The Legend of Whisper Mountain - My Response to Billybuc's Writing Challenge
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Legends are born and passed down fer generations in jest ‘bout ever’ town. Hell, I’d bet there’s a legend or two in ever’ part of the world. But I don’t know nothing ‘bout that. I only know ‘bout what’s been passed ‘round in Arkansas. I ain’t been nowhere else, but I do read some, so I’m guessin’ legends exist pert near ever’ where.
Have ya’ll heard the legend of Whisper Mountain? As the story goes, the closer ya git to the mountain, ya hear voices. Not loud ones, but if’n ya listen real close, ya can hear ‘em. All kinds a voices. Some human, some not.
‘Guessin’ I should fill ya’ll in on how the legend goes ‘fore I git ta speakin’ my piece. Here’s how it’s been handed down fer generations in these parts:
Bones of men, women, children, and animals have been deposited in shallow graves dug on all sides of the mountain for hundreds of years. As the earth grew around the graves, so did the mountain. It’s been said that lost souls tried to dig their way out and as they did, more dirt was deposited around their attempts until the mountain grew to be one of tallest in Arkansas. Snow falls on its peak and never melts. It’s believed that lost souls’ tears flow down the mountain and freeze before they reach the valley below, keeping the mountain in a constant state of white cold. Those who have attempted to climb Whisper Mountain never return. Only their voices remain.
Ever since I was a little boy I’ve loved ridin’ the rails. Pa was a train engineer and would take me with him during the summer when I weren’t in school. He’d let me ride in one of the cars as he delivered goods from one town to the next. I’d always choose one that didn’t have much cargo in it, open the door some and watch the world go by as we chugged down the tracks. Those are my best memories of Pa.
But things changed after Ma died. He quit takin’ me on his trips. It seemed he was gone more ‘n he was home. When he was home, he’d jest mope about, not sayin’ a word. A couple years later he left fer work and never came back.
I was ‘bout ten at the time. I had no idea why Pa didn’t come home. I figgered he plumb jest couldn’t stand livin’ without Ma or with me. After a few days, I knew I’d never seem him again, but I needed to know what happened to him. Where’d he go? Was he alive? Did somethin’ happen to his train? No one come to the house to tell me nothin’. He was jest gone.
I didn’t see no reason to keep up with my studies, so I quit goin’ to school. I took to sleepin’ out in the barn at night so’s I could quiet my head. The barn was where I’d go to think or dream ‘bout the places I wanted to go when I grew up. It was my special, private place. But a boy can only do so much thinkin’ sittin’ in one spot, so I’d wander into town to where the trains would slow down jest enough fer me to jump one of the cars. I’d daydream ‘bout me and Pa ridin’ the rails like we did afore Ma passed. Goin’ from town to town was excitin’ and took my mind off things. Fer a bit anyway. It got to where my days were spent on the rails and my nights in the barn.
But, where the hell was Pa? I had to know. I had to find him and ask him why he didn’t take me with him.
That’s where my journey begun. And how I learned the truth ‘bout the legend of Whisper Mountain.
Voices of Whisper Mountain
First thing I did was go visit Ma. I know, I know you’re thinkin’ but she’s dead, boy. How you goin’ go visit your Ma? Same way anyone does: I went to her gravesite, where she’s buried next to her Ma and Pa. I needed to tell her I was goin’ to find Pa and not to worry. Jest rest in peace, as they say.
After packin’ up some food, a coupla books, and spare clothes, I said goodbye to the ole homestead and headed fer the tracks.
For the next several years, I jumped railroad cars and picked up odd jobs here and there, but always kept movin’, lookin’ fer Pa.
Then, one day – I guess I was ‘bout sixteen er so by this time – I found him. I’d come upon a small abandoned cargo train that looked like the one Pa used to steer. Sure nuff, there he was settin’ in the engine car. I’m not sure why he was settin’ there. It was clear to me the train hadn’t run in quite some time.
He turned to me and said, “Been waitin’ fer ya son. Welcome to Whisper Mountain.”
Then I heard the voices; not jest Pa’s but hundreds of others. Shoot, maybe even thousands. It was deafening.
“Put your stuff down, son. Let’s go fer a walk”
We walked side by side in silence as we ascended the mountain. I can’t tell ya why legend says no one comes back who tries the trek. It was easy. The mist that surrounds the mountain seemed to carry us upwards with ease. We didn’t even get out of breath or have to stop to rest. Next thing I knew we were at the top lookin’ out as far as the eye can see. It was beautiful. And so were the voices. Soft whispers, really, and very comfortin’.
Pa and I were finally together again and at peace in what we both knew was home.
Turns out Pa’d been waitin’ fer me all these years. See, the day he left, I did too. The train wrecked, killin’ Pa instantly. I was throwed from the car I was ridin’ and died, too. I jest didn’t know it. I s’pose you can say we were both lost souls.
The mist that carried us up Whisper Mountain was other lost souls who had found peace. They helped us in our journey to the place that lost souls go when their bodies quit livin’. Ma’s here, too.
I’ve often wondered what really happens when you die. See, no one’d ever come back from the dead to tell me the truth. Bet you’ve been wonderin’ too, huh?
Well, now you know. Whisper Mountain is home to lost souls. It’s where they find peace, love and happiness. The air’s clean, the colors are brilliant, the smells are intoxicatin' and there’s no such thing as hardship.
Whether human or animal, all souls have a place to live forever on Whisper Mountain.
Oh, and the tears? They’re tears of relief and joy, not sorrow.
See ya soon. We’re waitin’ fer ya!
Shauna L Bowling
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