Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Land of Steep Mountains

We lived inside the caves, all of us. Our caves were hand carved in such a way as to blend in, rounded corners and curved alcoves as if nature herself had created them, but each nook and each cranny was conveniently placed to serve as water storage, as shelves, or as walkways. Nothing was left to waste. I lived here a happy life, in the midst of adolescence, I had not yet reached my full height, but I was strong and well adjusted. For the most part, my life was a content one.

Howevever, it was with much surprise that I was told I had been chosen to go on the hunt. It was a great honor, they told me, for one so young. Few are chosen. At first, I was nervous. What if I should not live up to expectations? But soon, my mind began to fantasize. I could be the one to find the much needed treasure. I would be the toast of our society, talked about for generations as a great and brave hero of our people. The idea warmed my heart and I allowed myself to dwell on it for many pleasant nights.

Finally, the day of the hunt arrived. Gone was all my earlier bravado as we stood on the slope of a great mountain that ascended at an extreme angle of 70 degrees. All our land was this way, consisting entirely of impossibly steep mountains that reached impossibly high into the sky. Outside of our caves, we only new of these spires. No flat land was present anywhere and all movement outside of the caves carried a danger of falling and death.

On the sides of the slopes, trees and forest plants had well adapted to anchoring themselves down into the rock and soil. Large clumps of lichen type plants made soft grey mounds between the stones. We climbed slowly, strung together with jangling climbing gear in an attempt to prevent serious accidents. Each step was exhausting and tedious as we hunted for signs of natural ores and materials that would advance our society. But everywhere was just more of the same plain grey rocks, thin reddish trunks of trees shooting straight towards the sky, and small bushes scattered between the trunks. There was no white rock and no shiny metallic rock, just the same old grey. It all looked the same for as far as we could see. Sometimes an entire generation would pass before a new discovery was made. I knew the chances of success on any one miniscule mission were small.

After a time we stopped and rested. Exhausted mentally and physically, I sat down on a small rock and hoped it would anchor me from falling. We sat with our legs pointing down the mountain. As if sitting on the slope of a cliff, I could see the mountain side go straight down for miles below me until the combined thickness of the tree trunks prevented any further vision.

Lifting my head and looking straight out in front of me, only a few miles in front was the face of the mountain next to us, appearing exactly the same as the one I was sitting on. The air was so clear I felt I could almost reach out and touch the other mountain. Somewhere far far below out of sight, I knew the two mountains must slant down to touch eachother, but we never went down there. It was too far.

Finally, my head sagged down to see the ground between my legs and I was startled to see a small pile of crumbled grey rock right there in front of me. How had I missed that? Everyone knew that fresh crumbled rock meant an area of danger. Only an idiot tarried in the vicinity of a crumbled rock pile. If I had any brains, I would get up immediately and move. But I was tired and I didn't want to draw the attention of the others to my mistake. If I moved now, they would wonder why. And I was tired. As much as I wanted to get away from the scene of my mistake, I was not eager to exert myself further. We would move soon anyway and I decided to take my chances and wait until then. Most likely, I would get away with it with my honor intact.

I had lost all hope of finding any treasure on this trip. Instead, I decided to concentrate only on keeping up with the others and avoiding trouble. From now on, I would be more careful of crumbled rock piles and if we were all just as careful, we would make it back home with no injuries. By now, that was all I could find in my heart to hope for. These expeditions were long and hard and when we returned, we would have to face the disappointment of the elders. This wasn't nearly so fun as I had expected, but I had a duty to my society to at least try. I would continue as long as they wanted me, even if in my heart I felt it was a waste of time.

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