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TITLE: The Mountain
By Janice Cartwright

This story is more allegory, I guess, than anything, but Short Story was the category that came closest to describing it.

I wrote the story in its original form several years ago when I was inspired by a kind of vision (don't worry, nothing wierd) of God in the form of a mountain. I had asked for a glimpse of Him and that is how He appeared. It was an awesome experience.

Since then I have revised it from time to time, and so long as the trunk of the tree remains intact, I am open to changes.
There once was a village of small people who lived at the base of a great mountain. So large was the mountain that it seemed to fill the sky on one side of the villagers’ world. A half of their sky was open, and a half of it was in darkness cast by the shadow from the mountain.

In fact the village people did not even know that they lived beside a mountain. All they could see was a great wall of earth, with some green grass and bushes growing on it.

One day visitors came walking toward the village. They had come in a small airplane, landing just outside the village gate. At first the visitors and the people exchanged pleasantries. But soon the visitors began to talk about ‘The Wonderful Mountain.’

"What Mountain?" the village people asked. "We do not know this mountain of which you speak!"

The visitors eyes widened and their jaws dropped,

"How can you not know about a mountain you have looked upon every day since the day you were born? There it is, not a hundred yards from this place where we all stand conversing here one with another!"

The villagers appeared unruffled. Behind their backs though they made hand signs understood only by each other:

"These ignorant people keep pointing to our earth-wall and calling it a mountain!"

To the visitors they remained polite, smiling and nodding. According to custom they even invited them into their homes and offered them food and drink.

One day the visitors had a suggestion for the villagers,

"Come, each of you, and we will take you for a ride in our flying machine. Then you will be able to see all of the mountain and not just it’s foot."

But for many days the people of the village resisted. They thought the visitors must be crazy. And - they were afraid.

At last one of the men, more inquisitive than the others, and bold as well, agreed. He went and sat in the flying machine and the visitors took him high in the heavens and showed him the mountain in all its majesty.

The village person was stunned, so filled with awe at the size and the beauty of the mountain that he would not speak for many days. After that, one by one, each of the village people agreed to go up. And so it was, they learned of their mountain.

In a few days the visitors said goodbye to the village people. They got into their airplane and off it roared. In a little while it looked to the villagers less than a gray smudge on the blue, blue sky. And then it vanished.

This was a sad time for the village people. But in spite of this they gave thanks; for now they had their mountain. For many months that is all they wanted to talk about. Working and eating and sleeping took second place in the lives of the villagers. The thought of the mountain beside them filled them from morning to night. Some even dreamed about the mountain; others dared hope they might someday venture to its peak.

But as the days, weeks, then months passed by, the people spoke less and less of the mountain. The view they had seen from the flying machine, so clear at the time, now seemed but a mirage; the reality was they still had to work, eat, and sleep.

One of the women was going to have a baby. Another member of the village broke his leg. Still another wanted to go on a journey. They must consider all these events and the awesome beauty of the mountain hovering so close beside them was soon forgotten. It became for them once more, but a wall of earth.

Many years came and were gone.

The hour was late afternoon and a wizened, ancient man roosted in the sand near his stick hut. A young boy, imitating the elder’s posture, squatted beside him. A girl, slightly older, sat cross-legged on the ground.

"Come!” called the old man, hunkering low. Come to me and hear the story of the mountain. It is a story I have desired to share with you; the time is at hand.

In a voice just above a whisper, he began, “In the days before I was born, out of a land of which our people knew nothing, strangers came to our village.

Now, wait! My next words you may find like lumps of thick meat, difficult at first to get down. You must bury them in your heart. These strangers came right out of the sky, setting down their amazing flying contraption east of the village, near Olden Gate.

“My mother, your great, great Amah, sang to me out of her young heart. She said that the visitors who came spoke of a great and mighty, beautiful mountain which, they affirmed, is ‘right here beside you.’ Our people were too polite to tell them how unlearned they appeared.

“Do you see that earth-wall over there? Well, these strange people told the villagers it was not an earth-wall at all, but a mountain so enormous that we could not see it. Can you think of an object so large that you can’t see it? Of course, my own mother was very trustworthy and would not lie to her first-born son. Never would she do this.

“Your Amah explained to me how each of the villagers went into the belly of the visitors’ machine. And that like the wild bird that flies the vault of heaven, it carried them into the clouds. And that when they got up there, they could look out from clear openings in its sides and see the earth below.

“And sure enough, just as promised, our people saw an awesome mountain of great proportions and lovely to look upon. But then the visitors went away, and eventually our people forgot. But I tell you; I have never forgotten my mother’s words. After many years, I still believe in the mountain."

"We believe in the mountain also, Great-grandfather, just like you!" said the boy and girl, their voices blending as one.

"Aha, but here is a question," the ancient one reproached them, stiffening his posture. "You say you believe in the mountain, but will you allow your belief to grow dim and slip away as did the people of the village?"

"But what exactly is it we should remember Old Grandfather? And what is so important about the mountain?" asked the girl.

"Yes, indeed what?" piped the boy.

The ancient man’s voice now sounded more like the croaking that came from the village bog, "This question I have pondered all my days. You know, because of my disfigurement I was never able to climb the earth-wall. Though I desired with all my heart to do so, it was not allowed. I can tell you some things, though in the end, each of you must search out your own answers.

“What I came to believe is that the mountain had something to tell our people, but we would not listen. So instead, it was compelled to speak to us through strangers.

"The mountain has truth for us, in fact the mountain itself is Truth, a truth so amazing in its dimensions that we flesh-beings can grasp but a small part of it. What we see with our eyes is all there is, we think, and even when we are taken higher, after a while we forget.

“Think my little ones, for example, how great a shadow the earth-wall throws upon our village. Should not we have understood that only something taller and wider than a mere earth-wall could make such a shadow? Even the mountain's shadow speaks to us, it calls to us; but we do not heed.

"My precious ones, that which we see with our everyday eyes can tend to cast a veil over the truth of what really is. We must look deeper, beyond the veil. Can your young hearts grasp such a task?”

The young girl's full lips drew back into something between a smile and a sweet grimace. Only her eyes, dark and lustrous, answered Grandfather.

“What about you?” he turned a withered monkey's face to the boy.

“I am not sure, Old Grandfather,” he answered, cocking his head back at the elements. "But I promise to try!"

The sere one seemed to shrink even as he ended his speech,

“Seek you then, my cherished ones, as I have, the mountain and it's mystery. I charge you this day not to forget!
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