Legendary? Yes. Irresistible to the ladies? You bet. Globe-trotting adventurer extraordinaire? Oh yeah. Full of myself? Maybe a little bit. However, I think that I have good reason to have such an ego. You see, I am John Mellagnio. Yes, THE John Mellagnio, you can hold your applause until later. I’ve gone on so many expeditions and encountered so much of the unknown that I can barely keep track of them in my head. So yeah, long story short I’m a pretty big deal. I’m here today to tell you about one particular adventure that I’ve told countless people about, and one that I can’t wait to tell you. Without further ado, this is The Impeccable John Mellagnio in: “Himalayan Hijinks!”
Flash back to 1943, when I was at the ripe age of 24 (I know, I’m getting pretty old!) At this point in my life, I had recently gained quite a bit of fame in the exploration community from my tales of the Gobi desert. Seeking for more travels to tell stories of back home, I had decided to ditch the desert and go somewhere much, much colder: Nepal, home of the Himalayas. I can still remember the first time I saw the towering majesties, standing higher than the gods themselves, their peaks obscured by clouds. The moment I laid my eyes on them, I knew: these mountains must be conquered. In hindsight, I wouldn’t say I had “conquered” them necessarily, but I’d still done what no man has done before.
Nevertheless, after a full day of hiking and a lot of miscommunication with my guide, I found myself in the village located at the foothills of the mountain range. There were no more than 30 residents, and they were all more than glad to make me feel welcome. I got everything, food to clothes and jewelry, each of which I had nobly declined. One older fellow even tried to give me some of his livestock! I don’t blame them for obsessing over me however, I can’t imagine that they get many visitors living in such an isolated area.
I tried asking some villagers about any advice they could give on trekking the mountains, but they kept shaking their head and trying to signal they don’t understand. Finally, I got pointed to the one person in the whole village who could speak English, a man named Hem Subedi. He was short, reserved, and in his 50s, with leathery, wrinkled skin and a mop of raven black hair. He was a little bit rusty on his English, so it took me an eternity to get the point across that I wanted to explore the mountains. When he did finally understand what I was saying, he turned white as a ghost.
“Y-you want to go…. up there?” Hem stuttered in a hushed voice, pointing at the massive peaks. He clearly wasn’t a fan of my plans.
“Yeah, somewhere around there.” I replied nonchalantly. “Why are you so worried?”
“Do not go there. The mountains are not safe, you will surely die. Many men have gone missing, and you will too if you go.”
“Trust me Hem, I’ll be fine. I do things like this for a living! I’ve had my fair share of trekking in my day.”
“These aren’t like your average mountains. You will not survive. If the freezing cold and uncontrollable weather won’t kill you, then there is also...” Hem trailed off and gave a thousand yard stare.
“Oh, pull yourself together.” I blurted, starting to get mildly annoyed. “What can possibly be up there that I’m unable to face? I’m John G. Mellagnio, there’s nothing I can’t defeat!”
“Legends say that there is… a man on those mountains. We think he’s the reason so many have died. He-”
“A man? Pfft, you think that some crazy old geezer can stop me?”
“This is no ordinary man. The legends say he’s over ten feet tall, and covered head to toe in fur. With fangs as sharp as daggers, he can rip you to shreds in seconds.”
Ordinarily, I would keep my cool and respect the person talking to me, no matter how crazy, but I couldn’t help it. When he started explaining how he could “Rip me to shreds”, I burst out laughing.
“Look, Hem, I get it, you and your friends scared of some boogeyman from some old campfire tales, but from where I’m from, your whole lot would be called absolutely insane.” I giggled. “I think I’m gonna go anyways, monster or not.”
He sighed. “If death is your wish,” Hem solemnly replied, “then I cannot keep you from going.”
Soon after that ominous exchange, I almost completely forgot about Hem’s warning until I was about to embark on my journey early next morning. The crowd surrounded me as I gave my farewell, however they were not as cheerful as the night before. Word must have spread about my intentions, because they were acting as if I were already dead. The villagers all seemed to be in pre-mourning, judging from the way they looked so glum and spoke solemnly. Just as I was walking out of the village outskirts, I heard a cry behind me.
