Short Story: On the Way Down

My people brought me down the mountain. I was shod with dirty, cap-split walking boots, no longer fit for purpose; my backpack was weighty, sharp corners jabbed my spine through bulging material, and my ancient head was numb, paralysed.

The Snowdon Railway ran alongside our path. A train chugged past. Its passengers gazed through smudgy windows. I couldn’t afford such luxury, and my people didn’t need it. We’d trekked for hours with few rests.

Thick clouds were nauseating, but as we descended, the air became fresher and the sky clearer. My woman, my adventurous love, would have exclaimed how beautifully green and perfect the view was. I’d conquered another peak from her list, but it meant nothing without her.

My people – young, scraggly and hopeful – stopped to share Snickers and muddy flask coffee. They chattered about goodness-knows-what. Their voices warmed me, defrosting my spirits. My strength started to return.

With the end in sight, I tested my feet and turned down my companions’ supportive arms. ‘I can manage now. Thank you so very much.’

They applauded me, but having rescued this depressed old man from the summit, they refused to stride ahead. I’d climbed alone for long enough.

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