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Image by Alberto Restifo

THE MOUNTAIN

April 4, 2021

Another 500 word short story for a Furious Fiction comp. I think I gravitate towards these because 500 words is a very achievable word count over a couple of days and it’s nice completing something while working on larger projects. Still have to win one of these babies.

These were the April criteria:

  • Your story must begin in some kind of queue.

  • Your story must include the words CROSS, DROP and LUCKY.

  • Your story must include a map.

The mountain: Work

When the old man collapsed into the snow, Michael’s initial instinct was to step over the dying man and his distraught wife to bribe a young woman to let him replace her at the head of the queue.
But the young woman was too busy performing CPR to worry about money.
Michael stepped over them to the front of the line, noticed the oxygen cylinder clutched to the old guy’s chest was the same brand he’d swiped from base camp last night.
A sherpa crisscrossed through the group, too late. He closed the old man’s frosty eyelids, then looked to the skies.
“Back to base camp, folks. I’m sorry. Big storm approaching.”
A wave of disappointment permeated the group; shoulders slumped; heads dropped at the thought of hunkering down for another freezing night.
Michael rushed forward and grabbed the sherpa by the collar of his course robe.
“The old codger had no business climbing the summit. Time’s wasting.”
The sherpa shook his head and turned to the shattered wife, currently comforted by the young woman.
“We must bring him back to camp, and soon the weather is no good for climbing. Not our lucky day, sir.”
Michael scanned the clear blue skies in disbelief.
“I don’t believe in luck. Got a map?”
“No maps. We’ve taken this trail for many years. Safe”
“No storm is going to stop me,” he turned to walk away, “hope you all freeze to death.”
As the guide grabbed his shoulder to stop him, Michael spun around and punched him before setting off.
An hour passed, and though the temperature on the mountain dropped suddenly, Michael was trembling with anticipation and fury rather than the freezing temperature.
The anger fuelled him, and he’d made such progress he hadn’t noticed the swirls of angry, dark clouds rolling in.
Jet streams began to whip the snow off the peaks and form howling vortexes.
His numb fingers pulled his jacket tighter as a sudden white haze enveloped him, a deep panic rose when he reached a dead end.
Shards of ice stung his face. His lungs felt like they were filling with sand, his legs burning as he trudged through the thick blanket of snow.
His vision clouded in a blanket of white haze as he collapsed.
A memory of the time he was lost in the supermarket as a toddler.
An overwhelming sorrow at the old man’s death.
As he readied to close his eyes for the last time, a grey silhouette appeared against the white screen. Michael fell as the strong arms reached under and hoisted him up.
He felt light, like a baby.
The sherpa lugged him through the storm and into his own tent, laid his blankets over him.
The following day the sherpa woke him for the final ascent, but Michael didn’t need to climb to the top to prove anything.
There was work to do at the bottom of the mountain.
He started with paying each of the sherpas a year’s wages.

The mountain: Text
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