The Burnt Mountain

Tim flew away with the girl, so let me start with how I know that. I’m not all the way sure, but sure enough to feel dumb. It hit me all at once. I was trapped in the cave with bear ghosts. I shook my head at how dumb I’d been. It’s clear what happened unless it isn’t.

It wasn’t an avalanche that trapped me there. The snow melted, even up to the peaks. I stayed scared too long. The early spring didn’t last. Everything went brown. From a high place, I could see the sparks dragging the fire up.

There wasn’t time to make a plan. If it chased me to the top, I would burn there. The fire was solid the whole way around. I mean, there wasn’t a path through it. The sparks were solid, too. I was lucky I had the cave, lucky I stocked it.

The supplies didn’t last. The mountain berries had stopped growing. A lot never got ripe enough to taste test. I let good ones go to waste, I’m sure. It was too late to worry by the time I was trapped. Sparks poured through the entrance for days.

The cave walls went from green to gold, but no fire came in. Bear ghost and cub ghost showed up then, and all three of us were out of berries. Some of bear ghost’s remains were in the cave, but they were rotten by then.

“You could have fed me fish,” said cub ghost. He wasn’t mad at me killing him and his mom. Not really. He would have made fish ghosts when he got big. That’s what you do in the wild. You make ghosts. Plus we all thought I would be a ghost soon, too. No one stays mad at dead people.

They made me a deal. Bear ghost didn’t ever talk, but cub ghost said it was her idea, and I believed him. There was this special beetle. There were a lot of them in the cave, but this one was brave. It wouldn’t run from them. They would possess it and bring it to me. I’d know it when I saw it. If I ate it, I wouldn’t have to die from hunger. That was the deal.

That was the last time I saw them. Days passed, and I didn’t see any beetles. The sparks kept showering in. I could hear my death when I breathed. I knew it was real. I was going to die from hunger.

I thought maybe the bear ghosts weren’t ever real. Then their beetle came. They were right that I would know it, but it wasn’t how I thought it would be. It wasn’t big at all. It was little, normal-sized. It was neon blue.

When I stepped in front of it, it didn’t run. I cupped my hands on the ground, and it crawled onto my fingers. I picked it up to look. It made my palms glow blue. I closed my hands and peeked inside, and I could still see it. Then I opened them and wondered if I was really going to eat it.

It jumped onto my lips. It crawled around there and wouldn’t leave. I batted at it, but it just dodged my hand. After awhile, I opened my mouth, and it ran down my throat. Then I walked through the sparks. That’s it. Just like that.

The mountain was on fire, but strange new game prowled through it. They were shiny black creatures with neon blue eyes and different numbers of heads. I prowled, too.

I found my spear by the cave, but I saw right away I could make it better. Halfway through fixing it, I threw out the spear idea. I made it a bow. It turns out bows are easy. You don’t usually even need arrows. You yank on the string like you had an arrow, and it shimmers. The creature you aimed at falls dead.

I made armor from a few big monsters. They had thick, iridescent carapaces. The armor was easy, too, but I don’t really need it. The creatures never get near me. I say my new mantra whenever I catch my breath.

I am Drake. The Drake. I ate a ghost bug, and now I can hunt. Tim crashed my plane with the girl in it. I see them crash sometimes, unless I don’t. This is my mountain, but there’s monsters. I am Drake.

The mountain stopped burning, and it’s almost done changing. There’s one change left. I see the mountain-sized structure of bones that’s gonna push through the ash. It’s gorgeous. The girl fell in love with Tim and not me, but he couldn’t save her. I see their bones too, maybe.


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