The Hill

Here is another exercise turned short piece.  Enjoy!

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The hill was long and sloping and never gentle.  John waited at the bottom.  He moved his hand over his eyes and squinted at the task ahead.

It was a brutal slope, more mountain than molehill.  Ice dug into the dirt, forming a permafrost so thick no machine could penetrate it.  Dead grasses and flowers, icicles hanging from their decayed appendages, waited for him.  They waved in the wind, almost beckoning him to climb up to them.  And while they waved, there was no joviality in their movements.

A cold sun beat down on John, giving little warmth and little comfort.  His forehead broke out into a cold sweat, making him convulse in shivers.  He rubbed his arms and chest and hands.  What little warmth there was seeped out of his skin and evaporated.  He zipped up his leather jacket all the way, covering the lower part of his mouth.  Hot air escaping from his lips pooled around his face.  It became almost too warm; comfort was just a far away dream.

John took a step forward, crunching over the ice laced ground and smashing a dead flower under his foot.  Looking down at the squashed plant, he grinned.  His face returned to stone and he took step after step over the frozen land, over the dead and dying vegetation, each one a well fought battle to bring him an inch close to his goal.

The incline grew steeper and steeper.  John grabbed a nearby rock.  A moistness seeped into him from the cold, smooth stone.  He clawed at the rock and pushed himself up.  The rock shifted, groaning as the soil underneath fell away.  John pushed on it again.  It slid down the hill like a child on a sled.  John gazed at it and turned his head to the side as it came to a rest at the bottom.  He shrugged, grabbed onto the grass above him, and lifted himself higher.

Halfway up the hill, John stopped.  He dug his feet into the ground, turned around, and sat down.  It was a circus like balancing act he had to perform so that he wouldn’t start sliding down.  The land in front of him was barren and dry and frozen.  He stared at it with eyes that lit up the area like a lone camp fire.  Digging his hands into the soil, he tore out a chunk of the frozen land and threw it down the hill.  He watched it with so much devotion it seemed he was praying to the forsaken land.  After a couple minutes, John stood up, turned around, and resumed the ascent.

John leaned forward when the incline became near vertical.  He pushed his face into the hill, into the dead vegetation and black soil.  A smell of frozen earth, snow, and decaying leaves flowed into his nostrils.  He sneezed, shook his head, and pushed away from the hill, continuing his climb.

Another step up.  And another.  And another.  And…  His foot slipped, pushing away chunks of earth and pebbles.  Over the silent landscape, he could hear the pebbles and dirt tumble down and down.  John reached up and grabbed at whatever he could.  His right hand managed to find a bush, his left a small stone.  Clinging onto a couple rocks with the tips of his fingers as though he was in a tightrope act gone bad, John kicked his feet back into the hillside.  He groaned, kicked the hill again for good measure, and took another step up.

He was nearing the top.  Stretching out his neck, John tried to obtain a better look, even just a glance, at the summit.  John’s muscles ached and moaned, begging for him to either stop or finish the task.  The ground trembled and shook as the soil near the top grew weaker and looser.  John watched dirt fall from his clawed, near blackened hands.  A cold wind, one born from the breath of a frost giant, rushed past him.  It tried to push him off the hill, tried to make him start over again.  It howled with hurricane force intensity.  John leaned in closer to the hill and let it pass, cursing the luck and the wind and the hill and the cold.

His hand peeked over the top.  An arm came next, followed by his head and body and finally, legs.  On his hands and knees, John turned and gazed at the area he had just come from.  His eyes narrowed and his face grew red and flushed.  He wiped off a line of sweat, flicked it at the hill, and watched it fall on the dead plants, making them quiver as it rolled off their brown foliage.

John stood up.  He turned and stared at the land on the other side of the hill.  Frozen.  Barren.  More of the same.  But, there was a speck of light in the distance.  He could just make out a dancing flame throwing shadows over the low lying plants and frozen rivers.  A smile, which seemed more like a snarl, appeared on his face.  He kicked the earth, sending more dirt tumbling down the hillside.  John’s eyes were locked on the fire, on that one single flame filling the distance.  It was all he looked at, all he cared to look at.  Clenching his fist, John smashed his foot into the soil and began his descent down the other side.

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