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Mountain


by Ivan Reyes


This mountain is my home. Outside, square through the open window, the brushes swayed and branches moved up and down slowly and birds could be heard chirping. Down, about two miles away there was a stream. It went up into the dark green thick plants and down again and up again and then trailed off into the rocks below. The old man's hands were as hard as a rock. He meditated once more upon the impossibly holy notion that something as eternal and gargantuan as a mountain accepted his feeble presence upon it's stretching side just the same as it accepted the tiny birds or the hungry bears. "This mountain is my home," he thought once more, and a smile broke upon his face. 

He got up and stretched his whole, gaunt, lithe body. His hands penetrated deeply their surrounding reality, they stretched into the sky. He grabbed each hamstring and turned so the muscles in his back and sides strained. He stepped outside and punched a plank of wood he set into the earth five years ago upon first arriving at this paradisiac and hidden location. The trees seemed to rejoice his presence. They stretched high into the air 70 to 100 feet. Their roots grasped violently the earth below them. 

When night descended nothing calmed. Everything seemed alive. Sleep was an absurd notion for those creatures who were doomed to perish. The old man sat by a fire. He was eating a fish he had caught earlier. He was drinking some booze he had made of local fruits. The fire cracked. The moon embraced the mountainside. God's truths sprung forth, unfurled upon the firmament. They sparkled in their eternal luster. They howled nightmares across the eternally upwardly extending valley of the black space which led to -- they graced the old man with a breeze. He breathed it in, and breathed it out. All creatures rejoiced. Some trembled, with the fear of death, but still rejoiced. 

In the morning, as the yellow sun showed it's head through the valley thicket, he prepared himself for sleep. First he walked to a nearby river, about ten miles due east to evacuate himself. On the way back, the hairs on his arm stood still then extended upward and stuck up and stuck out and his nostrils largened and sucked in deep swirls of air. A bear was nearby, the old man crouched among the low brush, he extended one sinewy leg forward then pushed the other passed it staying low and staying quiet as more than likely the bear was just passing by. He was not on the hunt otherwise the old man would be dead by now and eaten partially and left to rot in the sun. 

The bear would only attack if he felt challenged territorially. 

The old man reached a peak. He thought back to that bear, he was a mid age male. He was probably 20 miles away by now. He was heading to the waterfall. He would eat, and sleep, and die. All were bound to each other by the holy unending grinding cycle. He looked forward, at his kingdom, it swayed in the wind. His heart filled with gold and he was a king who sought to defend his gold to the death. 

He got to his hidden hut, about 3 and a half miles from the high peak and slept. The sky turned in his sleep. The clouds swirled as the wind ripped mindlessly through the sky and birds flew across it and their calls echoed into it and then it was still -- then suddenly it would come alive again. It started small then eventually the entire sky would collectively heave a powerful wind through it and the trees bent their canopies and small creatures below smelled what they might eat some miles away. 

The sun placed itself upon a mighty peak and showered a million peaks with it's dazzling gold. The stream by the old man's home prattled on. 

It led into a glen, where toads and salamanders bathed in warmth. A fox came by and ate a toad. He tore off a leg of his and held him down by his stretched out paw while he breathed his last breaths and then saw dark. A caterpillar crawled by and did not notice the dying toad or the feasting fox. A hawk ate the salamander. A spider made it's web. The fox tore back into the toad. 

The fox went back to his den. There he fed the remains of the dead toad to his pups. They ate it crying and chomping and ripping and sawing. Eventually the toad was gone. The fox would go out in an hour or two to find more food. 

The old man was up and cooking some beaver he had caught using traps. The smoke rose up and warmed his hut. He threw some leaves into a kettle which then turned dark in the boiling water and made a steam of a poisonous aroma. They turned and turned in the boiling water. The old man sat still and poised near the dead beaver bodies. He had his eyes closed and he breathed deeply, evenly. He began to chant. The words poured from his mouth which he had learned from some nearby monks: about 70 miles west: and they poured forth from his mouth as if illuminating the room and as if found in some eternal plain. He never raised his volume. He repeated the chant, over and over. It had no meaning in any language. No known language, at least. But some deep and mysterious intelligence understood the language and it beckoned to those who called upon it and it moved swiftly across any space no matter how wide. 

