He was battered, broken, and bruised. He had slipped and fallen several feet down, if it wasn’t for his safety harness, he would have been dead.
“Get up,” said the dove buzzing by his ear. “We’re so close to the top, it’s only a few feet higher now!”
The climber glanced behind him, the unending face of the white-faced mountain vanishing into the void of relentlessly pouring snow. It would be so easy to simply quit at this point, but he knew better.
“Help me up,” the climber said, reaching up for his rope as the bird lifted him.
He was only nine years old when he began climbing mountains, starting from small hills to colossal giants. This was his biggest challenge yet though. Five years of failure and accidents left him barely able to walk, let alone climb, but he would not let it beat him.
“You won’t make it at this rate,” A taunting voice spoke. A magnificent pale mountain lion stared down at the injured climber from above.
Ignoring the lion, pain wracked his lungs and body as he climbed higher and higher, his pickaxe slamming against the frozen mountain top.
“The peak, I see it,” the dove said, hovering right beside the man. With excitement, the climber crawled up faster, smashing the axe into the cliff with fervor. Each strike filled with anger, filled with hope. He was only a few feet from the top until it broke.
Down and down, he tumbled, death winked at him until his safety line snagged him again.
“Hey, hey! We can still do this, I believe in you,” the dove said as it helped the climber up again.
“Ha, as if! Just give up, like you always have,” said the white lion, resting on the mountain top.
In agony from the fall, the climber slowly got back into place, using his hands to attempt to make the ascent once more, the peak just in sight, taunting him. Bloody fingers looked for cracks in the hard ice-covered rock face. Grab with the left, grab with the right. Over and over again, as the harsh howling winds turned his skin to ice. He climbed and climbed, desperate to beat the lion, desperate to prove that he could overcome his past.
“You’re not even trying. If anything, you should just quit, just like you did with your family!” the lion said.
Bitter memories of the accident that took his wife and child flashed like fireworks in the climber’s mind. The consideration of going back down flew across his mind again, the lion was right.
“Don’t listen to him, it doesn’t have to end like this! You’re stronger than this, stronger than the lion!” the dove said, fighting against the frigid wind.
The climber closed his eyes for a moment, thinking about his family, thinking about what they would tell him.
Both animals paused, waiting for his response.
As the hours passed like snails in quicksand, he reached his hand up to the top of the peak, crawling and flopping onto the peak of the mountain that was quiet, beautiful, and serene. All those years of being defeated by the mountain, and he had finally made it. The lion scoffed at the man as he lay in the snow, slinking away and vanishing into the cruel snowstorm below. The man hardly cared however, as peaceful thoughts of his family washed over him, making him smile.
Bao Lu lives in the farm fields of Wisconsin. They help their family at home and talk too much with their friends online.