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A painting of three people

The Climb

Awarded Special Commendation in the University of Aberdeen 2016 Flash Fiction Competition

There was two of them went up that day and I won’t say who came down again. We heard that they travelled from elsewhere to climb, this man and his brother, and they stayed with the smith that first night. I was sent along in the morning to act as guide for the foothills and they spoke to me in this accent. They asked did I know what a certain plant was called and what names did we give to features in the land?


We made a stop out of tiredness and the man showed me something from his pocket. It was this kind-of watch and he said something strange. He said, ‘Soon these hills will be ours and your sort will be long gone.’ He had his gun so I was quiet. I poured wine. The brother kept records of the walking. He had papers and instruments for doing so and he was a kinder man – he said, ‘Don’t,’ after the man talked of my sort being gone.


They asked to be shown the Dolphin Sound, so I brought them there. This was where the waters were moving with fishes and so on. The ground went down and under the waters and no one lived here because of storms. The man and his brother made measurements and put some dirt in a glass canister. The man said, ‘This is a foul place.’ ‘But fertile,’ said the brother. The man pointed his gun at something on the horizon but it was for fun because nothing was there.


They asked to be shown the Sleeping Soldier, so I brought them there. This was these rising hills just before the peaks. From there you could look out over the village and the fields and the river’s rope of movement. ‘Take a good look at this,’ the man told me, ‘for soon you will have no claim.’ The brother scolded the man by saying his name to him. ‘What?’ laughed the man. ‘She does not understand.’


Night came and it was in my contract that I would spend it with them. They built a camp on the Sleeping Solider and I showed them where to find rabbits and country cabbage. I was paid to stay 17 watchful in the night hours, to call if I saw wolves or bandits. Nothing came, so the man and his brother woke fresh.


They said goodbye and went off to the peaks. I stayed by the dead fire and peeled eggs. I watched the man and his brother get smaller, up on the mountainside, and I was laughing. Then I watched them come down again, a short while after. ‘You’re still there,’ said the man; the brother just stood. I bit an egg. ‘I’ve left my gun someplace,’ said the man. I took out the gun and the man shook his head. He said, ‘Give that back to me.’ So I held up the gun and the brother said, ‘Oh no,’ and I bit another egg.

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