(Prompt courtesy of L.S. Engler)
For generations my family had been climbing Bear Paw Peak; the trail was as much my ancestor as my great great grandfather. The path began at our back door, then it meandered through a few meadows and past a small alpine lake before the steep scramble to Bear Paw Peak. My fathers had made this trail. More times than I could recall my father would tell the great tale of the great trail. Then he would chuckle at his alliteration before continuing the story.
Even though the story was supposed to be our family history most of it had been forgotten through the generations. The great tale had become a ghost story where a few promises had been made and then broken and then the Schew family had been cursed. I didn’t believe in the curse, but still, no member of the Schew had ever lived beyond the shadow of Bear Paw Mountain.
Today was the perfect day. I grabbed the bag and slung it over my shoulder. Dad had died almost two months ago and following tradition his ashes needed to be scattered from Bear Paw Peak. Today for the first time in almost two months the clouds weren’t hanging on the mountain; the sun had finally broken through and the trail sparkled where puddles still lay.
If Dad hadn’t asked me take his ashes up the mountain I would’ve just buried him beside the trail, packed my belongings, and left for town. Curse or no curse, this is what Dad asked for and even if I hadn’t given him what he wanted while he was alive I wouldn’t let him down in his death. So I laced up my boots, grabbed some food and water, and started walking.
The hike was surprisingly short and I summited just before dark. I didn’t much relish the idea of spending the night alone on a mountain top. So I pulled the leather pouch that held my dad out of my bag and placed it on a rock. Then I started a fire, ate some bread, and settled down for the night. It was pretty obvious how my great great grandfather could have believed he was being cursed. I could hear the wind howling through canyons but not a breath of it touched my skin and even though Bear Paw Peak was the tallest peak around the light of the moon never graced me with it’s presence. I sat alone, except for my father, in cold darkness and began to believe in ghosts. I waited for cold dead fingers to brush the back of my neck. I breathed as quietly as I could, listening for soft evil words to fill the air. But the night stayed cold, dark, and silent and I stayed small, scared, and alone.
As soon as the sun rose and it’s rays hit the peak I untied the leather pouch and held it open for the wind to toss Dad’s ashes about the mountain. Without a final prayer or tear for Dad I fled that place. It felt like I flew down the trail and finally I made it to our back door.
I bolted the door behind me and began planning my escape from this mountain. It was a three day walk to town and from there I would go everywhere. Anywhere. As long as it wasn’t in the shadow of this mountain. I made a blazing fire to chase the chill away and packed my bag with the crackling fire my evening’s companion. Then it grew dark and I became afraid. Would I hear the wind howling? Would the moonlight shine on the house? Would the ghosts that hadn’t found me at the peak find me in my bed?
The next morning I awoke. I was alone but horrified. The thought of spending a night without the protection of my house left me terrified to the point of nausea. I got out of bed, pulled everything out of my bag, and began putting it all away. I wasn’t leaving this house, at least, not anytime soon.