The Mountain That Gives

Image of Short Fiction Contest - 2020
Image of Short Story

Bright arc lights raced from the rising sun,slicing through the humid invasion of a midsummer heatwave.The gross feeling of stifled calmness visually emptied through the straight edge posture of The Wanderer as he stretched his back. There he stood,back to a shocked crowd of all the famished villagers. Youth exuded from his gaunt face down through his malnourished body. A beige hide sack was tied sturdily around his slim torso,wrapped in a second skin of burlap garments he hadn't taken off yet. For he was desperate to meet an all knowing spirit at the summit. Full brown eyes interlocked with an old deadwood fence that looked as if it might disintegrate with a passing breeze. Past the gate lay the beginning of a dirt path that slyly cut through a heaping mish-mash of winded leafy greens and sturdy trunks. His posture flashed with fleeting confidence but he only felt contempt; for his soul was set on a question that he didn't want answered. He swiveled for a look back,his eyes interlocked with a shorter version of himself. Solemn, identical eyes told him all he needed to know about how she felt. He shot her a look of disdain,she could wallow. His left foot loosened from under his tense weight as he returned focus to his journey ahead and took the first step into the depths of his own consciousness.

The Wanderer’s sore legs collapsed under him. He unpacked his sack and emptied the smidgen of food given to him from the townspeople below. A few apples and a loaf of bread shyly creeped out of the sack,making The Wanderer’s stomach throw a temper tantrum. The shape of the bread loaf in front of him made him reminisce about the juicy cuts of steak and tender bites of chicken he used to eat heartily with his full family, parents included. The pit of despair in his stomach sank even deeper. 

Suddenly,movement graced the faded tips of the fire's radiant glow. A petite, sickly shape approached him,as if searching for compassion. A fur coat that used to match the deepest flame in the stoked fire, now patchy and faded, sealed around a defined rib cage. Four legs closed distance to the ground as a hungry fox plopped onto his stomach near the fire. The Wanderer viewed the malnourished creature in awe. His curiosity eased him towards the animal, fascinated, for he had never seen a fox up close. Tired legs keeled under the shifting weight of the Wanderer, his stomach was back for a second wind. His attention went back to the withering animal in front of him but all he could see was his sister.

Before then she never was much of a bother to him. But after that day her mere presence would send hateful shock waves up his spine. Rage made him believe it was her fault things ended the way they did. He didn't want to give her any solace after she had taken so much from him, his teeth clenched at the thought of her unfiltered loud mouth. They had lived a good life, it wasn't always easy but they only needed to be together, he felt whole with his family, and now he felt like a missing piece that didn't really fit anywhere. He could admit to himself at being a little harsh to her. But he couldn't find it in himself to forgive. The fox before him cowered like his sister did the first night they were alone, it made his compassion reel from the fox but his body stood its ground. After mulling it over The Wanderer sacrificed a piece of bread to throw over to the fox. A pair of furry ears perked up as the fox gave the bread an inquisitive sniff. It nibbled, eventually giving into hunger, devouring the whole piece.

 The Wanderer felt distant as he thought to himself, “Sorrow and dirty looks are all I show her anymore.” His head hurt but his heart hurt more, he eased his head on the ground to gaze through the canopy of leaves above him. Slowly but surely his eyes eased closed and his world faded to black. He dreamed of the curling shrieks of the damned around them. All it took was one unchecked utterance and their lives were changed forever.

Wind caressed his scalp,as he lounged on a tree stump the next morning.Flies already found the withered fox corpse. After months of horrible treatment he felt guilty. He turned,backtracking down the path he had just come up.

Nothing looked familiar,thick windy branches hung lower as he continued down the path. Eventually,he was halted by a hanging wall of healthy branches. Hastily,he forced himself through a gap. Some fancy maneuvering and he got the rest of his body through. Miraculous trees with drunk branches surrounded the area on all sides except in front. Coloring the entirety of the ground with a calming, purple hue was a field of violets.

He waded through the field of violets delicately towards a stone totem that stood sturdily at the center of the edge of the summit. Wind soared through the tight cracks of space between the violets, making them shimmer in sync as if grooving to the same earthly tune. The apricot sunset blessed the entirety of the summit below with a calming, brightness. There was a hole through the center of the top stone on the totem. He looked through and saw the beautiful symphony of warm and cold colors the sky had to offer. Opposite yet the same, their colors alone are classic but together represent balance. He inhaled deeply,transfixed on the breathtaking view,he felt insignificant.The wind blew softly in his face as if to comfort him, something his sister used to do, as the sun creeped from the sky,light poured through the hole and into his iris. He looked away,when his eyes creaked open, he saw a copy of himself standing before him. His skeletal body sagged heavily under the weight of his confusion. His eyes met his own, he saw exhaustion,emptiness.

His voice, surprised both of his ears,“One risked body and mindfulness for the sake of knowledge. What is it One seeks answered?” 

The Wanderer sat,he was mimicked by the copy. He thought for a moment, gracing the windows to his soul with the serenity of his surroundings. He thought of how he felt when observing the sky, about how his sister felt. His focus returned to himself,glaring confidently he spoke,“I've wrongfully abused someone out of confusion. Our meaningful relationship,interrupted by my own selfish anger. How do I fix the gaping hole I've created?” he pleaded, “Or have I condemned myself to a life of loathing?” His words rang in his ear, liquid sadness blurred the version of himself standing before him.

His copy spoke,“life is a finite string of luck. Those empty periods in between eventually interrupted by the merciless draw of the short stick. The slats to one's open gateway suffice the bars on another's locked prison. To free one from this prison one must sacrifice part of themselves for the greater good of the other. 

The Wanderer felt his psyche sink deeper into loathing, he retorted,“How do I know they will forgive me? I have subjected her to painful assumptions. I should suffer in return!” tears streamed from the pits of his eyes.

“One's guilt makes their mind feeble. One thinks he has wronged someone as a result of being wronged themselves. How is one certain their companion wishes to continue the cycle? Life is but a piling mound of snow;constantly berated by a flurry of outcomes each more intricate and original than the last. There is no absolution in this world other than Oblivion.”

Speechless,The Wanderer sat in silence as he thought about the Mountain's words. He was right,the past few months he had felt more certain than anything yet had been wrong the whole time. Guilt radiated through his body, his sacrifice.Tears shamefully danced down his face once more as he thought of the pain he had inflicted.

The Wanderer moved to the center of the violet field; the spirit was gone but what he said had stayed. He was finally ready to forgive, he hoped she would reciprocate. He got comfortable on the violets and dozed off into the starry night.