He-who-reaches-sky

There was a tribe that wandered the grasslands, where each member took their name when they had become an adult.

One child asked the wayfinders, one night, as they returned from stalking by the light of the full moon, if anyone had reached the moon, so high in the sky.

No, said one-who-sees-in-darkness. Never, said she-who-leaves-no-tracks.

“Then that will be my name. He-who-touched-the-moon”

The boy asked the elders where the Earth met the sky, that he might climb to the moon when it passed overhead, and ensure every night had a full moon.

The elders told him of the tallest mountain in the world, far away. Many had tried to reach the top, but they could not breathe. The ice had never once thawed. There would be no food, so he would have to carry days of provisions with him. The tribe could not support him.

Then I will train, the boy said. I will sleep outside in winter to prepare for the cold. I will dive only for the deepest oysters to train my lungs. I will leap and bound rocks to prepare my ability. For our people I will climb the mountain, so we will always be guided by the light of the full moon.

And the elders saw the young boy was determined, and knew he spoke his truth.

The boy slept with thinner and thinner furs each winter, outside his tent in clear weather. And the tribe thought his name might be he-who-feels-no-cold.

The boy dove to the bottom of the deepest lakes they found, and retrieved clams as wide as an open man’s hand. Perhaps he-of-the-endless-breath?

The boy climbed cliff faces with ease, even returning one-handed, cradling stolen nests and fragile eggs in the other without cracking them on his journey down. He could climb as fast as a man could run. The medicine man supposed he might be spirit-of-the-mountain-goat.

All this he did until he was a boy no longer.

When he was a man ready to take a name, the tribe’s path was changed so that it might pass the great mountain.

So with the supplies he had gathered as best he was able, he climbed, waving goodbye one last time to his people.

His legs carried him up, and up, for days. The air grow thinner, but he had trained. The air grew colder, but he had trained. His legs grew weary, but he had trained. No one before him could have done this.

It took forty days for the man to reach the top, where the air itself froze around him, and he had to take deep gasps to stay awake.

When he stood at the top and looked up, the moon was just as far as if he had never climbed at all. He took some dry wood from his pack and lit a fire to warm himself, and watched as the smoke climbed higher and higher and higher, where he could never go.

He did not look down and see how far he had climbed. He only looked up and saw where he could never go.

“Look, it is he-who-reaches-sky!” The tribe cheered at his safe return. They had seen his fire on the summit.

“No. It is only one-who-never-touched-moon.”

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