To the love of my life Gina, who loves the world as raw as it is
“… why should you give the heaven you have down here on Earth, for one that is a mirage far away among the stars?”
Once upon a time, a mountain was standing tall at the edge of a town. Its peaks were so tall that the eyes couldn’t see them for they were too far in the sky. White caps of snow were a permanence and winds were bringing a cool breeze in the town during summer heats. The mountain stood against the sun and the sun could only be seen at certain hours.
Legends have been told, about invisible, unconceivable gods that must have been living up there, above the clouds.
In the beginning, when people started to settle nearby, felling trees and tilling grounds, they chose the place for they couldn’t surpass the dense woods, the steep slopes and the unseen peaks of the mountain and not for the beautiful and rich valley they found. They were never satisfied with what has been given to them and always wanted more. To go back from where they came, it would have not been possible nor acceptable. Thus they settled and built at first cabins made of raw wood, then they refined their art of building, they put their shelters on foundations of rocks to extend them wider on the ground and higher in the air.
They thrived as the freshly cleared land started to compost the fallen leaves and branches and the amputated roots. The ashes of the burnt woods enriched the soil even more, which in return started to produce variety of grains and vegetables as men planted seeds they liked, seeds they have chosen.
The legendary gods of the mountain seemed to not like the new settlement and its dwellers and tried to send them away with heavy rains and heavy snowfalls, followed by torrents of muddy water or avalanches of snow. Powerful thunders and lightings were proof of gods’ anger. The structures started to fall, people became scared and they started to worship the gods of the mountain for forgiveness. Offerings were made, at first the harvests from the land or the cattle they raised. The gods seemed to forgive and diminish their anger but soon their moods changed and they threatened the people again.
The inhabitants, stubborn as they were, had no thoughts of fleeing. Realizing the hard worship was in vain, they brought into being a new powerful god, stronger that the gods living in the mountain, a god that soon defeated the ones living on the peaks and turned them into myths. With the help of wise men, intermediaries between the new god and the humble people, a system of worshiping was put in place and people were taught how to reprimand instincts. They found themselves full of sins thus they feared punishment. Temples were raised against the mountain in an attempt to copy its grandeur and the town, once again, flourished.
The land became more and more productive, the shelters were elaborately built to provide more protection and bring more comfort. The populace increased its numbers, children were laughing and running all over, from the enclosed streets to the open grounds. The new god, failing to stop the mountain’s severe attacks, took them under his possession and made them be his own weapons against the sins of the people, sins that seemed not to cease.
Doubting the new power, some people discovered how to better protect everybody and less harm to be produced. They were close to a symbiosis with the mountain, its explosions of anger could have been predicted and improvement was added to the town structures so that the danger became strongly diminished.
That was the time when the man decided that the mountain needs to be conquered. Animated by curiosity and fouled by false prophets, they decided it’s time to unveil its secrets and show the world that its gods were pitiful beings in front of the mighty god now ruling.
They started to penetrate the dense woods and – not without sacrifice – they opened paths and trails so that soon they reached above the woods and discovered the breathtaking landscapes at a high altitude. This discovery was hard to apprehend and when the first courageous brought word of it down in the town, most of the ears that were listening did not want to hear so they proclaimed it the fruit of some spell the mountain’s gods must have put on the fearless travelers. Despite all this, some of them were still weak to resist temptations and they followed the paths to stumble in front of the majestic views. Persistent as they were, they opened new trails through the forest, clearing the way for more people to adventure up to the high meadows.
At that same time a rupture intervened among the inhabitants of the town and some of them, in truth more less than others, have started to look at the mountain with new eyes, they stopped the worship of fear and acknowledged the simple beauty of it with all the phenomenons associated. Instead of praying for mercy, they learned to comprehend its facts, established relations between cause and effects therefore they could better predict events.
In their journeys, they reached even higher altitudes but still they couldn’t see the peaks.
