The Mountain's not Enough.


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I believe stories are the greatest teachers. Some of the most influential teachings in my life have come through literature and I want my writing to contribute to that collection of the helpful and  [+]

Image of Fall 2020
Image of Short Fiction
Like garden weeds, the worries of Vost Saepe seemed to appear everywhere in his life. They were omnipresent and vicious: in work, in school, with friends, at church. There was no escaping. Before, they seemed manageable, but now their magnitude seemed to be swelling, flippantly bulging into his daily thoughts.

Today a worry about school was especially taxing. The pressure seemed violently oppressive as the evening wore on. None of his usual relaxation tactics seemed to be working. The din and clamor of his college dorm proved a catalyst, and he resorted to a walk in the dying daylight to get some peace and quiet.

He ventured upward on a lesser known hiking trail, hoping the elevation would distance him from the worries and stresses of the day. Atop the mountain, the cold air chilled his nerve. The city lay before him with numberless twinkling eyes. Although he felt more relaxed and breathed more steadily, the thought of returning to the belligerent conurbation filled him with dread.

Suddenly, a voice shattered the frozen night air, “It’s not what’s down there that’s bothering you.”

Vost jumped at the voice in his ear. He turned quickly to discover its source. On his left shoulder, a tiny humanoid figure, about an inch-tall, leaned against a small cane. The tiny man wore a suit and had a monocle. His skin was red and two shiny black horns protruded from the top of his bald head. His feet were clawed like the talons of a bird of prey.

“What?” Vost asked, a bit flummoxed.

The devilish little man pointed to the city with his cane, “You’re worried about something, but it’s not coming from there. It’s coming from you.”

Vost frowned, “Who are you?”

“My kind can be many things. ‘falling behind’, ‘didn’t say the right thing’, ‘not good enough’. Take your pick. But me specifically, I’m one of the more reliable ones. I’m ‘you’ll never make it.’”

Vost pursed his lips, the man’s answers were confounding, “You’re not real then, are you?”

“Oh, I’m quite real to you. But no one else seems to care, isn’t that right.” The little man said, smugly.

Vost hung his head; that is how he had felt recently.

“But don’t worry, you don’t have to deal with me, you can just leave me here on the mountain and I’ll never bother you again.” The man gave a puckish smile; his teeth were serrated.

“Really? Why would you tell me to do that?”

“Because I’m trying to help you, kid. What’s one little worry like me going to succeed at anyway. You can just forget about me.”

Vost thought it over and decided he might as well try it. He left the little man on the mountain and went home. He slept well without a semblance of worry on his mind. The next day was wonderful... for about 3 hours. Then a particularly awkward social situation generated another indominable anxiety. That night he went back to the mountain, keen to berate the little man for his deceit, but when he got there, he found the little man relaxing on a bed made of sagebrush and pine needles.

“Back so soon?” the little man asked.

“You came back, you were bothering me all day.” Vost accused.

“That wasn’t me. But it was one of my kind.” He pointed to Vost’s shoulder. Vost looked to see a plump little beast in a torn shirt grinning at him on his shoulder. The beast’s tiny face was covered in pustules.

Vost looked back to the little man on the ground, “There’s more of you?”

“I already told you that. If you don’t like him either, leave him with me.”

And so, the habit started. Vost felt better after leaving the demons on the mountain, but a new worry would quickly appear and another trip to the mountain would introduce another unique demon to the hoard.
As days turned to months, the hoard began to be visible from down in the valley where Vost lived. All it would take was one glance to notice the gelatinous mass of little creatures. As their numbers grew, the mass on the mountain could be seen in greater and greater detail.

Now, all the worries Vost had left behind surfaced in his mind. He was lower than he’d ever felt before. His eating and sleeping patterns became sporadic. The overwhelming anxiety in his mind made him sick to his stomach and he rarely made eye contact with anyone anymore.

One night, he simply couldn’t sleep. He got out of bed and dragged himself to the mountain hoard that he had created. The tiny beings had coalesced into a large behemoth with a long serpentine neck and fangs.
“What have you done to me!” Vost cried.

The little man that Vost had left on the mountain in the beginning jumped down from the mass of tiny creatures and said smugly, “You did this to yourself. You should’ve known better. The mountain’s not enough.”

Vost walked back to his apartment, defeated. He didn’t sleep that night and the next day he went about his routine as if attached to a 2-ton weight.

At one point, he stopped in his tracks, feeling as though it wasn’t worth it to take another step. Then he felt a hand on his shoulder, “You look like you’ve got a lot on your mind.”

He turned to see a smiling man standing next to him; his face radiated kindness. Vost sighed, “You’re right. I think I’ve dealt with my worries in the wrong way.”

“Leaving them on the mountain?” The man asked, smiling knowingly.

Vost rasied his eyebrows, surprised, “How’d you know.”

“I’ve had my fair share of worries. There’s something you need to know: the mountain’s not enough.”

“What’s that supposed to mean.”

“It’s not distance from your worries that get you through them, it’s your willingness to think of better things even when your worries are close. That’s how you conquer them.” The man bid him goodbye before Vost could ask any more questions.

Vost thought about what the man said. That night, he snuck up to the mountain and plucked one of the demons out of the mass. he spent the next day with the demon on his shoulder. The creature was angry for being removed from its brethren and whispered lividly into Vost’s ear. Despite the difficulty, he chose to ignore its cutting words and continued to go throughout his day, diverting his thoughts from the demon’s vituperations as best he could.

The demon, now unheard, lost its grip on Vost’s shoulder and fell into the bushes. The days turned into months as Vost took the demons one by one, redirecting his thoughts with them near until they toppled from their influence atop his shoulder. Finally, there was only one left: the little man in the suit.

“You can’t get rid of us forever.” He said into Vost’s ear, “We’re a part of this life.”

“I know. You said you the mountain’s not enough. You were right. Why would I let you destroy such a wonderful summit anyway? I’d rather keep that view clear.” Vost replied, pointing to the mountain. “As for you, you’re welcome to stay in the dirt where you belong.” With that, the little man slipped from his shoulder and plummeted to the ground.

Vost didn’t look to see where the creature had landed. He looked around at the buildings around him and smiled. He could recall the places where the demons had fallen: in the grounds, in the student center, at his work. They were all around him, but he chose not to think of them, and it made them transparent. Vost’s gaze rested on a student walking slowly toward the fine arts building. Her shoulders were slumped, and she stared at the mountain as if afraid of something.

Vost smiled and walked over to her. He put his hand on her shoulder.

“You look like you’ve got a lot on your mind, there’s something you need to know...”
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