I knew her well, The Mountain, or at least as well as any man could ever know a beast of such magnificence and mystique. The Mountain, that was all the name I ever felt necessary with which to dub Her. Who was I, a mere mortal, to bestow a title upon something that was my superior? I am a mere peasant, and She, She is an illustrious Queen, towering high among all lucky enough to lay eyes upon her. Other men, they tried to saddle Her with titles. With names. They claimed to know Her, like I knew Her. They did not, and they could not. To them, she was just a mountain. To me, she was everything.
My adulation and obsession dated back to my childhood, a time so long ago that most memories of this period in time have long since deserted me. I first climbed Her, alongside my father, at the age of twelve. I was the youngest, father said, proudly, to have ever achieved this glorious endeavour, to his knowledge at least. Once a year, from twelve onwards, without fail, me and my father would drive from our little cottage by the coast, kissing Mumma goodbye. She would always have a tear in her eye, and every year would say to my father, just low enough so she could believe I could not hear; ‘You take care of him Frank. You take care of him well. Should anything happen under your watch, to me you will answer.’ And with that, inevitably, he would take her by the hand and look deep into her beautiful blue eyes, eyes as a blue and as glistening as Sapphire. ‘My darling Fiona, I would give my own life before even considering the risking of his,’ he would reply, before kissing her tenderly. ‘Should anything happen to our boy, I would take my own life before I return without him.’
That year was the sixteenth year of my life, and on the day we traveled to see Her, those words of my father, said merely to comfort my mother in her time of duress, would go on to haunt me for the rest of my earthly days. That year, we started at the base of the mountain, as one does. You could not exactly start at the top now, could you? That would be quite preposterous. After making sure our rucksacks were appropriately stacked; with food, stoves, water, and, of course, plenty of coffee for energy, we set off on our voyage. Our voyage to Her, the fair maiden to whom both our hearts I will always believe truly belonged.
Traditionally we followed a beaten path, a path that, despite being covered with a fresh blanket of knee high snow (on a good year) every year without fail, remained easy enough to find once one knew where to look. You see, the path was beautiful marble, carved into the mountainside, its true origins a mystery to all. Many had their theories, many had their ideas, but nobody knew for sure. Some say an an old tribe of men from years yonder were responsible, working well beyond their suspected means and plausibility. Others say more supernatural forces were at work. I, for one, believe speculation to be a waste of time and thought, and as such, I remain happily ignorant to the nature of the path. All I care for, or cared for at the time, at least, was the small signpost that marked its beginning, but whose meaning I never quite comprehended.
PAST HERE LIES HER LIES. STICK TO THE PATH.
Until that day, I had always adhered to these strict and unambiguous instructions. That day, however, I failed. That day, I deviated from the oft-trodden path, and, on that day, it cost me everything . I was following the track at first. Until this year, my father had always led the way, his bright-orange bobble hat a striking beacon in the dense fog that always coagulated atop Her.
That day, however, he had fallen behind. He was older now, and father time had robbed from him his speed and previous athleticism. Now, I tore away from him, until behind me not even the fluorescent beacon of his hat could be spotted in the distance. I could only presume he had stopped to rest, and I had failed to hear him yell out to me. I looked back head, deciding that he would surely catch me in his own sweet time, and then in my peripheral I caught a sight. I saw Her.
Not The Mountain, no, not that Her, but a different Her. Perhaps she was the living embodiment of the mountain itself. She was young, no more than ten, and despite the deep biting cold, she wore nothing but a flimsy nightgown and her feet were bare. Also, despite the deep and dense fog, she was clearly visible, and ghastly pale. One could go as far as to say she shone, brightly and truly, against the dark grey. It was then I noticed the other figure, a mere ten yards away from her. In the fog, it was hard to make out any distinguishing figures, save for two. Firstly, the figure appeared to be, like the girl, barefooted, as their was no telltale black at the bottom of his trousers. Secondly, on his head, he wore a bright orange beanie.
My father staggered towards the girl, his arms outstretched. At least I believe that to be so, through the fog it was hard to tell for certain. I yelled out to him, ‘Father!’, at the top of my lungs, but he paid me no attention whatsoever. I went to run towards him, but some force, some darker fear, held me back, and I was powerless to help. I could only stare, my mouth open, eyes wide in shock, as he walked closer to Her… Closer…. Until, finally, just as he reached Her, and they held their arms outstretched towards one another, he took a few steps towards Her, seemed to move through Her, as though she were not there, and finally, he toppled out of sight.
It took my mind a moment to register to what it had just bared
witness, but then, reality sunk in. My father had fallen to his death, and I was alone, trapped on the mountain.
It was then that she turned to me, and despite the distance between us, which must have been at least a hundred yards, Her eyes appeared to be right before me. It was as if they had such a depth to them, such unfathomable infinity of size, that they could physically leave Her body, and move of their own accord. I tried to resist, tried to look away, but it was to no avail. She had me under Her spell, as I disappeared into those eyes, and a soft music began to play from nowhere, the type of music one would expect on the beaches of the cabana, and I could hear the lapsing of water against grains of sand.
‘Come to me,’ She called softly, ‘Come to me, and leave your worries behind’. I could not resist, and as I walked towards Her, the tundra white landscape around me seemingly dissolved away, and the snow became sand, and the world became a beach. I felt the sun lash down upon my face, not too hot, as a cool breeze appeared to be in the air also. I was in paradise. I could see the sand beneath my feet, and I longed to feel it. Without stopping to consider my actions, I removed my shoes and socks. I dipped my bare feet into the warm, flowing sand, and felt it marvellously cascade between my toes. I looked up, at Her, and she beckoned me towards the sea.
As I reached the water’s edge, and stood next to Her, my mind tried desperately, one last time, to trick me out of my newfound happiness. It’s a trick, you fool! , it frantically screamed, as loud as it could, She means you harm, not pleasure . Of course, I knew better. Why would She? I had known Her all my life, and She had never done a thing to foul me. So I looked into her eyes, and I smiled deeply. She smiled back, a genuine, beautiful smile. The kind of smile that, just for a moment, shuts everything else down, and puts the world into perspective. I took Her hand, and I walked in to the water.
Falling. That was all I could feel. Did it last several seconds? It must have. Gravity acts quick upon mass, and rarely does a fall take a long time. I had just enough time to think quick and sporadic thoughts. I had time to mourn my father. Time to worry about my mother’s future, and how this would affect her. Mostly though, I was focused on my designated fate. Death. Why not here?, thought I, with the last thoughts I would ever think, I couldn’t think of a more beautiful death.
Written by Joshua Moulinie,
Bream, Forest of Dean,