“Did you come up here alone, Bro?” One of the two men asked as they approached me with blinding headlamps and full climbing gear.
Eating alone with a small fire was an obvious answer to me, but, friends are harder to make than enemies. The only reason I came to this cursed mountain was to be alone. My mouth wasn’t going to get me into trouble again.
“Uh, yeah. I did. It helps clear my mind.” Grabbing my water bottle, the cool liquid chilled my throat as it traveled down to join a small supper.
Turning to his friend, he said, “No way. I never climb up here alone.”
“That’s because you’re too superstitious.” The second man turned his attention back on me, “If you want company for the night, we’ll be up the ridge behind those rocks. There’s some weather coming in, so hole up somewhere safe.”
I nodded, “Right. You guys going all the way up?”
“No. We’ve been to the peak before and it isn’t worth the effort. We camp up on the upper shelf. Feel free to join us if you want.”
“Thanks. I’ll give it some thought.”
The first guy nudged the other’s arm, “Let’s go, Bro. I’m hungry.”
Leaving me alone, they turned up the mountain. Muttering, I shouldered my gear and headed to a lower section known for caves.
The storm slowed my progress, forcing me to pick my steps with care as the rocks took on a slick coating of moisture. The rain beat my skull and soaked my clothes for a solid twenty minutes before I reached the opening. It wasn’t the cave I was aiming for, but proved large enough for shelter. My flash-light pierced the blackness, revealing a chamber towards the rear.
“Hopefully, no one else is in here.” My voice echoed back onto me with a haunting effect.
Water dripped from the ceiling and flowed over the walls, coating them in a thin layer of slime. The wedge shaped ceiling forced me to remove my pack and drag it behind me. Similar marks on the floor signaled a previous explorer.
Finding a dry area, I leaned against the wall of the claustiphobic chamber.
“Wonder how the other guys are doing?”
A whispered hiss from the cavern froze me in place. Womanly. As if it were her dying breath escaping her cooling body. The hairs on my arms and neck stood fully erect as my breathing escalated matching the furious pace of my heart. A wave of fear battled my willpower as I swallowed the lump in my throat.
Turning to my right, warm air caressed my cheek. The stench of death and rot brought bile to my tongue. Coughing, I downed some water to return the acid to its lair and ease the fiery burn.
The hiss came again, tickling my right ear like moth wings and accompanied by a sweet floral scent.
My mind screamed at me to run, but, my hands and knees could only take me further in. There was someone here, and I longed to know them.
Small bits of bone and rock were strewn along the floor as I approached the edge of a pit. With my fingers gripping the ledge, blackness swallowed any light. The warm air intensified, kidnapping my breath and driving me to to cover my nose with my shirt.
Peering over the edge, I heard the hiss one last time. The faint outline of a human form hovered in front of me.
A wave of sweet jasmine washed over me as it whispered, “YESSS.”