Canto 1: We.A Chapter by Amanda
“418 Meters to Summit,” the sign read. I waved my flashlight over the whole of the faded, driftwood construction, searching for any further numerical indications of what my midnight hike might demand of me: 2 hours, 1,687 steps, 1212 breaths,8 strained muscles, 4 degrees of dehydration. Sadly, there were none. But 418 meters was hardly the worst-looking number I had seen that evening. At the start of my journey, the meters had numbered in the thousands. In a matter of six or so hours, I had whittled that down to 418. A feat if ever I did manage one.
Other hikers pushed past me as I leaned against the sign, pulling a canteen from my backpack. Water was running low, and the last vendor of beverages had been some 500 meters (2 hours) downhill. I cursed myself for not stocking up then, but the man peddling his recycled, dirt-riddled bottles of water seemed like a shady creature, one who did not deserve my patronage at 1000 Yen a pop. So I had pressed on. And now I was thirsty.
I could not see the summit. The trail was black as night, illuminated only by a blanket of dim stars overhead, and an eerie, snaking trail of luminescence created by other hikers’ flashlights, winding around and up the path to destinations unseen.
I pressed on. My feet were growing heavy, and my eyes strained to keep themselves focused. The night had been long, and it would get longer still. I glanced at my watch. 2:13 a.m., it read. With roughly two more hours left in my hike to Fuji’s summit, I would be pushing it to reach the top before sunrise.
“You look like you could use a drink, friend.” I started, surprised by the gruff, masculine intrusion on my wary, quiet thoughts. I felt a hand come down on my shoulder, in the way one might expect from a good friend. Only, I had no friends on this continent, and having both two X chromosomes and driver’s license that betrayed me as too young to drink on U.S. soil, I could not attest to having any gruff, masculine acquaintances either.
The stranger thrust a warm bottle of water into my gut, and it was only then that I got a look at his face. I noticed first the glasses, shining like black mirrors from the perch of his nose. His lips were stretched into a pleasant, genial smile. I was shocked to note that his face was familiar, and this was the only thing that kept me from shouting a choice word or two at him for the unsolicited physical contact.
“You’re Stephen King,” I finally breathed, eyes wide with shock and wonder. I could honestly say that those were three words I had never uttered in quite that order before.
Mr. King grinned. “And you’re Amanda.”
He knew my name. Stephen King, the Stephen King, knew my first name. “Oh, forgive me,” he chuckled. “I’ve forgotten my manners.” Mr. King motioned behind the two of us, where a line of three other foreigners hiked. It took me a moment to recognize their faces through all of their hiking gear, but I had recalled all of their names before Stephen King had a chance to introduce them. “This is Joan, Fitz, and Ernie,” he said, pointing to each individual as he pronounced their names. J. K. Rowling, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemmingway all waved back at me.
I should have had the decency to faint, but my heart was too full of star-stricken wonder to remember my obligations to swoon in the presence of the greatest literary minds of all time. “Hi,” I squeaked.
“Anyway,” Stephen King continued, keeping his hand firmly clasped on my shoulder, “We noticed you from further down the trail, and Joan insisted that we simply must introduce ourselves. You see, we all loved your most recent publication.”
“You mean my travel articles?” I asked confused. To my knowledge, my little-known column had only maintained a readership of 55 or so.
“Yes!” Mr. King explained. “Absolutely brilliant use of imagery!”
I blushed. I heard a few chuckles and affirmations of accord from the three novelists behind me. “But there will be plenty of time to sing each other’s praises once we get to the top. Sunrise is close at hand, and I thought we might all press on together.”
We. We. Stephen King had counted me among their numbers. I clumsily nodded and the five of us continued trundling up the trail.
© 2011 Amanda
AboutI'm a small-town business student who loves to write. I have just recently completed the final draft of my first-ever manuscript, most of which can be found on my page under "The Race of Kings: The Dr.. more..