100 Words A Day by Hydrargentium

Well, at least 100 words — best served random….

Tag: Mountain Man

The steel fist came out of the sky, bigger than a watermelon. Mountain Man felt the chaos it made in the air above him, looked up to see it coming straight for him. He turned to move out of the way, but it still struck him in the shoulder and sent him sprawling to the road.

The asphalt beneath didn’t yield to him like more natural stone would, and the impact forced the air out of his lungs with a whoosh like a gust of wind through pines. He felt none of his bones break, though. Even in this hard, man-made city, there was still enough of the natural world in it to give a little bit.

Another disturbance above him made him roll out of the way, and a second fist drove into the asphalt, sounding like a cannonball. Scrambling to his feet, he saw the cable attached to it at the wrist, like a dark grey polymer vein, leading back up into the night. A moment later, the line snapped up its slack, and the fist was drawn into the air. Mountain Man swung wildly, and caught the line in his meaty, earthy hand. Next thing he knew, he was flying, dragged into the sky along with it.

“How do you know?” Projector drew exaggerated lines on his forehead to illustrate his disbelief.

Mountain Man took a deep breath, cavernous nostrils flaring to let in more air.

“I’m bound to the land, little man. The hills are my shoulders. The trees are my lungs. Water that rushes and tumbles down the rivers is the blood that flows through my veins. When the wind bends the tall grass in the fields, I feel it like the hairs on my arms. When something’s not right in the earth, it’s right there in my gut.”

He scratched at his beard, dirty fingernail tracing the promontory of his jaw.

“How do I know? When there’s someone tunnelling, way down deep, in a big machine that snorts and spews and chews up rocks and leaves rubble for droppings? I can feel it. I can feel it in my bones.”

It was a sweet day, with sun and clouds and fresh air on the hills. Mountain Man strode through the woods, feet like boulders treading without tracks, leaving the forest floor undisturbed.

A handful of berries jiggled in his cupped hand, and every once in a while, he popped a few into his mouth, never breaking his stride. With each mouthful, he chewed, thoughtful, savouring the sweet-tart bounty. His hand never seemed to run out of berries as he walked through the hills, mile after mile, along the Appalachian Trail.

Nearing a small town in Tennessee, his ears perked up at the sound of explosions. Climbing to the top of a nearby cliff, Mountain Man scanned the horizon.

There, silhouetted against the late afternoon sun, a column of smoke wended its way into the sky.

“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.”