Without ceasing chanting, the old man poured the liquid into two tea cups. And as the liquid (Dragon Tea) cooled he chanted with his hands pressed against each other stiffly. He stopped chanting, he opened his eyes and consumed one tea cup of it's contents. The images began almost immediately. His room flickered and became purple, fishes which had gone extinct millions of years ago swam into his room through the open window. Then, corals began to blossom, going up and down each of his walls and they gathered and collected around him, around his thighs and feet. He consumed the second tea cup. 

Shapes, which could be called letters, began appearing. He was communicating with the writer of them. "What do you want?" he asked it. 

"I WANT LIFE TO LIVE AND TO LIVE THROUGH LIFE." 

"What do you want?" he asked it again. 

"I WANT YOU TO GO BACK HOME. YOU ARE TOO FAR FROM HOME. YOU ARE LOST. YOUR BODY CRIES TO ME. I CAN HEAR IT AND IT HURTS ME." 

Then the old man collapsed and his face was near the fire. It warmed his nose and forehead. 

In the sky the stars began to poke out. 

The voice he was speaking to rang in his ears and haunted him. The voice was not joking. It was serious as hell. He didn't want to encounter it again but it was not malevolent. It's kindness was almost overwhelming. He could hear it raging on. He managed to sit back up. The voice did not cease yet it was unintelligible now. He was not on the mountain anymore. He was wherever the potion wanted him to be, wherever it needed him to be. It was an ancient battlefield. A war happened, during a time that is much too long ago for "years" to depict. Eons, millennia, time. Such concepts could not grasp the meaning of this yawning abysmal space in which this war took place. If you can imagine all the grains of sand upon the face of the earth then multiply them by the number they amount to, that is how many infinities ago these events happened. Before "happening" had the level of sophistication it today has. A spiraling four eyed snake, impossibly large, made it's way into a cave, where a sentient crocodile the size of the sun leered and waited. They attacked each other. 

The old man woke up gasping for air, with a throat very dry and he began to cough up blood. He took a pull of water from a gourd placed near his cot. He grit his teeth as he swallowed. It hurt going down. It was very cold water. He coughed up more blood, spit it out and it streaked across his wooden floorboards. 

He went back out to evacuate his bowels once more to the same river about 10 miles away and he took the same path to get there, up through the winding trail, and he rubbed his shoulders as he was walking and the sun slanted through the trees and made a pattern of the leaves upon the dirt path. Everything swayed together for a moment. Then the bear reared his gaunt head from the brush and before Dennis had an opportunity to react the bear was locked onto him. They stared each other down. Dennis ran towards the bluff. The bear chased him and Dennis climbed a tree. The bear began to climb it too, then one of it's limbs snapped and the bear and the limb went tumbling down the side of the mountain before rolling off a 100 foot sheer cliff. 

Dennis heaved a sigh of relief and cried a little in the tree overlooking the mountain before gathering himself and he climbed down and found the path again and went to the river and evacuated himself and the shit went tumbling down river. 

He cried more at the river. He sat by the edge of it for several hours. He thought of poetry he used to read as a boy, and as a teenager, and as a young man. Leonard Cohen, he remembers liking and he enjoyed the man's albums too. He played with a twig. 

"Dennis!" called Margaret, Dennis's mom. "Dennis! Dinner is ready!" 

"Dennis, what would you like for Christmas?" Clint, Dennis's father asked him. "A red fire engine truck, do you want to be a fireman one day?" 

"Dennis, will you be my boyfriend?" 

"Yes," said Dennis. 

Crack. Hiss. The eggs cooked on the frying pan. The bacon was crispy. He poured himself a bowl of cereal, heaping, sugary. 

Grapefruit. Samples of ham. Samples of cookies. He remembers getting lost once, yelling for his mother. He remembers the terrified look on the bear's face as it plummeted towards the rocks below. A most honest face. Captain Crunch was his favorite. Aunt Jemima pancake syrup, he loved. His first job as a cashier. He loved it. The money. He bought his first car. A 1999 Honda, Civic. He loved that car. He lost his virginity in it. To Amelie. After they had spent all day together, made a snowman. Then they went home and played Street Fighter on his ancient Sega, Genesis. But that's when games were best he thought then and still agrees with the thought. Then they made love again. Then he got a Sony, Playstation. The money. He began a horror movie collection. 

It was a good July and he took Amelie down to the newly constructed roller rink. It was massive. 
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