Down The Mountainside
Johnny, Alondra and Belenos descended the mountain. It was a harsh trek, especially for Johnny, as the summit was steep, jagged and rocky. Beneath his feet, the warm ground permeated through the soles of his dirty sneakers. To his right, the flaming river of lava flowed downhill, glimmering in the night and lighting the way.
He found the journey difficult; he was unused to hiking and traipsing up and down mountains. He tried to emulate Alondra’s graceful steps, but he stomped and trampled all over the strange, barren peak.
Who were these people that lived in a volcano? Did they not fear it would one day erupt like Krakatoa, or Mount Saint Helens? Did they even know about these events?
Belenos skipped from rock to rock, as if this trek were nothing but a light walk, and it made Johnny uneasy and somewhat jealous of Belenos’s grace and good looks. He hoped to grow up to be someone handsome and lithe.
He also wondered whether the other runes could help him descend this precarious mountainside.
“I cannot say,” Alondra said and Johnny gazed at her, astonished.
“You can’t say what?” Johnny asked.
Belenos paused and was gazing at them.
“I cannot say whether the other runes will work here. Raido is the rune of Journey, but it is the only one.”
“And now I’ve lost it.”
“Although,” Alondra continued after a pause, “at first, I understood a little of Belenos’s tongue because he speaks like the Ancients. But, when we two are together, I understand him well, and so do you.”
“So, you have the remaining runes, and Ansuz is the rune of Word. I think we all understand one another because of it.”
“Yes,” Belenos interjected, “when you speak, I hear strange words, but they make sense in my mind.”
Johnny raised his eyebrows; Belenos was right. He also felt a strange sensation in his brain, as if it jumbled and reorganized the information his ears relayed.
“Maybe the other runes work here too.” Johnny stated; Alondra smiled and shrugged.
They proceeded in silence as the descent became easier. Here and there, plant life sprouted from the barren earth, and Johnny realized they were nearing the fertile base of the mountain.
“Do you know any of these plants?” He asked Alondra.
“No, they are like some I know, but not the same.”
As they continued downwards, the vegetation flourished and soon Belenos had led them to a copse of tall evergreens. Johnny could not discern whether they were pines or spruces, but they had similar features as the evergreens back home. Although here, their leaves glittered with an iridescent sheen. In fact, this entire world glinted and sparkled and twinkled, even in the deep inky night. The air here was crisp and biting, and so deliciously fresh he almost tasted it. Johnny realized this was a world without industry, without pollution.
Dawn had crept as they made the laborious journey down the mountain. Its pale light shone on the cloud-bellies of the horizon, which glimmered with a mother-of-pearl glow. He glanced at Alondra, whose intent and puzzled gaze pointed towards the dawn.
For the first time in a long time, he smiled. He liked this world and pondered whether he would ever want to leave.
“You do not belong here,” a voice whispered through the trees.
Chills ran up Johnny’s spine.
“Did you hear that?” He turned to Alondra, but she was still looking towards the new day.
“What is it?” Johnny asked her.
“I think that is the West,” Alondra pointed towards the sunrise.
“Yes, it is,” the same voice replied.
Alondra and Johnny whipped around, searching for the owner of the voice. A kind smile formed on Belenos’s lips.
“Who’s there?” Johnny called.
“I am,” the voice said.
“Who are you?” Alondra asked.
“I am me,” the voice giggled.
“A joker,” Johnny huffed and rolled his eyes.
“No,” the voice replied.
It bounced around them, so they could not pinpoint its location; they jerked and bobbed their heads like cats hunting invisible bugs.
“Where are you?” Alondra asked.
They whipped around towards the voice and spotted a path to a grove. Belenos beamed and pointed to a tiny cave entrance on a nearby ledge.
“I guess we have arrived,” Alondra stated.
The voice giggled.