This is the finished short story I mentioned recently (well, the first part, anyway. I have finished the whole thing, though).
As it progresses, it might look sort of like a social dialogue about blah blah blah world being dumbed down blah blah blah kids don’t know how to read blah blah blah, but it really isn’t. Or isn’t meant to be, anyway. It was just an idea for a story that popped into my head, and I wrote it down.
My life was always very grey, as were the lives of almost everyone I knew. Everyone I knew, actually. That was just the way things were, then.
I don’t mean that we weren’t happy, of course. Most people were. It was just that things were… shallow. Of course, at the time, I didn’t really sense it, since it was all I had ever experienced, all anyone had ever experienced.
It started one day, when I was laying on the fresh grass in the sun with my friend, Debbie. We had always been very close friends, and she had just gotten back from a trip with her family, and we were catching up, our hands clasped while we squinted up at the clouds.
My family never took vacations. My father was the administrator of something-or-other,n barely got any time off, and didn’t even take what he did get. I had just explained to Deb how much I wanted to go somewhere sometime, or at least do something different.
“Hmm,” she said, then was quiet for a while. She turned her head towards mine, but I kept looking at the clouds. “Have you ever heard about the guy who lives on the mountain?”
The mountain. Our town was situated on a plateau between a mountain and a valley. The valley was a bad place to go, for several reasons, but I never really had heard much about the mountain, much less someone who lived there.
“No?” I said, and turned my head to face her.
“My mom told me about this guy who lives up there. Or lived, anyway. Some really weird guy. They say he has a ton of really old stuff up there with him.”
“Hmm,” I said, and looked back at the clouds. I pointed. “That one looks like a fish.”
“Really? Still with the clouds? Don’t you see what I’m getting at?”
“What?” I asked.
“We should go check out his house. See if he’s still alive. Maybe he’s dead in there on the floor and he’s all decayed and rats are eating him and…”
“Is this supposed to be making me want to go?” I asked.
“Well, anyway, you were saying about wanting to do something different. That would be different.”
I thought. It was a late Friday afternoon, and we had the whole weekend ahead of us, open. A good opportunity, if I wanted to actually do that.
I breathed in deep, smelling the grass and the earth beneath, then let it all out in a big sigh. “Sure.”
She jumped up and pulled me up as well.
There wasn’t even a path. I had played in the woods as a child, as had almost everyone else, but never very far. Sharp briers and the risk of getting lost had convinced us it wasn’t worth it, not to mention we didn’t know of anything worthwhile up there.
Deb and I blazed our own path through the bushes and trees, determinedly climbing further and further, not stopping until we go to the top. At the start, I hadn’t had really wanted to go. But the further we got, the more I wanted to get there. As trivial as it was, this little thing gave me a drive for something, which was feeling I hadn’t really felt in a while.
Eventually, we started catching glimpses of a surprisingly-large house that was towards the top of the mountain. A rooftop would peek out over the pine trees for a moment, then slide back under them as we dipped back into a miniature valley in the mountain.
Slowly, we made our way closer and closer to the house. It was surrounded densely by pine trees on one side, with the other side open to the sun and wind, perched on bare rock.
There were many windows on the sides of the house, and we crept up to one of them and peered in. It was a very open, roomy house, well lit, but there was something odd about it. All along the walls, there were these shelves filled with these… things. They mostly looked similar, but some of them were different sizes or colors or thicknesses. Some were paper, some were fabric, and almost all of them had symbols on them. Deb and I squinted at them, trying to figure out what they were, looked at each other, and went back to squinting.
After a while, we decided to move to another window. We skulked around the house until Deb pointed at one and we shuffled up to it, being careful to stay out of sight.
Inside this one, there were again those things on the walls, but also, with its back to us, a chair. A man sat in the chair, and had one of the things from the shelves in his hands, opened, looking at the strings of symbols printed on the inside. His head slowly rocked back and forth as he looked at it, then turned a page and continued.
We kept watching him for a time. After a while, though, he stopped. He closed the thing, putting a finger in where it had been open to, and slowly turned around.
Deb and I gasped and started running down the mountain as fast as we could, branches smacking us and briers snatching at us, grabbing our hair, skin, and clothes. By the time we got to the bottom of the mountain, we were both scraped up and out of breath.
“What was that?” Deb asked.
I shook my head. “I have no idea.”