The Mountain Man
I remember when I first met the Mountain Man. I was alone, by the river where the bears lived and fished, and I was sitting by the mountain, at the base of it, watching the bears in the distance sticking their heads under the water, sometimes coming up again with fish in their mouths, and sometimes not.
I must have been there for a while. It always looked like a dream world, especially when the sun began to set. The trees were so green they looked like they were going to burst with their own vitality, and the sky looked like it was going to cry at how beautiful it was.
The Mountain Man must have known I was there for a long time. I looked to the mountain just to my right, and I could see a pair of eyes, like a man’s, looking back at me from inside the stone.
I stood up quickly and I ran. I began to run back home where I would be safe, and I turned to look at the man that seemed to be emerging out of the mountain, like a piece of the mountain that wanted to move around, and with heavy steps, he began to chase me.
I was reaching the trees. I could disappear in the trees.
“Wait! Wait! Please! I just want to talk to you!”
I disappeared into the trees and as soon as I could, I began to climb. I could climb faster than I could run, and I knew he was gaining on me, so I climbed and climbed and I hid up there, in the greens of the trees, and I peered down to look at this thing that was chasing me.
He ran past first, and then he began to slow down. I could see him, his back to me, all the lines and curves in his back like a heavily muscled, athletic man, but his body was made of stone. He stood there, looking around.
“Up here!” I thought about saying. I wanted the attention, but I was afraid of him. I just looked, seeing what he was going to do.
He sat down, and he rested his chin on his hands, like me when I would sit, especially when I was bored. He looked bored. Even lonely.
“Please come back,” he said quietly. “I just want to talk to someone. I have never spoken to anyone, except to say ‘please come back’. Why do they run? I only want to speak with them. I don’t understand who I am, why am I like this?”
He looked like he was crying. His body was gently shaking, and he had his head in his hands. I felt sorry for him. He looked just like me when I was upset.
But what might he do to me? What if he hurt me? I didn’t want that, I didn’t want him to be tricking me. But it was getting dark, and the forest was not safe at night. Mother would be getting worried soon. It never took much for her to worry.
He still sat there for ages, and I had to get moving. I quietly moved back down the tree, as gently but as swiftly as I could, and I gradually got closer to the ground. He hadn’t heard me yet, I didn’t think, but just as I touched down, he decided to stand up and start walking back towards the mountain.
I climbed up again in a panic, but he had seen me.
“There you are!” he said, I saw him smile, a gap in his mouth with no teeth, smiling with interest and enthusiasm.
I kept climbing up and away, and he stopped at the bottom of the tree.
“Who are you?” he called up. “What is your name?”
I was cornered up a tree.
“Fennel,” I said. “My name is Fennel.” I had given him a fake name, the first thing I thought of was fennel.
“Fennel,” he said. “Nice to meet you, Fennel,” he called up to me. He had his hands curved around his mouth to call further.
I didn’t say anything more. I was looking to see if I could jump to another tree, but the neighbouring branches looked too thin.
“My name is…my name is Mountain. That’s what everyone seems to call me when they walk by. But when I come out to say hello, they run.”
“That’s because you shouldn’t be jumping out of the mountain like that. Mountains are those huge rocky hills that come out of the ground. You are like a man, but you are made from a mountain!”
“Oh,” said the Mountain Man. “So is my name Mountain?”
“I don’t know,” I called down. “Do you have parents, do you know anyone else like you?”
“Parents?” he said. “No, she is my mother, but she never speaks to me.” He pointed at the mountain. “But she keeps me warm and protected.”
I was looking down at him and it was getting darker quicker. Perhaps he was not as harmful as I thought.
“Well, ok then,” he said. “Do you need to go somewhere? Night is coming. Or do you live up in that tree?”
“No,” I called back. “No I live at the other side of the forest, my own mother will be getting worried, and now I’m too afraid of the forest when it’s dark. I’ve been told about very dangerous things, all sorts of terrible things that come out at night.”
“Oh,” said the Mountain Man. “Oh dear. Well, would you like me to go with you? I’m not afraid. I can help you on your journey.”
“Can you be like my bodyguard?” I called.
“I can…I can guard your body, yes,” he said. He nodded, affirmatively.
My own mountain bodyguard. I wasn’t going to sleep up in this tree. I would fall off in the night. He could have climbed the tree by now, if he wanted, I thought, and it was getting colder and colder. He was just standing there, looking up.
“Do you want me to go? Thanks for speaking with me,” he said.
“Hang on,” I called, climbing down. “Ok, let’s go, quickly.” By the time I was at the ground I could barely see anything. I knew which direction to go in, but I didn’t know if I could keep that direction once I left this tree. I could barely even see all the trees surrounding me.
“Can you see in the dark?” I asked.
“In the what?”
“In the dark, can you see in the dark?”
“What’s the dark?” he said.
“Can you see now?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“I can’t see at all now.”
“Is there something wrong with your eyes? Here, climb on.”
He picked me up as if I was a toy, and he put me on his back.
“Let’s go,” he said, and he started to run. I was holding on to him, and he was moving and ducking and treading and gliding, and I was just clinging to his back, praying I would not get hit by a branch. I felt like I was just hanging to the side of a mountain, while it was shaking and moving around. It felt colder now he was moving, I felt sharp chills in my lips and ears.
I thought I could hear things around me moving, like dogs barking from far away. I think I heard something hiss.
“Go away!” the Mountain Man said, and I heard him kick out at something. He kept running, and I felt something, something small and clingy, about the size of a small child, drop on to my back.
“Aagh!” I screamed, and the Mountain Man reached behind him and pulled it off me, and I felt it tear my clothes as he ripped it off me.
“Get away!” he yelled. “No one is to touch Fennel!”
And the next few moments felt more quiet, dark and quiet, and I could feel the night air biting in through the fresh tear-holes in my shirt.
Then I saw the light of the street up ahead, and I saw the houses and the kitchen lights, and soon even a person in a house, and it was all growing bigger very quickly.
“Yes!” I said. “Thank you so much.”
“That’s ok,” he said, putting me down on the side of the road. “Do you want me to take you to the door?”
“Oh, no, that’s fine,” I said. “Thanks again, I’ll come by and see you tomorrow.”
“Oh! Great!” he said, clapping his hands together, his rock-like hands. “Yes perhaps we could go for a walk.”
“Yes,” I said, “ok,” and I waved him goodbye, and he stood there at the edge of the forest, waving back, smiling, and I knew from that day, that I had made a friend for life.
The Mountain Man – A Note From Dr Bernard J. Hoothfellow
The Mountain Man is the friendliest man you will ever meet. He does not feel the cold, or the pain of being hit or stung, but he is very sensitive inside. He loves to talk to people, to learn about them and how they work. He is loyal and trustworthy and giving, and once he is your friend, you have a friend forever.
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