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Jasper's Mountain - Part 3

Rachel Saylor

After Jasper hikes almost 5 miles east of his cabin, he stops to take a long pull from his canteen and to eat some food before he keeps moving. As he sits there eating and drinking, he looks up at the mountain he plans to summit that day. The tip of the mountain is hidden by large puffy clouds and creates a yearning within Jasper to uncover what secrets may lie behind it’s misty walls; as if summiting this mountain will bring him clarity and wisdom.

Jasper takes off his snowshoes and walks down to the creek on his right to refill his canteen. While dipping the canteen down into the river, his fingertips are immersed in the bone chilling water and the cold pierces through his skin and sends chills down his back. He takes extra precaution to rewarm his hands in his fur before continuing his journey. He leaves his snowshoes at the base of the mountain and begins his ascent. The snow has ceased to fall and all that can be heard is Jasper’s labored breathing as he slowly climbs higher and higher.

His thoughts carry him back to the river.

What was it that I sensed at the river? Was it just an animal watching me, or was it another human? I know there were eyes tracking my every move, but could it be they were eyes in some other spiritual realm I cannot even see or fathom? Am I going crazy? No. Jasper, you are not crazy. Stay alert. Whatever or whomever had their eyes on you most likely is still watching. Keep your eyes open and keep moving. They may just leave you be. Let your actions show you are not aware of their presence, but let your mind be ever present in scanning your surroundings and observing any movements.

The day creeps along and as Jasper struggles to stay alert while slowly ascending, he grows tired. He begins slipping and stumbling through the snow. He steps up onto a rock and slips on his right foot. He grasps out at the snow and dirt, falling up onto the mountain. He lays there taking in deep breaths, with his belly and face pressing hard against the side of the mountain. Exhaustion whispers into his ear to stay like this for a while. “Close your eyes,” it tells him, “rest your head and heart here and it will all get better, you’ll see.”

Get it together. You are stronger than this.

He pushes on, disregarding exhaustion’s persuasive and irrational words and continues climbing higher.

Not much farther from here. You can do this. Stay focused and alert.

Jasper feels his legs becoming shaky and his breathing is more rapid and shallow. He approaches the white cloud covering that still hangs over the tip, and reaches his hand up into it, half expecting to feel something tangible. There is nothing there to grab, so he pushes his body through the cloud and reaches the top. He is floating in a white cloud on top of the mountain. He stands here for a while staring at the blankness that encompasses him. His labored breathing begins to calm down and he sits on a flat rock he cleans free of snow. He sits and waits. Waits for the clarity to hit him in the face.

As time passes, he hopes for even a slight whisper of knowledge to pass by him. Jasper is unaware of how long he’s been sitting on that rock now. It could have been minutes, it could have been hours. Time is not making sense anymore.

His heart begins to sink as nothing changes. His eyes are cast up towards the white abyss and tears roll down his cheeks as he realizes his pursuit of discovering meaning is failing him.

“Tell me what the point is. Tell me what to do,” he sobs in a whisper out into the quiet, open air.

As snot seeps down his mustache, it burns his now bleeding, chapped lips, and travels through his beard. Jasper doesn’t care.

What are you doing? Breathe.

He takes a deep breath in and lets it out; focusing solely on breathing.

In and out. In and out.

Good, that’s right. Now, take a drink, eat some food, and stay alive.

He grabs for his canteen and his limbs seem to be moving in slow motion. Opening the top of the canteen becomes a laborious process and takes all of Jasper’s focus to succeed. He is so relieved when he is able to get the top off. Drinking is an ordeal in itself, as his mouth forgets how to hold water in and swallow. Water drains down the sides of his beard and fall onto his fur skin lap.

Keep breathing, Jasper. In and out. In and out.