There was a girl who lived in a mountain just outside the village where I grew up. It was the largest mountain in our area, and it was the most important one as it protected our little village from the rage of nature and the curiosity of men. The older folk used to worship the mountain, leave offerings at the base and hold great festivals in honour of its impunity. They were beautiful festivals that had all the folk dancing and singing and the air was filled with ebullience. The village was happy, and the town grew larger and larger, until one day the village had finally grown large enough to reach the base of the mountain. We still held great festivals and we still worshipped the mountain as we had many years of prosperity. However, the town was growing too large, and some people had to move out and journey into the world beyond the mountains. My family was disheartened when I had decided to partake on one such journey. They pleaded and prayed that I would not leave the village, but my decision had already been handed to me by the older folk. My family knew this, and they could do nothing to persuade them otherwise. In jest of my parents wails, the older folk allowed me to partake in a special ritual before the journey were to occur. Before crossing the mountain, I was to live in the mountain for a single week, and upon leaving I would hence forth be blessed by the mountain god that presided within. It was a custom that not many people were given the privilege of partaking, and as thus, my parents sent me off with happy smiles.
I journeyed up into the mountains slowly, making sure that I could stand the harsh weathers that it foretold. It did not make it any easier considering how close to the Day Of Eve it was. My week stay was planned such that upon the turn of Eve, it would be as if I was reborn. I didn’t mind spending my new year like that. I wasn’t told where in the mountains I should stay, but I knew that climbing too high would complete my journey early. It must have been several hours until I finally felt the wear of the climb, and the beating of the frigid winds did nothing to quell my fatigue. My vision started going hazy, with streaks of white painted across every image in my head. I reached my hands out to touch it but it crumbled on my fingers, as if it was the whitened ashes of our deceased that we spread on the mountain base. My mind started turning in on itself, and the formation of words or thoughts broke down. Everything became like the mountains, much too large, and much too dangerous.
Upon waking up, I heard the crackling of sticks and the dancing of flames. My head was still spinning, but once my cadence had returned, I noticed a small campfire situated a few feet before me. I looked around to see that I had been placed in a sort of cavern. The entrance was nowhere to be seen, and likewise, the exit. I tried to pull my body up, but noticed that my entire lower body and some of my upper was not responding to any of my commands. I could move my head, but with great trouble. The fire’s warmth seemed to calm me though, and staring into it made my paralysis not so urgent. It was as if I was in a festival, and my mind had wandered into a place of solemn. I then realized that it was ritual fire that I was staring at. The sticks had been coated with a white powder, the white ashes of my people.
“You worship me,” a voice said. Her voice was clear like water, fragile like ice, but sharper than any peak I had ever known. It strained me to listen, but it strained me not to. I couldn’t see her, but I knew that she was just behind me, looking down on my frozen body.
“Your people worship me, and they send me gifts, just like that fire.” I looked at the white ashes again. The more I looked into it, the more it seemed to lick my soul.
“Your people sent you here to die.” The nerves in my body responded to that.
“No. They sent me here for spiritual reconcilement.” To even speak to her put a strain in my throat, it pained me more than I could imagine.
“Your people worship me, and so do you. Do you not agree?” Her voice became like a smooth incense, it threatened to lull me into her world, into her realm, but I knew just how dangerous it was to play with knives. I knew the type of person she was. They had come into our village frequently and had many disputes with our folk. Some called them the nomads, but the younger folk tended to spit out apostate. I never dealt with one first hand, but I knew who they were and what to do if I ever did. They would threaten my beliefs, tell me the mountain god is fake, and tell me to renounce who I am.
“I only worship the god that resides in this mountain,” I said. She replied with a laugh, a haunting laugh that echoed throughout the entire cavern. It was a witch’s laugh, but despite how much I hated her animosity and attempt to coerce me into playing into her hands, I could not completely disregard it.
“The god you people think you worship is not here anymore. They left long ago once they were bored with your people. Has this mountain actually done anything for you?”
“It has protected us from many harsh seasons, and many harsh tyrants.”
“That much can be said about anything.” The voice grew closer, and I could hear her foot steps over the fire now. She bent over and pushed my body into a sitting position. I could see her face clearly now, she was but a little girl, somewhere in the ages of ten or fifteen. I judged her not on the bases of her short height, but by the way her face seemed to exude youth. Her hair was charred black, and if not for the frill in the dress she wore, I would have thought she was but skin and bones. She was nothing like the apostates. I had to pray for forgiveness once the thought of beauty had sprung upon me.
