I’ve Been Challenged To Write a Short Story: No Return From Dead Mountain
GM Note: This post is a little different. As you know, Godless Mom has a Twitter BFF named Andy, who’s one of those weird British people with the odd vocabs that make you both understand how desperately your own education failed you as well as cock your head to the side in utter bewilderment. In any goddamned case, no holy, Andy and I challenged each other to a writing exercise and we had another of our beloved A-Team choose the genre, the type and the opening line. Our objective party was Deana, and she chose short story, had to be a creepy supernatural story, and had to begin with the line, “I never believed in the supernatural, but…”. Andy’s story is here. And this is mine (split up into parts for easier reading). It is based on real events.
No Return From Dead Mountain
“I never believed in the supernatural, but… well, there was one time I questioned that. Just once, back when I was in school.” He put the last of the plates in the dish rack to dry, turned off the tap and wiped his hands on a towel. Turning, he looked at Emma, the petite blonde caretaker. She had become his regular Tuesday night dinner date a few months after he moved into the retirement community. They had become unlikely friends and she was always full of questions. Tonight’s, “Hey, Mike? Do you believe in ghosts?” had been prompted by another ghostly rumour perpetuated by an older resident that day.
“I was in university. Some of my friends had gone missing during a hike…” He trailed off and went silent as he threw the towel over his shoulder and inspected his withered, wrinkly hands. “Stop me, Em, if I’ve told you this before.”
“I don’t think so. Which friends? Do you mean Vlad?” It was the only friend of Mike’s Emma could remember visiting who’d also been from Russia, where she knew he had attended university.
“None of the missing survived.” He said to his visitor. Emma looked up when she heard that, and studied his face. He explained, “but yes, Vlad played a role.”
Again, he trailed off, as he leaned back against the kitchen counter and sighed.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.” Emma placed her hand gently on his arm.
“Oy oy oy.” He shook his head. Emma grinned at her favourite Mike expression in his warm, Eastern European accent. “Let me make some coffee, and I will tell you.”
Some of the hikers, goofng around
“No! No, I did not see anyone but I am telling you there’s something out here. We are not alone here!”, Vlad pleaded with Igor, his eyes darting around the thick forest nervously, his knees resting in the snow.
“Seriously? We’ve been planning this hike for months. We haven’t even begun the ascent, and you’re already losing it on us?”, rubbing his forehead near raw with a gloved hand, Igor sighed and turned to look at his friend. He was shocked to see Vlad’s normally olive-coloured skin had completely drained of all colour.
Igor stepped toward Vlad, gesturing back towards the path they’d just taken, “Why don’t you just go home then? We’re only an hour in to the hike, you can easily head back on your own”. He turned to start trudging away, leaving all 8 of the other hikers standing in a semicircle around Vlad.
“Igor!” He heard Zinaida yell, before he could get moving again.
“What now?” He threw his arms up and spun around. He was shocked to see Vlad violently throwing up in the snow. “Great”, he muttered under his breath and started back toward the commotion.
“Look, he’s obviously unwell.” Ludmila got in Igor’s way. “Why don’t I quickly walk him back to town and I’ll catch up with you later. We can’t drag him with us like this, or we will be held back. God forbid something happens to him up here. I don’t want that on my conscience, do you?” she asked, clearly concerned for her friend. “Igor? Do you?” the tall brunette scanned the group leader’s eyes for any sign of an answer.
Finally, Igor grunted, “Very well. Yuri, go with them. We will wait here.” He didn’t want Ludmila coming back on her own, even though he knew she was tough and capable. She was the love of his life, and he felt bound to protect her. He felt obligated to stick with the larger group. After all, no one would be here if it wasn’t for him. So, he chose his closest friend, Yuri, to ensure Lud’s safety.
The remaining seven hikers settled in, reluctantly using some of their limited supplies to start a fire, melt and boil snow and make tea. It was still early morning and if they pushed themselves the rest of the day, they could still make decent time. Igor stood off on his own staring after Yuri, Vlad and Ludmila, who had now become small dots on the horizon.
He crossed his arms and wondered what Vlad had meant when he had said we are not alone. Of course they were. They were at the base of Dead Mountain and it was known as that because the lack of any large or aggressive wildlife for miles. It was just the 10 of them, the trees, the snow and the sky above. Nothing else.
Igor looked up and couldn’t spot a cloud in the sky. What a perfect day to start this adventure, he thought, and started to turn back to the camp. As he turned, he thought he saw a shadow moving amongst the trees and stopped short. “What was that?” He asked himself, a rush of adrenaline coming over his body. He focused on the spot where he’d seen movement for at least 5 minutes and nothing further happened. “Perfect,” Igor said to himself, “Vlad’s got me seeing shit now, too“.