*This story won the SSL Writing Forum – Contest #3*
“Not another cloudy day to be flying this bloody helicopter for the sightseers,” growled Jose.
“Seems to me, every time we have one of these tours lately, the weather is foul.”
He had worked for a major airline and was one of the top pilots for many years and his income had been one to envy. The sacrifices he made far outweighed the advantages of the job. No wife or children for Jose, he never had the time for love, his work was his love.
But due to the economic climate at the time, redundancy was offered and Jose figured now was a great time to branch out into something else. The Business Weekly had this little touring company featured for months now and for some unknown reason, his eyes had been drawn to the add each time. More than the business, it was the lifestyle he was looking forward too.
Nestled in the mountains and right on the edge of Lake Hapachowchow, this sleepy little village moved at a pace he had been dreaming of for a long time. It came to life in the summer months when the tourists packed into the small town to enjoy the many wonders the area had to offer. Being surrounded by mountains, the visitors were attracted to the hiking and rock climbing and the lake offered skiing and boating activities for everyone. The helicopter flights played a big part in the way the industry operated. Trouble is the weather here was so unpredictable all the time, his machine was grounded more often than not.
This summer had started off as most summers do and everyone was keen to see the season do well. That is, up until old Dan from Dan’s Downtown Discounts noticed the smoke rising from over the ridge. The townsfolk were not that concerned at first and asked Jose the next chance he got to take to the air, could he take a quick look for them.
The cloud cover cleared just after eleven and they decided to take the Hill climber out for a run anyway. Picking up the excited passengers at the helipad and taking off into the wide blue yonder, was paradise for Jose and his co-pilot Juan. The smoke from earlier in the morning seemed to be increasing so the general agreement was to make sure all was fine in that direction before showing the tourists the wonder of their area.
Jose flew around the back of the first line of mountains to be fronted by the second, and the sight before him was frightening. His passengers were all screaming as they witnessed the volcano before them, gaining momentum with its anger, spewing rocks and molten lava into the air.
From the village it had looked like a forest fire might have been on the go in the neighboring county. Never in their wildest stretches of imagination did they dream it would be the long dormant Mt Cullatootoo. No one alive had witnessed this old volcano in action and no one alive thought they would ever have to again. Legend told the volcano god would come and ask for their offering and when the offering was received by the volcano god, Whatatoome, he would be appeased and all would return to normal.
Whatatoome always requested the offering of a young virgin female and the village received their sign when the volcano erupted, showering the village in rocks. The first house to be hit and burned to the ground, the offering would be taken from there. She would be taken by canoe up through the lakes and then the steep climb, which sometimes took weeks, to finally finish on the lip of Mt Cullatootoo. The elders would bathe and dress her and go through their ritualistic dance and make the offering. Whatatoome would roar with pleasure and then slowly, over several days, quieting back to its dormant self.
Times had changed and the mountain had not spoken for a long while. When Jose landed and told the towns folk that Mt Cullatootoo was active, a hush fell over everyone. Jose had heard the stories and had paid no heed to them, other than think it added to his tour spiel, making it much more exciting for his passengers.
The Mayor, Ben Shiels, knew what he must do. The mountain would speak and they must be there to listen. In the distance the momentum was building and fear was mounting amongst the town folk. Tourists were fleeing in the hundreds and Jose was beginning to think it was time to get out before it was too late. He entered his home to collect some essentials, only to be knocked over by the roof of his house falling in. As he crawled out from under the debris and onto the safety of his front lawn, he could do nothing but lay and watch his beautiful home burn to the ground.
Mayor Shiels and the town committee rushed to his side and the Major declared to the town, “Whatatoome had spoken.”
Jose jumped to his feet and staggered to the Major, dazed and confused. “Sir, I am not a young female virgin, I am a man living alone, how could Whatatoome have chosen me?”
Times had changed over the last few hundred years, no one knew why Mt Cullatootoo stayed still; no one knew why today was the day for Whatatoome to choose to speak. What had been noticed over the years was the change in the mountain; it had lost its ruggedness and had gone from being unkempt to an abundance of flowers and green lush valleys. The mountain lions were gone; wolves and foxes had disappeared to be replaced by cats, thousands of cats. Siamese, tortoise shell, ginger, every cat imaginable, every flower, all complimenting each other, rows and rows of colour and texture.
The Mayor knew Jose was the choice. The Major knew Whatatoome would not rest until Jose was offered. He struggled but the might of the town folk was huge and for the offering of one, would be the salvation of many. No one could remember the route to the mountain top; they knew that Jose’s helicopter carried at times, a basket for collecting water from the lake. This would be their way to the top, hover over Whatatoome and drop Jose in. And that they did. In his own chopper, they flew him over the mountain and with a great struggle, over the side Jose went. He could be heard screaming “Whyyyyyy?’ as he fell hundreds of feet to the open arms of Whatatoome.
Mayor Shiels said a prayer, looked to the heavens and mumbled to God, “Another one turned Lord, the mighty Whatatoome, camp as a row of tents Lord, what is this world coming too?”
As the chopper headed for home, Whatatoome let out a satisfied roar and slowly began to go from a boil to a simmer once again.
About the Author
firefly lives in the Hunter Valley in Australia and specializes in short stories. When not writing she runs her own business and works as a part-time fire-fighter.