Reaching The Summit

Entry by: Fletcher & Beaumont

24th April 2015
Upwards ever upwards we must reach. The mantra had been drummed into Ash since a small child. When she heard the words now, her eyes rolled, whether in recognition, fear or expectation we never could tell.
One of the oldest residents on the ward, Ash was also the quietest. She seemed to observe without comment and days sometimes rolled by without her speaking, so that we forgot she was capable of sound. I'm sorry to say that some of us made the age old mistake of equating silence somehow with stupidity. I wonder now if Ash's silence was wiser than all the noise the rest of us created.

There's a cliché somewhere in this fine language of ours about the floodgates opening and that's what happened one day when she started to talk. But Ash was no cliché.

' Pretty I was once,' she spat out quietly one day, ' and smart too. Only there was some that liked pretty and some that liked smart, but you couldn't be both together. Didn't go. Didn't compute.' She raised her sharp blue eyes, annunciating carefully each consonant. Eyes dropped again, I thought that was all for the week, but on she went,

'I was eleven 'fore I knew that and I used to skip around thinking I was knees of bees and that I didn't have so much further to reach. Pretty and smart, y'see.

But soon learned me. Soon taught me doesn't pay to think too much of yourself. Them that liked pretty didn't like smart, see. They liked little clothing and less lip. Them that liked smart said it wan't right to demean yourself with makeup and sweet little jewels. Both of 'em after me, "Upwards, ever upwards we must reach!".

'Made the choice I thought was easy. Didn't tell me all the squeezin and pickin and pluckin they'd do! Didn't look like me no more anyhow. But they liked it. They took my picture and chased me and held me up on a throne. I was nineteen when they told me this was the Pinnacle Of My Career. I was appearing at a big pageant - leading the procession 'fore the president arrived. He arrived alright an' he saw me, beckoned me over and whispered right in my ear. Told me to come to him after the show. But I knew what he meant cos of how he held my arm when he whispered. Like a pet or a possession. I weren't ever anyone's possession.

So I decided that was the top. I was reachin' no more and I walked right out. Like I reached the summit of a mountain. What's that song?

All that I could see
Was the other side of the mountain
The other side of the mountain
The other side of the mountain...,'

Ash's voice cracked and she fell into a long coughing fit that alarmed us all. I hadn't heard her talk so long since she joined us nigh on fifteen years ago. I wondered what had prompted her story, but as I saw her animated eyes glaze over, I knew I'd be a long time waiting to find out.