Read this story as a pdf (recommended)

The Fourth Tale - Mountain

Simon P. Clark

The storm is so powerful it hurts. The rain hits your face. The ice on the rocks stings your hands. It's the wind, though, that's the worst. It's not a bite - that's the wrong word. It's a tear. A rip. It touches your skin and you think, for just a moment, that it really will destroy you, and rip you limb from limb. It's a bad place, this mountain. It's not a place you should be. Still, here you are. Keep climbing. Ignore the pain. Pain's nothing new, and it'll fade in the end.

Everything does, doesn't it? Everything fades. Maybe even the mountain.

You shouldn't be here. They tried to warn you, your teachers and your friends. We don't meddle with gods, they said. We don't approach the mountain. Some of them spoke in whispers, touching their prayer stones and turning away. Blasphemy, they said. The word hung in the air like poison.

Still, you came, and you're climbing. You have to do this.

   They told you to climb the mountain, and to shout your story to the wind.

They told you to climb the mountain, and to shout your story to the wind.

What was it that Acamus said? Dreams shouldn't be trusted. They're oil, he said. They slip and slide. He laughed when he said that, and you drank together, and you were glad to have him as your friend. He always knew what to say. Another gust of wind rips off your hood, and you wince, shutting your eyes against the freezing air. Move. Move your feet. It can't be much longer now. Climb, you idiot. Climb.

Maybe they didn't think you would do it, and that's why they told you the way. They didn't think you'd actually try.

Blasphemy. It rings in your head. No one is meant to come up the mountain.

The gods are at the top, they said. Monsters maybe, too, said Acamus, but he said it quietly, so only you could hear. The teachers wouldn't have liked that, but he had no secrets from you. You should have told him about the dreams. You should have told him the whole truth. How long ago was that? A month. Two, maybe (Climb, you fool. Look, there, grab that rock. Ignore the pain. Follow the path)

They were not normal dreams. They were visions. They were blessings. They told you to climb the mountain, and to shout your story to the wind. They told you every night, screaming at you, until you agreed. Well, here you are. Almost at the top. And then ... what? You don't know. You'll find out. You'll scream your story to the world, if you have to. Anything to make the dreams happy.

There's a tree up ahead, wind-blasted and bent like an old, angry man. You reach for it, stopping to rest, pulling your hood up again. Everything hurts. Your lips are chapped. Your ears ring and burn.

You have to get to the top. You have to tell your story. Maybe the gods will reward you.

Maybe the gods don't exist.

Acamus would smile if he heard you say that. Suddenly, like a pain in your stomach, you miss him, and you miss everything, and you're more afraid than you've ever been of what's at the top of the mountain.

But the dreams all said to climb, didn't they? Climb, climb, climb. Don't stop. Keep going. Walk through the pain. Maybe the gods don't exist. Maybe. But something's up there, waiting and calling, ready to hear your story. What would Acamus say to that?

Look, there's the path. Enough rest. Climb. Move you feet. Move your arms.

The top of the mountain is waiting.

Mountain, Eren Tales © Simon P. Clark 2014. All rights reserved.

Photography © Brandon Rechten 2014. All rights reserved.

Reproduction in whole or in part without permission

from the author or publisher is prohibited.