Mercury Rising: A Short Story

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Mercury Rising

“I’ll show them”

Mercury made finite progress towards his infinite goal. Hand over hand and face to slope, he felt the coolness of the morning with each maneuver. Mercury paused to catch his visible breath. The sun was preparing to rise.

As the sun rose from behind a neighboring peak, so did the wind. Another difficulty to bear. Trees were miles and weeks behind him—having retreated from this altitude long ago. Mercury climbed on.

With his breath restored, Mercury lodged a complaint to the stone before his face,

“Who are they to call me that?”

“How can they do this? What right do they have?”

“Benevolent? Gah! Dictator, more like”

The rehearsed complaint re-kindled his indignation. Mercury’s eyes widened as he punctuated each protest. In his violent muttering he spat against the rock face that refused to listen.

Raising his hand to emphasize his last question, Mercury’s remaining holds gave way. Deep in thought, his reaction was slow—only coming to his senses mid-fall. Plummeting back and down, Mercury looked in vain for something to slow himself before the inevitable crash. Before he could, the mountainside—which was once far below—found him. This was not the landing the once winged messenger was used to. Though to say it was uncommon as of late would be a lie.

The wind blew away a cloud of dust as the rocks beneath Mercury cooled any warmth his effort had conjured. Mercury lifted his head and opened his eyes halfway, blinded by the morning sun. He blinked slowly in defeat as a frown took shape on his face. It had taken a week to climb that rock face. Relieving his strained and writhing neck muscles, he let his head fall back down.

“Why am I here?”

While his body lay crushed, his mind raced. Fragmented thoughts filled his mind—unable to complete one before moving on to the next. This blasted mountain. The insecure handhold. Frustration with the gods. The gods. The gods led him here. If not for their . . . then he would not be . . .  His need to prove a point. The fall. The rocks in his back. The pain behind his eyes.

With each thought, the desire to keep going faded from his mind. His eyes blinked more slowly. In all the emotion that filled him, he felt sorry for himself most of all.

With that, Mercury fell asleep.

A distant warmth lulled him into his head. Its ray’s beckoned him to the sky. Around him, the cold coarse mountain had become a field. Green grass spotted with wildflower purples, yellows and reds brought a smile to Mercury’s face. He felt their tickle on his legs as he rose to his feet. It was already late afternoon.

In the distance, a tree stole away from the otherwise flat horizon. Something inside him longed to see it up close—to study its branches, to revel in its majesty. He began to run. Steps at first, then strides—each longer than the one before. Suddenly Mercury’s gait gave way to flight. Shocked, he looked to his feet. The quiet flutter of his winged shoes comforted him.

With renewed vigor he lifted his face and sped towards his destination. The setting sun warmed the grass which rushed by just inches below him. Closing his eyes, Mercury breathed deeply. He smiled.

Full of wonder and joy, Mercury opened his eyes to check his progress. The tree had grown bigger before him. His brow furrowed slowly. The tree, which had invited him from a distance, began to seem harsh and rigid. Branches which had welcomed an embrace were now rebuking Mercury.

He flew closer. Surely he was mistaken, and yet, the distant warmth had left him. Silhouettes turned to shadows. Shadows stretched and spread. Delight turned to fear.

Eyes wide and on full alert, Mercury felt sure this tree was not the hope he’d thought it was. He moved to maneuver away from the tree. But no turn came.  He flapped his arms and twisted his body to no avail. The flapping wings at his feet carried him forward into the darkness beneath the tree.

As he made his final approach, Mercury’s eyes led his head to gaze upwards at the now dark and spindly branches. He felt small.

Mercury’s sandals set him down just before the trunk of the tree. He’d been waiting for the opportunity and sprung immediately into action. With two quick flicks of his hands and feet, he’d removed both sandals and turned to run back into the field.

After twenty paces Mercury looked back over his shoulder—he saw the tree’s constancy. Its invitation. Its standards. In awe he turned around fully, now backpedaling away. Still, his perception urged him away. Turning back to the field, Mercury’s bare heel caught an exposed tree root and sent him flying backward. He closed his eyes and braced for the fall. He caught one last whiff of the grass as he crashed into the ground. It was more solid that he was expecting. and cold.

Mercury laid in defeat. The grass had turned back to stone. Where the tree had loomed, Olympus loomed greater. Emotion rose once more, compelling Mercury to his feet. His bare soles endured the stabs of hundreds of small stones.

Shame fled as anger for the ones who caused it took hold.

Pride fueled Mercury’s first step. Ire fueled each one after it.

Upward Mercury looked. Upward he climbed.

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