by Hydrargentium

“I made a lot of mistakes.”

Big hands covered the tattered mask. It lay on his thighs as he knelt on the scorched concrete.

“I made a lot of mistakes.”

When he looked up at the sky, tears pulled tracks through the ash on his cheeks. His eyes clenched, squinted, as if they could be stung by the smoky haze.

“I made a lot of mistakes.”

His voice cracked, full of gravel. A gulped swallow dropped down the deep well of his throat, plunking with a heavy echo. Underneath him, the leather of his boots creaked like an old bridge.

“I made a lot of mistakes.”

Finally, Mountain Man turned to look at me. Eyebrows raised liked he’d just woken from a dream, like he was trying to haul his eyes open against the harsh morning light. A long breath shot eddies in the smoky air around his nostrils. Without looking away, he gathered the mask into his fists, brought it up to his chest. He just kept staring at me, and I couldn’t, for the life of me, break his gaze.

After a lifetime, he turned his face down to look at the mask. One last tear fell from his cheek, landing with a splatter under a torn eyehole.

“Yes,” he said, his voice a thunder that rolled out of the hills to keep you up at night. “Yes, you have.”

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