Decomposing Little Mountains

I used to be a lot larger, you know. But time has a way with mountains like me. It shrinks us down, slowly. Every day, I’m smaller. I’m tired and worn.

My body is still large compared to most, mind you. And I contain multitudes. Caves twist through my body, cluttered and backed up like the intestines of an aging cow. Trees grow on my back like little hairs, thinning out on the top before finally disappearing entirely across my bald crown. I wake up each morning with a quiet groan and a shutter, shaking away the dew collected on my body overnight.

My life has been mostly uneventful, at least until the time of humans. Before humans, time moved much slower. Climates changed, sure, but it all took a long time. I was taller then, you know, much taller. My back wasn’t bent in the awkward ways it is now, and the trees were much thicker, even up here at the top. But I can’t be too nostalgic. I looked and felt better, yes, but time happens to all of us. Reminiscing about old times just makes us hostile to the present.

At first, I’d get just a few humans walking over me, perhaps with a horse or two. It felt pleasant, like to the light massage of a hail storm. Humans were much louder than the animals who’d lived alongside my body before, but I didn’t mind. At least at first. But then they started trying to change me into something I wasn’t.

If you look here, you’ll see a scar across my belly where humans made a railroad. It was a tourist attraction, if you’d believe that. The “Mountain Railway Company” came and started carving into me. Nine years and seven miles later, the railway attraction opened up. Many bodies are buried in shallow graves along that line.

Now take a look here, at the end of the line, do you see the circular scar? That’s where they put a hotel. It operated for a scant 12 years. The hotel had 80 rooms and looked as though someone plucked a building out of another country and plopped it down on the middle of my stomach. It never seemed that popular, but it’s difficult for me to judge those types of things.

One day a wind blew through and took the roof off. Something inside sparked a fire and it didn’t take long for the entire building to burn down, leaving the scar you see now. These winds are pretty common around me—they’re part of the reason I’m smaller than I used to be—but the humans fail to account for such things with their flimsy buildings.

With the hotel gone, eventually humans came back for the steel railroad lines. I’d overheard something about a war and the need to scavenge metals. It all sounded boring so I didn’t pay much attention.

I liked that the war was quiet for me. Humans typically left me alone. I thought they were perhaps gone for good, that maybe their war had gotten rid of them all.

That didn’t turn out to be the case, sadly. And when their war ended, they came back with their shovels and their trucks to dig even deeper than they had with the railway. They started with a highway that dug across my entire body. They sliced into my peaks and left missile silos behind.

When I thought the worst of it was over, the tourists started to come in their cars. Every day, they’d drive across my body, stopping to take photos of themselves in the morning light.

Time has a way with us, though. My body is smaller and older, yes, but the world around me is aging too. As it does, the winds dig deeper into me. The winds cause sparks, which create fires, which gets rid of my few remaining trees, which means when it rains, it floods, and when it floods, my body falls away in landslides.

Humans do not get to see themselves decompose in this type of detail. Their lives are too short. They cannot see the context of their existence. I was born in a rupture of fire and chaos and began dying immediately. But I cannot complain.

My life has been good, overall, even with the rough patches. My scars have made me stronger. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself. I try not to think about it too much. But as my body erodes, the scars seems to get more vibrant. The scars gain importance with time, morphing from a small memory to defining feature. I try and tell myself they’re not important. I’ve lived a long and interesting life defined by more than these few moments. But the tolls of that long life have eroded away.