I was safe, and I was suffocating. Grass and mud stuck to my legs, and the wet dirt squelched under my sandals. I was on a hill, and all I could do was look, turning from one direction to the next, terrified of making the wrong move.
If I move, I will slip. I will fall down this hill, and I do not know if I will ever get up.
So I did not move.
Thumping footsteps heralded the approach of the man with the goat-skin hide. Stabbing his staff into the hillside, he ascended my hill, until he stopped, watching me shiver in the cold, dewy darkness, mud plastered up to my knees. The goat-man pointed the hooked end of his staff at me, and commanded me to identify myself.
“I am the writer.”
“What are you doing up here?” His head was covered by a hollowed-out goat’s head, and two huge, spiralling horns stuck out on either side of the skull.
His eyebrows knitted together, his beard twitched, and the goat horns bowed when he looked at my feet.
“No, you are not.”
“I can’t go on. I can not write, and I can not move, and I can not think.”
The goat man lifted a hand to stroke the fur on the back of his goat’s head, as he gazed over the foothills, sinking and rising out of a sea of mist. To me, they were like waves locked in place, growing taller and darker the further they went. The goat man picked something out of his beard and flicked it away into the darkness.
“This land is dangerous. All land is dangerous, if you have never explored it.
“This is a threatening country, in the night.” He picked something out of his beard and flicked it away into the darkness. “There are many dangers to be wary of. You are lucky. None of them will kill you. I know this land, and I know it’s dangers. I can not always see them, but I know what they are.”
“What should I do?” I asked, rubbing my hands over my chilled arms.
He shrugged, “What do you want to do?”
“I want to succeed. I want to be good. I want to write the best words that I can.”
The goat man smiled, nodding. I think my response had pleased him.
He spoke, “It is up to you. You can stay here, or you can climb down this hill. If you stay, you will never fail, you will remain above the mist. But you will never move.”
“So I should stay here?”
“Hah!” He barked, “If you stay here, you will never succeed! To succeed, you must fail. Many times. To go up, you must first climb down. And as you can see,” He gestured with his staff, “There are many hills, many ups, and many downs in your way.”
The goat-man pulled his goat-hide tighter around him, and began to walk down the hill.
“Wait!” I called, “What if I make the wrong step?”
“In the mist, you You may find a wolf, or you may find a sheep. You may find many wolves, and sheep, and other things too. But beyond the mists, something waits for you, Writer. Beyond the mists, there is a mountain, a mountain nobody has claimed.”
He turned and grinned at me, horns glinting in the moonlight, “It could be your mountain.”
With a few squelching steps he descended into the mist. I took a breath, clutched my pen, and I followed.
Writing Challenge: When you reach a peak, when you finally succeed, you will find new fears. Fear is good, fear will help you grow as a writer, and as a person. You, and your characters, must learn from these fears.
So, go. Write something short, about a fear you are facing, or a fear your character is facing. What is your unknown? How will you explore it?
Image courtesy of Othman Mohammad via Flickr Creative Commons