[Ed. Note: This post is a short story I wrote a few months ago. Combines my passion for the Pacific Northwest with my interest in the mythic and Lovecraftian. Submitted it a couple of places without luck, and decided it would appropriately find a home here. Hope you enjoy. If you do, re-posts, Facebook shares and re-Tweets are quite welcome.]
The Maddening Mountains
There is a way it rains in the Pacific Northwest reminding you life has always been here. It was here – skyscraper trees standing with grace against the everlasting tide – before you were ever born. It will be here when you’re gone. That rain is also a quiet voice. It is the voice of the mountains.
I once heard that voice.
Those mountains. It never made sense. How could they just “be”? And yet they clearly were. I watched them before I heard them. They sat majestic and proud evening after evening, the setting sun highlighting every intricate valley and showy snow-capped peak, only to become sullen and for days, sometimes weeks, be obscured in dense cloud. Even in these times there would be glimmers – a lone peak briefly revealing itself, reminder of ageless Olympian presence.
Like old women all huddled together, they started with idle chatter, and appeared as hunched over crones in certain lights. Then came the secrets, the vast knowing. I could never dream such vaulted comprehension was possible, before. The mountains told their stories. And they were long, for mountains are ancients. They told tales in the life-giving rain that dripped off their backs, bubbling and winding wildly down to the sea.
The mountains continued their soft sounds, words indistinguishable from a wind blowing across the strait. They told of the shore, a place where they spoke to the sea. And what conversations they had! In its solemn, sullen and soul-destroying ire, the sea thought I was descended of maritime folk and wouldn’t even whisper in my ear. But the mountains had hinted.
There were times, when water was low and waves few, where mountain and sea merely murmured, barely audible, their quiet exchange the sound of a few raindrops. At other times, sea roared and raged, crashing and splashing into the side of mountain. I wanted to know what the sea was trying to say in these times, yet the mountains would not tell me.
Those maddening mountains, how little they cared. They’d revealed a few things in passing, when wind, water and waves were just right. I wondered; what ageless secrets of the earth did they still contain? What unfettered reserves of life did they harbor?
Though their voice could sometimes so deeply soothe, it also reminded of difference. How young, silly and innocent I felt. The mountains once said that to them I sounded and acted as a hummingbird, or even a mayfly, would to me. They would be gregarious and do their best to make me feel an equal. Still I was often deeply humbled.
The mountains once talked to me a lot. They spoke the words of the Salish, the Bella Coola, the Comox, the Nootka and the Tlingit. And, for a time, I understood them all. I felt their strength and eternal presence. They were always fickle, however, coquettish in spite of imposing vastness. Such is the odd, playful way of mountains.
And then the mountains grew quieter. They almost stopped their cautious dialogue with me altogether and wouldn’t tell me why. I asked, and they hinted it was something they’d been told.
I asked and asked (a lifetime passed) – who was it that caused them to fall silent? Who told them to stop speaking?
In the end, only one name was uttered. He was the walker upon the winds, they said.
Who was this wind-walker, I asked and asked (and another lifetime passed).
“Ithaqua,” the mountains said.
In this utterance I became a babbling and to all appearances incoherent fool in the company of fellow men. I was trapped, and inside such a feeble husk as the mind. The mountains couldn’t know the last word they spoke would bring me irreversible madness.
I knew thereafter of others, though their names were never spoken. Some dwelled there with the mountains across the strait. But the mountains wouldn’t speak of them, for the others were older and greater still.
Nonetheless, I know they are there. I know to whom the mountains, deaf even to the ferocious and fearsome voice of the sea, listen. The one whose name was uttered speaks in whispers. But, I suspect, the others do more than whisper. Their words break the world. It is from them, I believe, that the mountains came.
The mountains say no more. And I’ve heard enough. I know of Borea, and the moons whose names are said (nay, whispered) in hushed hatred.
Those maddening mountains are now silent. And so am I. But it is good to remember how they spoke.
Lovely satirical poem in Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s The Sirens of Titan:
“Break every link with air and mist,
Seal every open vent;
Make throat as tight as miser’s fist,
Keep life within you pent.
Breathe out, breathe in, no more, no more,
For breathing’s for the meek;
And when in deathly space we soar,
Be careful not to speak.
If you with grief or joy are rapt,
Just signal with a tear;
To soul and heart withing you trapped
Add speech and atmosphere.
Every man’s an island as in
lifeless space we roam.
Yes, every man’s an island:
island fortress, island home.“
From Kurt Vonnegut Jr., The Sirens of Titan (New York: Delta, 1971), 152-53.
Late light, crows speaking
Half-moon bright above the trees
Black winged brothers