Until one day, when a solitary man reached a ridge of sharp rocks and found himself immersed in a see of clouds. Tired of the long walk and scramble on the rocks, lightheaded by the lack of air and struck by the wall of white steam blinding his view, he laid down on a small ledge to catch his breath. With his eyes still closed, he could feel at first a kind of warmth falling on his face, then through the eye-lids he could feel a light that blinded him even with his eyes not open. With his heart beating rapidly he opened his eyes to an unbelievable and never seen image: white, sharp peaks were pinching a blueness of a perfectly clear sky, vast valleys were open along the slopes, immense shiny glaciers were metamorphosed into blue streams of water. There was so much brightness and so much silence that he felt long gone from the world of living ones. He found that to be a revelation.
He came down completely transformed to a new level of existence and became the foul of the town, nobody could apprehend what made him loose his mind during that journey.
The priests have declared him unfaithful and ordered the man to be jailed until he will recover his true faith. They performed rituals to help resuscitate a lost mind but none of them worked. They tried with torture, then they ordered his sacrifice as nothing else could have been done.
Years have passed after this event, and the people forgot about the mountain. Instead they improved the production of their land, they discovered new ways to bring more from that same land, and they invented slavery. Slavery replaced the hard work of the inhabitants and gave them more time to worship their god and more goods to offer to their priests. The new way of life was declared the perfect creation of god, laws and institutions were founded to maintain the new order.
But mankind had always had a sense of revolt, a spirit of freedom that, despite being condemned to disappear, had never actually ceased to exist. A young one, under an impulse that came from somewhere, walked toward the woods and finding remains of an old path, started a journey that lasted for days. He learned to feed himself from what he found, used a bow and arrow to hunt, learned to find natural shelter thus he survived a long travel that led him to the exact same ridge where the foul found his revelation.
Overwhelmed by the wonderful new world that entered through his eyes straight into his heart he couldn’t do anything but stay right there and stare at the peaks, at the valleys, at the glaciers. He slept on the bare rock, woke up every morning to the same view, forgot completely about his physical needs and became one with the mountain. One morning a terrible noise brought him back to all his senses and he could watch how dark clouds were coming up from the valley wrapping up the peaks in their grayness and the storm released its unimaginable power. Sensing the fear, he had to go down, brokenhearted to leave the place, rain pouring on him, lightenings cracking with sparkles and torrents of flames, thunders booming and echoing on the walls of rock. He wandered the paths only guided by an ancient instinct and arrived in town one night, exhausted and starved. Instead of asking for help, he walked straight to his little house and after kindling a fire, he fed himself with leftovers. In a few days he recovered to the point that he could be presentable to the world again, walked out on the streets, where, avoiding curious eyes, entered a store to buy paper and pencils, returned home and wrote down all his experiences on the mountain, setting down the words without effort as they were flowing like a river. It took him weeks, or maybe months, because he forgot to measure the time, but one late evening he wrote the last word that sprang from his mind and stacked the last file on top of a thick pile. He put an old book on top of the stack to keep the pages together and fell asleep, slept for nights and days, woke up, left for the mountain and never came back.
A hungry and tired burglar entered the house one night and finding nothing to eat and no wood left to start a fire, he decided to spend the night in the misery of the house and of his own existence. When the morning came he looked around once again in search for something that might have been of value but he could find nothing. Seconds before reaching the door his eyes fell on the stack of papers and turned back. He took the old book and looked at pages, saw the writings but couldn’t make out anything from it as he couldn’t read. But he remembered a window of a book store in the town, where one day he had seen somebody entering with a small stack of papers and came out counting a few pennies. He took the papers with him and walked out, rushed on the empty streets to the book store, entered and found the owner, who couldn’t help not to look at the papers and decided to pay the unknown vagabond a small amount, enough to buy a meal and a pint of beer. The papers made it into a book, printed at the book store’s owner expense. A title was added but no author was mentioned. Against the odds, the book found far more readers than the number of printed copies.
Soon the book gave birth to a wave of enthusiasm among people, many of them willing to go and see the mountain and its hidden heaven. The elderly advised for abstinence as knowledge of any type was declared a capital sin. But the book had a unbelievable power and took many under its charm before the clerics banned it and retrieved all copies they could find.
Following the precise description written in the book, many walked and scrambled on the easiest path to reach that same ridge and all came back amazed, spreading the word of confirmation about the veracity of the writings. Soon the mountain became so peopled, roads were built and more and more travelers could reach the ridge with more easiness.
