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A Very Slow Burn
Fiction. One of the weirder ones.
The mountains are in love but they never ever kiss. It’s not like they don’t want to. Not like they haven’t tried, fuck. They’d love nothing more than to rip themselves out of the crust of the earth and smash their snowy peaks together and send an almighty avalanche straight down into hell. But they can’t. Doesn’t work like that. It’s beyond the pale, it isn’t time—there’s still an entire valley between them, a literal valley, which is full of snow, and stringy little trees, and demons, and details, and choices, and rocks, and thirty-something hiker corpses, and thirty-something separate spoolings of frayed rope.
The bigger of the two mountains is called Mont Berg. Not her idea. She thinks of herself as more of a “Cindy”. The other is called Mont Splifkigündenstank, which she insists on being called all the time no matter what. No “Splifki” or “Stanko” for her, no. No way. Say the whole thing or find some other mountain to climb.
They don’t so much talk. They send little tremors back and forth every hundred or so years. They let certain parts of themselves erode in the wind faster than others, so that the shape of the shadow they cast is ever so slightly different with each passing decade. Beyond that it’s kind of abstract. Implication. Whispers in the wind. Weird stuff with compasses. Hard to understand if you’re not a mountain. But just know that they are hankering, the both of them, for the colossal collision that’s creeping ever-closer—they rush, they pull, they heave the one towards the other, they crawl and claw toward the bang. This urge comes from the lithosphere. They want nothing more than to be touching and yet they cannot touch and this is it, this is the thing—the burning glacial tryst. There is joy in patience. There is thrill in impatience. They do both.
Mountains don’t so much think. Not the big ones, anyway. Mountains tend to sort of mindlessly embrace—or at least stoically, gloriously accept—the hands that they are dealt. Part of their allure. Part of the charm. One millenia, you’re nothing, you’re just a very big hill, and the next thing you know you’re on a fault line, continents are whacking into each other, and you’re getting pulled up into the sky. And now you’re a mountain. Congratulations. And the view and the acclaim and the reaching towards the sky is good and nice, but they’re also all traps. You can always be higher. You will also always be torn apart before the next ice age. Mountains find it’s best not to think too hard about either. It’s all just lava anyway. There only is, so just be. Be a mountain. Enjoy the ride.
The two mountains met at a kind of party twelve million years ago and have been creeping fractionally closer together ever since—that is, moving by only millimetres, moving so constantly and microscopically that unless you watch all the time with a special kind of laser it can only be conceived one single millimetre at a time. Can you imagine what that feels like? Can you imagine how small a millimetre feels to a mountain? Can you imagine the tremendousness of the tug of tectonic plates, and how it feels to have a fate so certain it that you might as well fall in love with it?
At dawn, Cindy feels rays of light and red gold strike her, as they always strike her in the morning, and they refract, glitter, dazzle. She is pretty. She is to the East. The sunlight sinks its shining sword into her, warms her not at all. It rises slowly above her mighty peak and licks along the line of the collision course. Mont Splifkigündenstank says ‘Good morning,’ and ‘I missed you, my dear’—although it’s possible that Splifki is not saying any of that because she doesn’t move or speak in any way because she’s a mountain. Are you following this? Splifki had dreamt from dusk to dusk that she was being climbed by the Yeti. I’m not sure that I’m following it. Yearning, slowly turning, magma. There is nowhere else to be. No other mountain for either one of them. Other places and other ranges and other things to be doing are incomprehensible. This is it, this is all. And it is magnificent.