I enjoy a brisk hike from time to time, a hike that’ll have me sitting in a cozy diner a few hours later with an awesome grilled cheese sandwich in my hands and a plate of greasy French Fries before me. Maybe a strong coffee. Food and drink to replenish my weary body. I don’t know that I’ll ever take a hike tantamount to the one that brings the characters of “This Place of Great Peril” to the summit of the 84th highest mountain in the world. That’s pretty severe. That’s some hiking! An adventure like that requires certain equipment and knowhow. A steely resolve. Perhaps a dash of earthly desperation. The 84th highest mountain in the world, or, to be more accurate, the 84th most prominent peak in the world, is China’s Xuelian Feng, aka Snow Lotus Peak, which is in the neighborhood of twenty-two thousand feet. It’s up there. My brave yet foolish hikers are two lovers I left androgynous because I never could quite see their faces, and given the second person narration it made sense to leave this particular aspect open. All but stripped of their faculties by the time they arrive at the summit, they are lost to the wilderness of high altitude. And from there things tip into another territory. It’s a story of love and loyalty, and about being in a position where you see someone struggling but are unable to help them. It’s about controlling what you can control and leaving the rest to the gods. Lessons such as these are best taught from high peaks, though there is much to learn at sea level, too. All levels, really. I suppose any person who sits long enough in the booth of a diner can eventually know the secrets of the universe, or be reacquainted with them. Which reminds me, could you please pass me that ketchup?
Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel Freight and the poetry chapbook Every Laundromat in the World. He lives in Western Massachusetts. His short story, "This Place of Great Peril" appeared in issue 55 of Hayden's Ferry Review.