I climbed a desert mountain of red sandstone and black-needled cedar, like the gate to the land of immortals. My family climbed behind me among strange tunnel-like formations, trenches carved by wind in the stone, but I outdistanced them, and soon was all alone.
I met a young man on the slopes, descending. His eyes were an eerie, deep green without shadow or depth, and his gaze was of such great intensity I couldn’t but stop and listen when he spoke. He told me he had conversed with the mountain, that the stones around us were the flesh and senses of a living being. He was…in ecstasy, as though he had met his God, and moved now in a waking heaven. I believed him, and it frightened me. I thought not of Moses and the burning bush, nor of Noah on Mt. Ararat, but of something other, shadowy and sinister beneath my feet. I thanked the young man for his warning, and climbed on.
I came down the mountain just the way that strange young man had–leaping from stone to stone without care for twisted ankles or bloodied knees, grinning like an idiot and singing. What was left to care or worry about now that I knew there was this greater power? I thought how I had so scorned the religion they had taught me, and rejoiced now that I knew the true god was no human construct. I met my sister, Diana. I told her what I had heard and seen. She said she knew; she too had met the mountain, and agreed what we had encountered was no threat or malice, but a gentle and benevolent being. We parted with a joyful embrace.
I found the rest of my family together not far from the entrance of a wide-mouthed cavern full of afternoon light. They seemed surprised to see me, and relieved. “Where have you been?” they asked, and “Are you all right?” I understood. I had been gone a long time, I thought–and they didn’t know what I had seen.
I tried to explain. There were massive, ancient carvings on the cavern ceiling, and I fell on my back in the dust to observe them as I spoke, breathless with awe and the relief of sudden understanding. When I was finished, my father sat down beside me. My mother and sisters said nothing, but looked very pale. I notice for the first time that Diana was among them, and wondered idly how she could have made it back so quickly.
“Isn’t it amazing?” I asked.
“Yes,” said my father, gazing up at the greek symbols. “Only we never saw any green-eyed young man. And Diana says she never met you on the slopes. She has been here with us the whole time.”
“What?” I asked in disbelief. I sat up abruptly and turned away. What did it mean? The mountain had decieved me. It had taken forms I would trust, and tried to turn me to side with it against humanity–for what purpose I knew not. All I knew for sure is that we must leave this place, and quickly.
We went home. Our house wasn’t far away–practically in the mountain’s shadow. Our neighborhood was as it always is, only beyond the ring of houses on the outer edges of Lanark and Wessex there was nothing but forest–deep, old cedar forest, dark as the slopes of the mountain. I took to wandering these forests, full of disquiet, trying to comprehend the mountain’s motives or its plan. At first, I could not.
Then one of our neighbors disappeared for several days. When he returned, I glimpsed the telltale flash of green in his eyes.
We sat and discussed it over dinner that night. “What could have happened to him?” my mother asked. “And why doesn’t he remember?”
Diana and I exchanged a knowing glance. Already I had forgotten I had only dreamed her on the slope that day. It seemed she too had forgotten. “We know,” we said. “But if we told you, you wouldn’t believe us.”
The mountain was taking over our minds.