The Fable of the Mountain Walk by Karalee Coleman

Finalist in the short story category, Mensa Canada 2016 Literary Contest

Goat and Dog and Pig journeyed to a great mountain. Goat boasted, "Generations of goats have bounded to the top of this mountain to see the world from on high. Tomorrow I, too, will climb it."

That evening, Goat asked the local goats about the climb.

"It's treacherous," said one. "I climbed it in my youth, but not again.”

“It's a challenge only kids should tackle,” agreed another. “Sometimes older goats are overcome, and must be rescued.”

“Some climbers have even died," warned a third.

In the morning, instead of looking up at the mountain, Goat looked away, across the plains. "I don't feel well," he bleated. "I'm too ill to face a difficult climb."

"That's unfortunate," said Dog. "I was looking forward to joining you for at least part of the way, even though my people aren't climbers."

"I too wished to poke around, even if it’s just on the lower reaches," said Pig. "It’d be a shame to travel this far and then not set foot on your famous mountain."

"If I can't do the whole climb I won't go at all," muttered Goat. "But don't let me spoil your fun."

Dog and Pig shrugged, and walked out together onto the mountain path. It was a good day for walking. Sun warmed the trail, a mild breeze kept them cool, and they chatted companionably. As they walked the path grew more difficult, and the vegetation changed. They saw things they hadn’t seen below, on the plains or even on the lower slopes. An eagle mewed overhead. Pig found some sweet wild berries. The air thinned, and Dog relished its perfume of ancient ice and storm clouds. Rocks glinted with crystals, rough and glamorous.

Eventually the trail became too steep, and too narrow, and too broken. "These sharp stones will cut my paws," said Dog. "I can go no further."

"My trotters can no longer grip this rocky path," said Pig. "We’ve come far enough. I think it’s time to turn back."

Turning, they saw spread before them the intricate pattern of the plains. The arcs of a river meandered across carefully pieced farmland, which faded to a hyacinth haze at the edge of sight. Tall cypresses outlined perfect miniature homesteads. Tiny beasts moved in the fields, pursuing their tiny lives. This is how the gods must view the world, thought Dog and Pig. We shall always cherish the memory of our walk on this beautiful mountain!

* * *

When they returned, Goat asked, "How far did you get?"

"That far," said Pig, indicating the highest landmark they had reached on the side of the mountain. "It was nice. You should have come."

"There would have been no point," sniffed Goat and, tossing his head, he sauntered away.