(author’s note – I needed to dust off some creative writing cobwebs that have collected as of late, and of course, I’ve returned to the mountains to do so. I hope you enjoy…)
The Legend of the Himalaya
My legs burned, though not more than my chest. It was my chest that occupied my mind, as if the heave and toil of each breath was guiding my feet higher up the mountain. In fact, it was, and the cadence soon became essential to success. Essential to survival. For no other man was there to aid in my struggle. But I was not alone.
It was beast that followed me through the maze of lichen covered boulders that littered my path. And though I had escaped with my very life, I had become lost within the wilderness. My only hope was to climb.
The air had become thin, though to feel the strain of each breath I felt heavy. And weak. Each muscle in my body seemed as though it had been ignited by a roaring fire, and yet still I was cold. Bitterly cold, as each step higher transported me into a world where the mercury fell as if being poured from a jar. The winds from the nearby summit came racing down the mountainside like a torrent. Like a hurricane. Yes, I was close to the summit, and from the pinnacle of the mountain I would be able to navigate, to see my surroundings without impediment to discover a way home. But too, the summit held such dangers. The beast on my scent would soon find me, and alone on the barren summit I would have no place to hide.
Fear engulfed me but did not stop me from climbing, though in my mind I felt paralyzed. The landscape before me was surreal, each moment in time a noticeable tick on the watch that shackled my wrist. Every ounce of my body was a burden, laden with the weight of the world and the anticipation of what was to come. My skin and bones and muscles had become a prison.
The summit was not broad by any measure, and in fact offered little security. The cold air whipped around me and stirred up the snow and ice into flurries that made visibility all but impossible. My attempt to see my surroundings failed, and my weakened condition truly made matters worse. I was disoriented and fatigued. My inability to see forced me to stop. I was on the summit but I no longer knew the direction from which I had come. At that moment I was only cognizant that the mountain dropped for thousands and thousands of feet all around from underneath me. I was trapped.
I huddled near a heavy stone and pulled my woolen coat above my head to shield myself from the wrath of the wind. For that, too, I had failed. It seemed this day that nothing would stop Mother Nature from her fury. And as I struggled to peer into the whiteness that surrounded me, my heart sunk with the guttural sound that pierced the howling wind.
The beast had found me, its keen sense of smell and direction adapted to the harshest of environments had left it unaffected by the rising storm. It was born here, it had survived here. The inhospitable land had forced the beast to endure. And survive it did, to become big and strong and above all else, uncaring.
The only thing left between the beast and a hearty meal was any fight I had left in me.
Through the sterile wind I first smelled it, the raw animal covered in blood and dirt. It was a machine, bred to eat. To kill. To destroy anything in its path. The deep, throaty breath was heavy. It was close, and as it drew closer I sensed I was in more peril than I first imagined. The beast paused in front of me, and for the first time I saw it clearly.
The stories I’d heard didn’t compare to the reality that stood before me. I trembled at its enormity. It was a biped, standing erect, strong against the unfailing wind. Its fur coat seemed dense, impenetrable, like armor that sheathed the muscles underneath. The legs and arms and hands and feet were disproportionate to any human, as was the gigantic head that sat atop a long and somewhat slender neck. No, the stories weren’t true. This vile creature was not humanoid. It did not resemble any man.
It growled and spat before me, and as fear consumed my every fiber, I had but one choice. I pulled my bone handled blade from its sheath and attempted to scream a fear inducing howl of my own. The beast seemed intrigued. Before I knew it, it lunged.
We were locked in battle.
The animal contained a strength I had never known, and cast me to the side with one swipe of its oversized hand dismissively. I reeled from the pain, and little did I know that I had been nearly thrown from the precarious safety of the mountain top. I stood, raised my weapon and tensed every muscle in anticipation of the next attack. The beast stood still.
I charged, foolishly knowing it was to my doom. I drew little consolation that my blade was razor sharp, knowing my opponents defenses outmatched my own. Still, I fought the nausea of fear and the resistance of nature to attack with all my might. I slashed once. Twice. My attempt at a third pass with my knife met with a thundering blow to my chest. Once again I reeled from the pain.
I bled as I lay there in the snow, wet and cold. Fear continued to envelope me, and yet I found myself once again rising to my feet. My enemy casually approached, as if to relish my final moments. I wanted to quit, but quit I did not. Against every instinct rising up inside of me, I charged once again.
I slashed once more, this time feeling the resistance of my opponents flesh against the steel of my blade. Immediately my hand was warm, splashed with the blood of the beast. It growled and swiped at my face, its claw just catching my own flesh. I was wounded, but still standing. I had but one opportunity before the animal’s mistake would be corrected and I would be sent flying once more. Or worse.
I lunged with all my might, the blade before me like a lance. The bones in my wrist snapped under the force of my action, but still I plunged my blade deep into the animal. The guttural growl had turned into a wretched cry of agony. The beast flailed, and caught each of my cheeks. I was once again sent to the cold hard earth.
I ached. This time, I knew, I could not muster the verve to attack my opponent once more. If I had done any damage to the beast, it would be all I would do, for I had no more fight left in me. As I lay there, my consciousness began to wane. I drifted between darkness and the swirls of blinding white snow that surrounded me. In an instant the haunting image of the wounded creature stumbling before me filled my eyes before darkness finally consumed me.