From Esperanto Pass
Our Two Mountains
Our two mountains were once two women: one old and one young. Hand in hand, they walked the earth, searching for death but never finding it. Their bodies cast flatlands in shadow. Fields of wheat desiccated in rolling eclipse. The soil upon which the two women trod became untenable. The last herd of early antelope ran along the valleys carved by their feet, noses skimming clods of dirt. Hungry, the remaining early antelope ate one another. The early antelope then became extinct, leaving the earth to the regular antelope.
The two women, who were not yet mountains, walked until they reached the lands’ edge. They peered to the horizon. Glaciers bobbed like corks in the early ocean. The young woman unlinked her fingers, one by one, from the old woman’s fingers. She knelt to the early ocean and whispered to the horizon. Her breath warmed the water. The glaciers began to soften. The old woman waded to the horizon. She cradled a glacier in her wrinkled palm. She tasted it, and smiled. She swallowed it whole, to carry in her cool belly.
The two women walked from the lands’ edge. The early sun draped their shoulders. They walked for millennia, or maybe it was only for one day, until they reached a gully. The old woman plucked the glacier from her belly and perched it on the gully’s cracked mouth. The young woman whispered to the glacier, and water pooled into the earth.
The old woman and the young woman sat to rest. They had been awake for all of their lives.
The early ocean was bereft, for the glaciers belonged to him.
The early sun was angry, for he had only one task: to melt the glaciers.
Often at odds, they settled their differences to play a trick on the two women.
They would turn the old woman and the young woman into mountains.
The two women slept on either side of the gully. Their palms opened to the sky like lotus blossoms. Their bodies dug trenches in surrounding soil. As they slept, creatures of deep loam wriggled to the surface, crawling under their fingernails.
The early ocean trickled mineral floes in rivulets through the flatlands. The early sun touched each grain of sandstone, limestone and feldspar as it sluiced through the ground to gather around the two sleeping bodies.
Grains piled into rocks, which piled into boulders, which soon encircled the two women.
The early sun and the early ocean prepared a ritual. It was like a seance but less intense.
They chanted. It sounded like candles rafted along the surface of a lakebed. It sounded like spits of underwater magma.
The two women slept, their hair sprawling for miles, gray rope and black curls entwined in brambled tangles. As the early sun and the early ocean chanted, the hair of the two women lit with tricksters’ fire.
Still, they slept.
The early sun and the early ocean continued to chant. The early ocean sent a murder of swollen clouds to the sky. The early sun slit their cheeks with his teeth. The ritual was nearly complete. The murder loosed light rain, freckling the bodies of the two sleeping women.
There was before mountains, and there was after mountains.
At home in Esperanto Pass, I nestle between my two sisters.
“Let me tell you the story,” our father says, “of your mother’s disappearance.”
We gaze out the window, obscured by fog, beyond which the mountains rise.
Sarah E. Roth lives and writes in Baltimore. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame. Her work can be found in Hot Metal Bridge, Entropy, Spires, and elsewhere.