The mist became thicker the farther up I went. I’d climbed for three days and now I could only see about two feet in any direction. The path became increasingly hard to follow. There was only one path at first, but after I left the Maker’s house the path split, then a little later split again. I’d lost count of how many times a new path branched off of the one I was on. I took one of the branching paths once, but it led me down the mountain, then back up in a loop that took me back to the main path. After that, I decided to stay on the path I’d started on which led steadily up.
I sat down and pulled off my shoes. My feet felt like they’d been walking for years. I wished there was a stream I could put them in. I came across one two days ago, which was a good thing because I was out of water. Thinking of the cool mountain stream made me thirsty. I pulled the knapsack off my back and pulled out my canteen. It was light. I took a few swigs of water. On my third, the water stopped coming. I turned it upside-down and shook it. Nothing.
I looked around hoping to see the stream again, but all I could see was white fog. I closed my eyes, but I didn’t hear even the faintest trickle. I couldn’t leave the path or I’d never find it again in all the mist.
I told myself not to worry. I’d find a Maker’s house soon. Before sunset maybe. I still didn’t have the energy to get up and keep walking, so I rummaged in my bag for something to eat. My search became more frantic. There was nothing. I’d eaten all my food already. I packed so much of it, I thought it would last for months. I’d barely been up here a week.
No water. No food. No choice.
I had to go back. I would have to face everyone who thought it was impossible and tell them they were right. I would be just another story that old man with the cart told. Just another incomplete that came down from the mountain unchanged.
I pulled myself up and started down the mountain.
A screech filled the air. I looked up, but of course I couldn’t see anything but fog. It came again. It sounded like the cry of a large bird, but there weren’t any birds on this mountain.
A shape hurtled toward my head. I ducked and heard something hit the ground. In front of me lay a canteen. At first, I thought I’d dropped mine, but then I picked it up. It was full.
A sound pierced my ears. I looked up. On a branch, just two feet from my head was an eagle. His intelligent yellow eyes studied me. I looked from the eagle to the canteen. Did he bring me water? I looked over his shiny brown feathers and white head and wondered where he came from. He looked at my expectantly.
“Uh, thanks?” I told him. The eagle spread its wings and gave its piercing call. Then he was gone.
Before I could process what happened something else came flying out of the fog. A black blur dropped to the ground in front of me. It was a raven, and it had something in its beak. It looked like a piece of bread. The raven cocked his head and its black eyes looked into mine. Did he want me to take the bread?
I knelt down slowly. My movement didn’t scare him away. Instead he took a hop closer. I held out my hand, barely breathing. The bird took one more hop, and then dropped the bread in my open hand. The raven flew over my head and disappeared in the fog. I looked around, waiting for more birds to come. When none did, I put the canteen around my neck and stood up.
The slice of bread was as big as the palm of my hand. It wouldn’t keep me full for long, but it was better than nothing. It was gone in four bites. After checking one more time for birds flying at my head, I squared my shoulders and started back up the mountain.
There was nothing like a meal from some birds to booster a person’s spirits. I wondered if other traveler had birds dropping off canteens and pieces of bread. I’d never heard of anything like it before. Maybe a Maker had sent them. I quickened my pace, sure I’d find a house before night fall.
Night fell a few times, and there was still no sign of a house. Actually, there wasn’t a sign of anything but whitish-grayish mist. I didn’t think it could get worse, but every hour it became thicker. I could only see about six inches in front of me. The only reason I didn’t turn back was the raven. It came once every day with bread in its beak. The small amount was strangely filling and I wasn’t hungry the whole day. I was scared that if I started going down the mountain, the raven would stop coming. I’d lost count of how many days I’d been in this mountain, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t last the journey down without food. I didn’t see the eagle again, but the water in the canteen never ran out.
I stumbled over a tree root and fell in the damp earth. With only one hand to catch my fall I toppled sideways and rolled a bit. I started to get up, then stopped. The ground under me was covered in moss and twigs. It wasn’t the dirt of the path. I crawled around on my knees, looking for the path. I couldn’t find it. How long had I been walking off the path?
I sat back on my heels and hung my head. My throat was hot with suppressed tears. I was sure that the path led to a Maker’s house, but now I would never know. Why did I think I could find my Maker when no one else could?
A sound. I snapped my head up. White fog swirled around me. The sound came again—the coo of a dove. I sat very still. There was flapping wings then a soft rustling on the ground in front of me. I inched forward and white feathers came into sight. The dove was just inches from me. It turned around and flew forward into the fog.
“No. Come back!”
It cooed. It didn’t leave me. It landed somewhere in front of me. I got up and followed its sound until I saw the bird. It flew into the mist and I followed the sound again.
I don’t know how long I went on like this, but the mist began to thin, then suddenly it disappeared altogether. The forest around me was clear. The trees were spaced out so the sun shone through the leaves. The dove flew off, and this time, didn’t stop.
“Hey wait!” I called as I ran after it. The dove led me to a clearing, in the middle of which was a log cabin. The dove disappeared though an open window. I approached the house slowly—partly because I had to catch my breath and partly because I was sure that I was seeing a mirage. Only a few seconds ago I was stumbling around in fog, now I was standing in the sun looking at the house of a Maker.
I reached the door, but before I could knock, it opened. The man who stood there didn’t look as slick as the first Maker. His beard was neatly trimmed, but the hair on his head was disheveled as if he habitually ran his hand through it.
“Welcome to the top of Mount Obscure, home of the Maker.”