Title: The Mountain
Challenge: Music Challenge #3
Prompt: Don’t recall
Rating: PG-13 (for violence and altogether creepiness)
Author’s Note: This scene is kind of based on something that I wrote for myself a long time ago. The only difference is that there are far fewer survivors in this version. Feedback and constructive criticism are welcome.
It looms overhead, its bulk large enough to throw the surrounding ranches and farms into shadow when the sun begins to dip beyond the horizon. Green for more than two thirds of the way up, its top third turns abruptly to bare patches of stone and earth where the trees end. In the summer, the ranchers who share land graze their sheep on the thick grass of its lower reaches. By all accounts, it is a peaceful place.
The only thing ruining its reputation is a tale, more than several decades old, of the events that would forever disturb its peace.
Those who remain to tell the story always begin it the same way, describing how the family lived on one of the ranches that sprawled at the base of the mountains. Their three children routinely rode up the steepening paths on horseback, driving sheep ahead of them, to the summer pastures. Twice a year they journeyed up and down, moving the animals with the turn of the seasons.
In the lower altitudes, the trees were thick and plentiful, shading the wider trails in the summer and turning magnificent colors in the fall. If one wandered far enough into those trees, it was easy to feel as though the rest of the human race had ceased to exist.
For years, the family followed the same pattern, living out their lives on their homey ranch. The children grew to be teenagers, but still they moved the sheep.
Summer was waning in the countryside, and it was time to take the sheep from the summer pastures back down into the valley in preparation for the oncoming winter. The night was cool but clear, as so many were at that time of year, and the stars speckled the sky like precious gems.
Nobody knows exactly what happened on the mountain that night, only that the three teenagers encountered a group of men, whose intentions were cruel and who would stop at nothing to steal. Property or life, it didn’t much matter to them.
Sensing their intentions, the teenagers fled for their lives on horseback. On any other night they would have gotten away unscathed. But the brilliant light of the moon and the grass, chewed short by flocks of sheep, revealed hoof prints, marking all too clearly the path they had taken. They were followed.
It is unknown where they fled or for how long. All that is known is that only one came back, released from the nighttime shadows that consumed her siblings.
A search party was mounted for the others during the light of day, and except for blood-soaked, trampled grass and the corpses of two horses, no one was ever found.
Years passed, and the mountain returned to its usual tranquil state. Ranches began sending their sheep up the pastures again, and parents once more allowed their children to camp beneath the stars.
Yet some say, on the nights when the moon is full and clear, and the air is cool, hoof beats can be heard among the highest pastures, and the sheep are restless. And on those nights, no one dares venture from the safety of their homes.