“Your people worship me, but I am no god. None of us were gods. We are the people you expunged. We are who you detest, and who you made idols.“
“The people we detest are the apostates, and those people are not the ones we worship. It can’t be, you’re a liar, a witch.” The girl kicked me in the chest and stood towering over me in her dress. I could not move despite the fire running over my entire body. I was still frozen, and as she looked into my eyes, I could see something much more sinister than any murderer. Within her clear white eyes, the eyes of a person who could not see, was the reflection of myself. And within myself, was an eerie happiness of being riddled pathetic in the presence of such an image of youth and beauty.
“The people that left your village became the nomads. Or as you like to call us, the apostates. You are descendants of my people. And your elder folk know that. They know that the people who sometimes visit your village were the very people who left it in the first place. They know that we have prospered far more than them, that they live eternally in the past, that as they worship a dead god, we worship innovation. Your god no longer loves you.” But upon hearing her slander, I could not hold any emotions tight. I felt enraged, confused, but the emotion that ran most frightening to me were the emotions of joy as she continually stepped onto my stomach and frilled her dress dangerously near me.
“And you are one of the apostates then? Those who do not believe in our god, and travel to town to try and snatch those precious to us away.”
“Precisely. But we do so not in any ill manner, not like the treatment you give us with your scornful glares and egregious rumors. We simply wish to bring you to a life much better, and we do so in peace.”
“If you wish to barter peace, then do not come to us anymore. We live peacefully.” The girl laughed. I could feel it from her foot.
“Your peace is false. Your peace will shatter and crumble, and our people will make it so that it will not be a peaceful end. As long as you resist us, we cannot guarantee that our peaceful subjugation will be anything peaceful. We are a peaceful group, and yet, once we seek power, once we have seen the edificial power that lay in our way, we seek to obtain it.”
“So you mean to say that eventually we are to be under your reign despite our constant refusal?”
“Not only that, but the people to blame once your people are ravaged by our armaments and miasma are the very people who tell you to veer away from us.” Her eyes, her unchanging, blind eyes were something that I feared now not only because of what I saw within them, but because of how true they seemed. She could not see me, and yet, the more I lay under her body, and the more her eyes seemed to stare right into me, the purer her words seemed to me. To me, it was as if the blind cannot lie.
“And if your people only do visit us to try and coerce us peacefully into living with your people, then why are you here? The last apostates have long gone, and they are not expected to come back until past the turn of Eve”
“Among my people, I am an oddity, that much you can tell. I am imperfect, a being that even my people tend to spit at. I am less than them, and yet, here I am, an idol for your people. I have no name, but some who know of me, my people, call me The Girl Who Lives In A Mountain.” There was sadness within her voice, a trailing sadness that lingered in the cavern and fed the flames that still danced near us. Her eyes although white, were tinged with darkness, and whilst she couldn’t make expressions with her face, with her eyes, it still seemed much more consternated than before. She released her hold on me, and stepped behind the flames. My body at this moment had all been thawed, and I shifted in the cavern dirt, reveling in my freedom.
“I have no ill will for you or your people. You have given me many great festivals, many gifts, and despite not knowing that your god is an apostate, an ill-ridden girl, someone who has caught the sickness of weakness, your people have taken care of me. I am no mountain god, but to show my appreciation, I have saved you. I burn the ashes you bring me, I eat the food you provide, and I sing and dance with the festivals. Your religion may be a farce, but I indulge in the gratuity.” The girl regressed. She sat on the cavern walls and looked at the flames as they danced with the ashes. She smiled at it, a distant smile, one that I couldn’t reach. Her words, much like the flame, rung true and great. My people would be devastated by the apostates soon enough, but to think that were to happen is not such a calamity. They would not call it subjugation, but attribute it to simply going to another village, to finally moving out of their old ways, to leave the mountain. Such a way wasn’t so bad after hearing the Mountain Girl’s words. After hearing her words, I was less than angry. My people, unlike hers, were very optimistic in world view. Those who show abnormalities, much like her blindness are not shunned and thrown into caverns by themselves. They are our soothsayers, the ones bestowed upon by the gods with great power. I had no reason but to believe that The Girl Who Lives In A Mountain was a god of her own caliber. I stayed in that cavern for the remainder of my week, listening to the tales of the Girl, and hoping that my people would be reinstated without much bloodshed.