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A Season in Hell (standard:drama, 934 words)
Author: CyranoAdded: Oct 23 2006Views/Reads: 1848/0Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Not everything is explainable...why people are like they are...why boys are curious...or different. The mountain provided its own sanctuary for one woman.
 



I grew up in the shadow of “Benmore”, a mountain on the Isle of Mull
that cast a shadow over my days and over my youth just as surely as it 
cast a shadow across the fells. On school days I never woke before 
mother would come to my bedroom, gently shake my shoulder and whisper, 
“Harry, darling, time for school.” Something she never had to do come 
Saturday, being up with the larks and excited to get out on the 
mountain with our two dogs, Border collies called Ug and Tug. 

The mornings I loved best were those when the swirling mist lifted from
the fells, licking its way up the rugged terrain, before devouring all 
sight of the mountain's peak. 

Visitors came in their droves to the low valley, crossing from the
mainland via the ferry from Oban. The one word I heard spoken by those 
people coming by our farm, perhaps staying overnight and receiving 
breakfast for a small sum, was the word “isolation.” Why, I would 
wonder, did anyone want to find isolation? At the breakfast table they 
talked about the kind of freedom they felt, the space and how idyllic 
it all was.  Some, mostly city people, those with the unbroken shiny 
boots talked about living like cavemen; as if the lighting of a fire 
and the roasting of a skinned rabbit might actually recreate for them 
some primal instinct within their suited souls. The mainland women, 
fashionably dressed in the latest red Gore-Tex rainwear, laughed at 
their silliness. 

My father talked about the mountain in very sinister tones. “You don't
know when the fog will roll in yonder those crags, lad.” 

I recall to this day what Dad said after hearing that a man called
Kennedy had become President of America. Vietnam was just beginning. He 
said, “...the world might end.”  It didn't really bother me because the 
mountain was there.  Nothing bad ever got passed the mountain. The 
radio was how we got our news. Dad spent hours turning the big black 
dial, searching for news or tuning into “The Archers”, his favorite 
radio show; a daily serial about farming folk. We never had a 
television set. We tried it one time but the mountain blocked the 
signal and dad took it back. I had to help him lift it into the truck. 

It's hard for me to talk about the mountain and make people understand
that it was a living thing; a protector, a guardian, a constant, like a 
parent.  It had good days and bad, one day gentle, the next severe.  It 
didn't matter what came, who or why, the mountain taught lessons and 
some of those lessons were hard.  Dad said that city people didn't 
understand its moods. 

“The mountain can keep them for a season in hell if they take chances.”
I never forgot that, “...a season in hell.” 

It's not every day a thirteen-year-old boy finds a dead body, but that's
just what happened.  It wasn't lying there in the snow of winter, nor 
was it motionless among the yellow flowers of spring; instead, it hung 
twisting in a gust of wind. I held my breath momentarily. These many 
years later I wonder why I never ran to get help immediately; why it 
was I felt a need to get closer? 

The woman, hanging like a dead animal in a slaughterhouse; congealed
blood around her mouth, vomit mushrooming on her blouse, held some 
fascination for me. Why her head tilted forward even though her neck 
had stretched. As I climbed closer, her hair seemed unreal, straggly, 
her fingernails bitten, and blue. She stared down emptily, a stare one 
sees in the eyes of a lion when visiting a zoo. Ug started barking 
furiously. 

Ii a moment of curiosity I looked up her skirt. Thinking back it would
be easy to tell myself there was no intention to do so, that it was 
just the way she hung, but I'd be fooling myself. I felt a secret, 
guilty pleasure, imagining she'd fallen asleep in a sunlit rose garden, 
her legs letting loose unconsciously. She was wearing blue panties, 
though she, herself, wasn't pretty. 

There is something exciting about doing something wrong. It all happened
so quickly, dare I say innocently. I heard the voice of my father. 
“...a season in hell.” I scraped down the mountain, skinning my knees, 
and bloodying my fingers in my haste to get down and exit the crags. 

I came breathlessly upon Mr. Hodges, and garbled my find. He hoisted me
onto his tractor. Back at his farm he telephoned the mountain rescue 
team, based in Tobermoray. 

Fifteen minutes later a helicopter arrived under a sky that was awash
with golds and pinks. The mountain rescue team was making its way to 
the crevice where the woman hung.  Within half an hour the stretcher, 
bumping against rock, was hoisted into the helicopter. 

Doctor Nemeth came to the farm that evening to ask if I was okay. He
said when people find a dead body they can suffer shock.  I didn't say 
anything other than I was okay. He said I was very brave. 

My name was reported in the local paper that next Friday. It said the
man found hanging was Trevor Johnson, 27 years of age. “He was found 
wearing women's clothes,” and went on to explain about the suicide note 
found in his bedroom. 

Mrs. Johnson left the island soon after her husbands funeral. 

Some things I did as child, as innocent as they were, cast a shadow as
big as a mountain over my life. 


   


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