Those from the town who did fear the climb chose to blame the enthusiasts for longing for the unnecessary pleasures. Instead they realized the mountain has many resources that can be used and started with the beautiful trees, felled down more and more of them and by selling the logs they became rich. Soon they found its rocks can be of great use for construction of roads and buildings. They started to cut the rocks and sell them and became richer. As they understood that cutting the rocks is too difficult and the process is slow, they invented machineries and tools that could do all this with very little effort for the man. Deep under the rocks they found fuels that could help them feed their machineries to be even more effective. Many other resources of various uses have been discovered, extracted and sold. They industriously exploited everything until the last piece of sand, the mountain had been moved from its place piece by piece. At the very end, its unreachable peaks fell to the ground turning into shatters. The people of the town became extremely rich and their fame reached the furthest corner of the world. After the mountain disappeared, the sun couldn’t be shadowed anymore and everybody enjoyed the sun shinning all day long over the town. They celebrated the returning of the sun and their wealth by dancing on the ashes of the old mountain, now a flat open bare ground.
While they were still partying and spending their richness, the water began to disappear as the rain did not come back. The snow, the beautiful pure snow disappeared and became a legend. The sun burnt harder and harder, the town became an oven and the inhabitants could not bear the heat anymore.
It was the perfect time for them to put their immense wealth and their cleverness at use. They built humungous structures to shadow the sun They enclosed the whole town in an immense hall and invented devices and machineries to create light and maintain proper warmth. Water has been made from the one they have already used. The rain and the snow were mimicked with the help of other inventions. The people found an elevated way of comfort, safety and worry free life and they again celebrated and spent their richness.
Until one day when they became bored of celebration and luxurious life and declared it stagnation. They started to go out of town to look at the place where the mountain used to be, now a bare ground swept by unmerciful dry winds. Suddenly they felt the pain of missing the mountain, its extraordinary image, its rumbling rivers feeding cool, clear water, its chilly breezes that used to feel so good on their faces, the perfume of evergreen trees that used to fill their lungs, the awe and wonder one can only feel in front of a natural monument.
They understood how tired they were of the indoor rain and snowfalls, quantities calculated so that they only fall for people enjoyment, carefully scheduled to happen at certain times, on certain days. They understood how much they hated the artificial light coming from millions of bulbs suspended from a roof hiding the stars from them. They understood how illusory their freedom was while watching beautiful pictures of mountainous landscapes on large, bright and multi pixelated screens. They understood the frustration of running on a treadmill toward a wall they will never reach. It was time for them to build some telescopes and pointed them toward a distant shadow in the horizon that proved to be another mountain. So they abandoned the town, all headed away to the far mountain that proved to be even higher and bigger, more grandiose and wonderful than the one they destroyed. When they have seen this miracle, they stopped and, in the breezy shadow of the mountain, they celebrated for days until they got tired.
The enthusiasts decided to go and hike the new mountain while the crowd watched them leaving. Soon they disappeared under the thick canopy of the woods and the crowd realized that the mountain is another resource of wealth, therefore they started to fell the trees, cut the rocks and dig deep to extract fuels. This fervent activity provoked earthquakes and the group of enthusiasts had to come down. In their retreat they saw the crowd at work and shouted at them to stop.
The crowd stopped to see what is the reason of the desperate calls.
The enthusiasts came close and asked why do they destroy the mountain after knowing what happened to the other one.
The crowd answered unanimously that this is just another object to shadow the sun but another big resource of wealth.
The enthusiasts then asked what will happen when they will turn this mountain to dust, reminding them about the profound sorrow they experienced not long time ago.
The crowd then answered, that somewhere behind this mountain, there must be another one, which if they want to see, they have to put this one down.
The enthusiasts replied that, following this path, they will destroy all the possible mountains on the Earth and afterward there will be nothing left.
The crowd then pointed their fingers to the stars and said that somewhere there in the space there must be another planet like this one, a planet that has mountains to be exploited.
The enthusiasts asked why should you give the heaven you have down here on Earth, for one that is a mirage far away among the stars?
At this, they received no answer and the crowd resumed its industrious work to cut wood, cut rocks and dig deep to extract fuels.
Adrian Cluciu, is an amateur writer, who loves the mountains and the nature for their simplicity and rawness.