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Face in the Mountain

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“….and hence a child shall be born whose face shall be marked in all of time. And cursed shall his name be forevermore.

 

I looked up from the volume I had been reading and tried to perceive the meaning of this strange text. I hardly expected to decipher it, for my father, an eccentric man, had lived in the shadows of superstition, witchcraft, sorcery, and other strange beliefs. Now that he was dead I had been clearing out these scraps of worthless junk and it was only by chance that I had dropped one of these heavy tomes and it had fallen open to this page.

Perhaps you think that I am cold and unfeeling to be throwing away these precious mementos of my dear, departed father. Let me explain. I had never loved the man. He was stern and unloving. He wanted to control me in every way. When he died, I felt a freedom I had never felt before.  

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I studied the passage further. 

“…whose face shall be marked in all of time.”

Did this mean that someone in my family would become famous and be remembered? No, it must mean something more. And what about the last part?

And cursed shall his name be forever more.” 

My gaze was riveted to the book as I read page after page. Its spell seemed to hold me. I was so wrapped up in the text that I did not hear the knock on the door nor notice my manservant enter the room.  

“Your guests are waiting downstairs. Dinner will be served momentarily.” 

Startled by the voice, I turned around. 

“Send them away! I want my supper here.”

“Very well, Monsieur,” Louis replied, a puzzled look on his face.  

I turned back to the book as if drawn by a magnet. I must know the meaning of these words. I must!

The next day our family lawyer paid a visit.

“Welcome, Monsieur Balon,” I greeted him heartily. “I presume you have come to read the will.”

“Yes, Bertrand. Is everyone here?”

“They are all in the study.”   

We walked together to the small, tidy room and as we entered I looked at the faces of the people gathered there. Some were strangers to me. I thought to myself how sad it is that a man’s friends and relatives are never around when he is alive, but when he dies they swoop down like vultures to devour their share of the body. 

I listened as the tiresome voice droned on.

“…and to my son, Bertrand, I leave the house, the servants and fifty thousand francs.”

There was a buzz of voices as the old lawyer finished reading the last will and testament of my dear, departed father.

“Come, we will all have some lunch, Balon” I said. 

After we ate, I retired to my room where I had moved most of my father’s books the night before. I continued to read from where I had left off.

The days went by and I read the many passages that lay within the pages of these volumes. It was like an opiate to me. I could not stop. I read all day and at night. I could barely sleep. When I did my dreams were always of the books and the horrors they revealed.

The weeks turned into months, the months into years.

One night, in the late summer of 1887, three years after I had damned myself to this living hell I had a dream stranger than any other I had experienced before. I was walking down a road and in the distance, I could see a mountain. A voice was calling to me. 

Come here my child. Come here. Your fate awaits you.”  

The next day my doctor came to pay me a visit. 

  “Bertrand, you don’t look well. You need to get out of this house. If you don’t, I fear what will become of you. ”

“I can’t, Henri.”

“You must. I know of a splendid mountain resort not far from here. The change of climate will do you good.

“Perhaps you’re right. Maybe I will go.”

“Splendid. I’ll make all the arrangements for you.”

I felt, at last, I was free. My heart was light and I resolved to forget the books. I thought about the dream I had had the night before. I believed it was a sign that I had a quest to fulfill. 

The next day I was on the train on my way to Mont LaBelle. When the train arrived at the station I decided not to hire a carriage but instead to walk the five miles to the resort. The air was exhilarating!

I saw the mountain in the distance and as I got closer to it I was struck by something about it. I drew nearer and then…Then I saw it. 

There on the side of the mountain was my visage! So clear, so distinct, the lines so finely chiseled as if by a human sculptor. 

And then the memories of the first prophecy vividly came back to me and at last, I knew the meaning of those words I had read so long ago. 

I ran as if pursued by some wild beast. I screamed. All of a sudden I felt hands grabbing me as I fainted. 

When I awoke I was in bed. There were bars on the window. Then I realized what had happened. This was no resort. It was an asylum. The doctor had tricked me.

Now, here I sit writing this. Everyone here believes me to be mad. I tell them of the face I saw in the mountain. 

They tell me, “Ah, Monsieur Duval. It is only a natural phenomenon, the work of wind and water over the millennia.”

But I know differently.          

               

 

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