When Glen woke up this time, it seemed lighter than before. It did not seem like day, but the black of the night had given way to a kind of gray pall. The man in white was by the table and he invited Glen to come and partake of his feast. There were eggs and bacon, toast and soft rolls, sweet rolls and danish, juice and cereal, and plenty of milk. It seemed enough for a dozen people, and Glen enjoyed his share.
The man in white ate little. He mostly stared at Glen before he began a casual conversation. “Not many people climb this high. Most find a way around the mountain at a much lower elevation,” he began.
Glen paused in mid-bite. That thought never occurred to him.
“Even those who try often fall and scatter their bones at the base of the cliff.”
Glen swallowed. He had tried very hard not to think of that alternative.
“How is it that you came to climb so high?”
“The Lady,” Glen said. “Your wife said my way home was over the mountain.” To be sure, he never thought of anything but going over the mountain.
The man in white frowned for a moment in thought. “She should know,” he concluded. “And there are less than few who climb this high and see my wife first.”
Glen said nothing.
“So tell me, what brought you to the Prophetic Peak in the first place, and alone I might add?”
The man raised his brows. “Of course. Didn’t you know?”
Glen shook his head before he tried to explain. “I saw the sign for the Prophetic Peak at the six points crossing, but I never went down that road. I tried one road, but I wasn’t wanted or welcomed there, so I set out into the wilderness in the direction where there was no sign.” Glen paused to swallow again. “I fell into the Pit of Poverty.”
“You fell?” the man asked and intensified his stare.
Glen felt it. “I slipped? I was pushed by the preacher.”
The man’s eyes softened as he nodded. “The church that thinks poverty is a good thing.”
“I can’t imagine how they could get it so wrong,” Glen said, casually.
“You seem older than you look,” the man remarked.
Glen paused to consider that statement. He spoke at last as he went back to his breakfast. “I’m fifty-seven and I’m eight. I don’t understand it, but that feels right if you know what I mean.” He looked up to see if the man understood, but the man in white could not be read and he made no comment on that subject. He turned instead back to the story.
“So how did you get out of the Poverty Pit?”
Glen wiped his mouth with a napkin and went on. “I grabbed a rope and climbed up. It disintegrated when I got to the top, but I grabbed on to the edge of the pit and 1192 pulled me up.”
“Sir Duncan. He rides a great horse.”
The man in white nodded. “I know the one.”
“I tried to follow him and ended up on the mountainside where I met your wife.”
“And she said climb over the mountain and here you are.”
Glen nodded. That seemed to sum things up, but the man was not finished staring. Glen thought to fetch his bag and cloak, though he was dreading his climb down. He paused when he was ready and the man rose to join him as he spoke once more.
“Few climb to this height. Fewer still first meet my wife. Even fewer have also met the knight. But I cannot think of anyone who has touched all these things without knowing that this is the Prophetic Peak. Come.” He turned and headed out of the cave. Glen followed, and again tried to keep his feet in the old man’s footprints in the snow.
The outside was all full of fog and mist and Glen revised his thoughts. It was probably morning, but between the sun being still behind the peak and the cloud that appeared to have settled on the saddle of the mountain, it did not seem like day yet. The man in white took Glen once again to the edge that looked over the countryside, and he asked the same question he had already twice asked. “Tell me. What do you see?”
Glen was seriously tempted to say fog, but he thought again that was not what the man was asking, so he concentrated and was surprised to find he could see something. It looked like death. It looked like the liar himself settled over the land below, and Glen screamed and closed his eyes. The man said nothing, but Glen heard the sound of wings and opened his eyes again in time to see a half-dozen white birds land near them. They looked like doves. They looked like the same sort of birds that sang that wonderful, heavenly song on the tree of life.
“Please sing.” Glen heard himself say the words softly, but sadly, it was enough sound to startle the birds. They took off back into the fog, but their wings stirred the cloud and Glen caught something unexpected through the swirls. The image of the liar that had so frightened him became itself swirled and vanished, like it had no real substance, like it was honestly no more than a picture to be blown off by the least wind.
Then he caught a glimpse of beauty, love, wonder, peace and holiness all stretched out for as far as his eyes could see. It was glory on earth. It was so wonderful even to see from a distance it made him weep for the joy of it. The vision quickly passed as the cloud closed in again, but by then Glen was looking up at the man in white who was looking down at him.
“Stand up tall,” the man said. “It is time for you to go home.” Glen wanted to object that trying to climb down the mountain through that fog would be suicide, but the man pushed him. For one brief second, Glen felt nothing beneath his feet. He felt like a person pushed off the side of a cliff. He felt like one shoved off the edge of the world, and then he woke.
He was in his bed at home, in the village. It was early summer and third grade was over. The whole house was packed, besides. They were going over the endless sea. They would spend the coming year in a foreign land, one overseas. Everyone was excited, but Glen thought of what his father sometimes said. “I can’t wait to see what will happen next.”