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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2193233
Two men go on a search up a mountain.
"Cradle, are you sure?" said Mark, desperately. "Are you sure?"

"Sure of what?" said Cradle.

"Are you sure you saw him go up the mountain?" said Mark.

Just then, Cradle was overcome with grief. How had he let the boy get free? How many times had he told him, the dangers of Mount Kilimanjaro? Was this it? Was this the end? Would they never see Trever again?

"We have to work quickly," said Cradle, turning his face to the small footprints. "Very quickly."

The snow came down in torrents, it was no time to be playing games. Mark led the way up the mountain. As they passed the revelers, they asked them if they had seen a boy about yay tall with one eye. They said he had gone up Death's Gorge.

"Why didn't you stop him?" said Mark at the time.

"He seemed like he knew what he was doing," said the head reveler. "Whatever happened to gratitude?"

"The boy had plenty," said Mark. "Maybe if you had stopped to talk with him, you could've had your fill."

"Had?" said another reveler. "What's this of 'had'? Is he not still alive? Did we not just see him cross?"

Mark looked back at Cradle and shook his head.

"Was he injured? Did he look sick? Cold?" said Mark.

"No," said the head reveler. "He was fine."

And with that, the search party continued. It was getting dark, but nobody told the snow that. So it snowed, and snowed. Snow usually delays cold weather, so that was a good omen. In fact, Cradle had brought along a special coat just for when they eventually found the boy. After four hours of searching, they made base camp.

"Endless snow, endless snow," said Mark. "Whatever would such a young boy want with all this...snow?"

"I know not the answer to your quarry," said Cradle.

"Don't you mean query?" said Mark.

"I mean to say that I do not know what you will say to him if we find him," said Cradle.


"Well, I must say that there is no guarantee," said Cradle.

"Nothing in life is guaranteed," said Mark. "That's why it would've been wise for the boy to keep himself on an even keel."

"If you don't mind my asking," said Cradle. "What did you say to him before he left?"

A feeling of guilt washed over Mark as he stood there, mulling over his options. Should he tell the truth? Would that help them find Trever faster? What should he tell him about the boy's mother?

"I-I, don't think that has anything to do with it," said Mark. "I think that if we..."

Mark looked around and Cradle was gone. It took two hours for Mark to catch up to cradle as he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro solo.

"What?" said Mark. "What did I say?"

"I know not that which you have said this time," said Cradle. "But I do know that which you have said before. In heated passions?"

"In heated passions?" said Mark. "What do you think this is?"

"I 'think' that you probably brought up something about the boy's family," said Cradle. "Probably his mother. Probably to teach him a lesson. Probably without any tact, consideration or sensitivity."

"Would you rather they run wild in the streets," said Mark, to which Cradle paused.

"It is easier to climb a street than to climb a mountain," said Cradle. "Especially this mountain."

"But, okay," said Mark. "What am I supposed to do? How else can I get through to them? Without being run over myself?"

"If we're going to find this boy," said Cradle, "you're gonna have to change."

"I have to change?" said Mark.

Just then they heard a noise - a stick breaking - on the ridge up above. The snow was beaming down on them.

"It's the boy, I know it," said Cradle. "We will go and find him, and then we will make base camp."

Sure enough, when they got to the ridge, they found Trever hiding in a small cave. Cradle spoke to the boy, as Mark tended to the fire. It stormed and stormed. Over and over. All night long. They could feel themselves slowly being buried. They were so worried about the boy not coming back, now their own return was looking perilous.

"I, uh, I hope you know that we will soon be running out of water," said Mark, out of earshot of Trever.

"Well, isn't that nice," said Cradle. "Maybe you could make up a reason to get us out of this? You're always so good with reasons, are you not?"

"Shhhhh. Look," said Mark.

They looked over, and Traver was holding up a dream catcher.

"What's he doing?" said Cradle, to which Mark silenced him with a finger.

As if in distraction, the boy began to sing.

"All the little boys sing. What will fairy daddy bring? What is fair? The lust of all, cannot make this castle fall."

They ate dinner in silence. That silence was broken when the boy started to talk about his trip.

"I can climb faster than a sherpa," said Trever. "Aren't I clever? Aren't I not?"

"Yes, boy, you are very clever," said Mark, playing chess against Cradle inside the selfsame tent.

Just then, they heard a voice in the sky. It was singing the same song the boy had been singing. They all rushed out of the tent to see that the snow had stopped. In the northern skies, there was a face, animated in the air, the face of an old man singing.

"What is this?" said Cradle, looking down at Trever.

"It's augmented reality," said Trever. "An expansion of the internet."

"Oh, my goodness," said Mark. "Look what the cat dragged out. I would take a picture with a smart phone: of course, I'd have to buy one first."

"This is going to be one interesting story to tell the others, when we get back."

"Do we really have to tell them anything?"
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