On the Other Side of the Mountain

Posted on: June 23, 2016

Trees grew at the mountain’s snow-covered base, left undisturbed by a less primitive race of people. To Jeannie, the summit didn’t seem so far away, but the path took a snake-like route, adding far more miles than a direct path to the top. The group paused momentarily to take in the view, then continued on the frosty trail.

“I can’t believe we’ve hiked thirty miles already and we’re only at the base of the thing!” Archer’s younger sister Amie laughed and shook her head.

Jeannie sat watching the sunset while the brother and sister built the fire. It didn’t bother her that she barely knew them or why they were willing to help her; the fact was, she needed help. Archer the navigator and Amie the nature expert, the perfect traveling pair. She was just the tagalong. She shivered remembering how cold she was when Archer had found her. How long this journey was taking her. Amie interrupted her thoughts.

“I can’t believe we haven’t had one blizzard! This might just be easier then I thought! Just think, the three of us fighting our way to the top of the mountain. Will we make it? That’s up to chance.”

What a flair for the dramatics--nothing like her brother, thought Jeannie.

That night, Jeannie dreamed of fireplaces and wooden walls, felt the utter joy when she saw…

“Sorry to wake you--” Archer’s head appeared in the tent flap. “We need to get going. There’s a storm coming.” He backed out then called, “You’d better hurry.”

Snow had fallen so thick they could barely pick up their feet. Archer half carried Amie over snowdrifts so deep her tiny frame sank to her waist.

Jeannie said nothing the entire three miles, and by the time the sky showed the pink signs of sunrise, she was exhausted.

“Please, can’t we just rest for a while?” she begged. For once, Amie said nothing and plopped down on a rock next to Jeannie. Jeannie tucked her icy fingers under her arms, looking for heat that wasn’t there. She had never thought she was crazy until now. Her goal had always blinded the insanity of her endeavor, and even when Archer saved her, she had thought she was being rational.

It was a miracle Archer had thought to look near the snow slide. She had thought the cave would be a good place to sleep until the snow stopped, but as she slept, the mouth of the cave slowly covered with snow. By the time she tried to dig herself out, the pile was too thick. If Archer hadn’t been there, heard her scream, she never would have made it out.


We must be nearly to the summit, Jeannie thought. They had covered only five miles in six hours, and the snow was still falling in sheets.

“What are we going to do? How can we go on in this weather?” she asked. Amie just smiled and Archer shrugged and pressed forward. I guess we just keep going and hope for the best, she thought.

That night, Amie told stories while cooking dinner over the fire. “We needed more money to travel. I was only working at the general store, and Archer was writing for the tiny paper back home.” She blabbered on, but Jeannie was hardly listening. She was dreaming about what was waiting for her on the other side of the mountain.


“There’s the summit!” They all looked at the mountaintop only a few miles away. It had been a long few weeks before the snow had stopped. Archer shared his sister’s excitement, but Jeannie remained silent.

Her mind drifted back to a boy waving as he boarded the train, his green army uniform still clean, his pack too big for his back. Then she remembered the call that he was gone. MIA, miss. I’m so sorry. But she knew he couldn’t be gone gone. She pictured the log cabin where his family had stayed when he was young, the times that he had told her about it, how it was it was his favorite place on earth. And now, finally, she was so close, just on the other side of the mountain.

Tonight, she thought. I can make it on my own now. Archer talked with Jeannie by the fire that night. She liked his company, the way he treated her like a sister instead of some girl he had picked up on the way. She knew he thought of her as one of them. But I’m not, I can’t be, she reminded herself again. No one can follow me.

The crescent moon was high and the stars in full shine when Jeannie began to steal away from the sleeping camp. Wind whipped her face as she crept through snow-covered trees. She turned toward a sudden noise.


Archer stumbled through the snow, shouting. She ran through the snow as fast as she could and hid behind an evergreen, knowing the darkness would hide her tracks. She nearly cried as she saw Archer stumble past, begging her to come back.

She wanted to call out to him, to tell Archer to come with her, but she couldn’t, she knew that. What would they do? she thought, What if they told someone? Deserters are not taken lightly. Who knows if I would ever see my beloved soldier boy again.
As Archer’s calls faded into the distance, Jeanie slipped out from behind her hiding place. As the night wore on, she became increasingly lost. The snow, gone for several weeks, returned so heavy she could barely see where she was going. She stumbled as the wind whipped around her. Just keep going, you’ll be there soon.

But by sunrise, she was still alone. “What have I done!” she cried, “Why did I think I could do this alone? Oh Annachie, I’m so sorry.” In her exhaustion, she lost her footing and tumbled down a snowy slope. That’s when she noticed the little column of smoke from between the trees. Her heart racing, she ran in its direction, half crying with joy. Tripping over herself, she fell face first in the snow.

“Stay where you are,” came a voice behind her. Jeannie looked up and saw the little cabin only a few meters away. She heard the crunching of snow and turned to see the end of a shotgun barrel only feet from her face. Her eyes traveled up the gun to the man holding it. “Three years,” he said. “It took you three long years.”

“Yes, Annachie, but I’m home.”

Written by: Tess Selby
Photograph by: Blake Bronstad

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