then a gap would reveal the menacing vision of the craggy, snow peaked Zenith.

The young boy looked up intrigued. Many steps lay before him and the top. The stone steps carved out of the mountain itself were worn with the feet of a multitude of travelers before him. He could not imagine the number of steps that must make up the path and so he did not worry about them for they were far off. Neither did he fear the top with its blinding snow and clouds for he could not imagine it fully. Down here, the base was calm. The climb was gentle and the steps were no challenge. Trees bright with the colours of spring lined the slopes, and thick grass rustled softly on the gentle breeze. His little maroon cloak kept him warm, wrapped tightly around him. He marched on, eager to see what was higher up, and go where those before him had already been.

As the climb went on the wind began to cool and whistled quietly as it came down the steps. He wrapped his cloak tighter and lifted the hood over his head. The higher he went the faster he climbed. But it soon became apparent to him that the mountain had not been what it had first seemed. He now saw that the trees housed vultures on its branches. They watched his ascent with interest and the grass hid snakes that peered out through the swaying blades. A sense of trepidation filled his soul, but he pushed it deep down and raced on with more bravado than before, now leaping up the stairs at a sprint. His long limbs and young energetic muscles carried him up. Snowflakes were beginning to fall on him. False paths along the way tried to pull him to the strange places of the mountain. He struggled to find his way back to the steps every time he ventured off the path, but from them he learned more of the great mountain.

As he reached the top of a very steep point of the path, it stopped and flattened out. He could see the mountain more clearly than before. The snow fell thickly on his shoulders, and the wind danced around him, calling his name and trying to remove his cloak. The thunder cracked above, shouting a warning down at him though he could hear not what it said. Looking back down he could no longer see the base, though he felt he had just departed. It felt as if the mountain he had set out to climb was different than the one he now stood on. But he was not as young or naïve as he was then. With a longing for the beauty of the Nadir and a sense of dread for the steps above he became weary and then terrified. His veil of courage was swept away by the stinging cold of the mountain’s wind, and he turned to race back down the steps as fast as he could. As he turned he found his path blocked by that same wind which pushed him back. It wrapped around him and formed a wall barring the way down. The mountain had him. The only way to go was up.

Wearily he pressed on. The path twisted and turned in strange ways around an undefined route. At points he found the path narrowing and he was forced to cling tight to the mountain wall. The precipice beside him revealed sharp, jagged rocks far below. Every now and then a loose rock would trip him, or he would become stuck in the thick snow. The path was difficult but he would pick himself up or dig himself out and then carry on with a sigh. As the storm grew fiercer around him and the snow thicker he began to form a strong resolve. His thick hair was encrusted with ice, hiding the traces of white at his temples. Though the peak and whatever lay there grew nearer he had become more comfortable with the mountain and his route. He did not fall or become lost as often, and the call of the wind had become a soft friendly voice. He was not as young as he once was, and he no longer hid his fear of the mountain. But he respected it and understood it more than he had before. He realized, looking back, that more steps lay behind him than ahead. He wiped his wrinkled brow, creased from squinting through the snow, and trudged up.

He was now amidst the clouds, and the lower half of the mountain had become lost to his vision; a forgotten, unimaginable world.

He clasped his old ragged cloak to his chest with one hand and with the other rested on his wizened, oaken cane. His legs and bones were tired. The ice sought shelter in his long beard and his eyes had grown accustomed to peering out of his drooping eyelids into the driving snow. The storm was now around him and he was one with it. The thunder struck again and now he heard it; it called his name and his doom. Though the mountain shook he did not fear it. He had climbed many steps to reach the peak and now he had reached it, though he could not see through the blinding white whirlwind or hear through the screams of the wind. The thunder shook his frail body and the air froze him through, but was calm.

From the base of the mountain where all was calm the storm above broke every now and then to reveal the summit. There had been a man up there before, but now he was gone.

 

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