“Wait, WAIT!” A voice yelled, nearly drowned out by the clanking of the equipment attached to their oversized bag. I turned around and saw that it was Hem!
“Hold on a second,” he panted, “I’ve thought about it all night and I’ve decided. I would like to go with you. I know those mountains more than anyone else, if anyone were to come back from them alive, it’d be me. I don’t want to live my entire life in fear of those mountains, so please, let me come with you.”
I didn’t have to think long before I decided.
“You’re in!” I replied, ecstatic that I would have a friend to help me out.
A few minutes later we began our adventure, and by the time he and I reached the base of one of the mountains Hem had filled me in on every ounce of knowledge he had about the Himalayas. I knew everything I needed to know in any possible situation, from what to do during a landslide to how I should be breathing at high altitudes. By the time I was at the base, looking up at the lofty precipices, I had a feeling in my heart that made me think I was practically invincible, that there was nothing I couldn’t handle.
That feeling didn’t last long.
The next morning, we woke up bright and early, ready to go back to hiking in the snow. The first half of the day was going excellently, and we were making great progress. Moreover, the white powder beneath my feet and the wind blowing in my face was a fantastic feeling. It was only after a few hours when Hem had stopped, gaped to his left, and pointed.
“Look, to the East.” he whimpered, wide eyed.
“Woah…. That spells trouble” I replied.
Monumental masses of black storm clouds were approaching, and they were approaching fast.
“Hey Hem?” I questioned.
“I know what you’re going to say. We’re closer to the campsite up ahead of us.” Hem stated gravely.
“Will we be able to-”
“No. Those clouds will beat us to the site. We’re going to have to brave the storm.”
A few hours later, the storm caught up to us. The sky darkened as if the sun had been swallowed. The wind started to pick up and the first flakes of snow were starting to fall. Hem was starting to panic because we were still hours away from our destination, and I’ve got to admit I may have gotten a little worried too.
It was only minutes until the gusts of wind were cutting through my parka like a blade and the snow was pouring down so hard that I could barely see ten feet in front of me. Just when I thought that all hope was lost, that I was about to collapse and die, I heard Hem scream over the howling wind.
“Come here! A cave!”
When I entered the cave, I felt as if a 2 ton weight was lifted off my back. Everything seemed so calm and serene compared to the icy wasteland outside. I didn’t have the mental power to think of anything besides sleep, so as soon as I tucked into my sleeping bag, I was out like a light.
I awoke abruptly to the sounds of a blood-curdling screech. I thought it was just a bad dream and was about to fall asleep again when I noticed that Hem wasn’t in his bag. I stood up and called his name.
“Hem? Are you there?”
I picked up my flashlight and walked deeper into the cave. I must have wandered aimlessly around the cave for over an hour, calling his name until I looked down on the ground. A small trickle of red liquid was set in between the footprints of… something. My head felt like it was made of lead, and I started to follow the trail of blood. It was only a few minutes until I walked into a room of the cave as expansive as an opera hall. In the middle of the gargantuan expanse was a pile of bones. Were they bones? No… there’s no way. On top of this pile was Hem, breathing heavily in a deep, restless sleep. He was injured and drenched in sweat, but still definitely alive. I guess I must have woken him up, because when I jogged over, his eyes snapped open and stared at me. Why wouldn’t he say anything? As I got closer to him, I realized he wasn’t staring at me, but instead looking past me. Strange. When I finally came up to him I immediately started to ask a million questions, but he shushed me and pointed to where he was staring at. To this day, I still cannot find the words to express the sheer terror I felt when I looked behind me.
It was just as Hem described it. Ten feet tall, covered head to toe in rough fur. And when it let out its ear-splitting roar, I definitely noticed the razor sharp teeth. It started to charge at us with heavy, lumbering steps. Hem and I looked at each other, and we both knew exactly what we’d need to do. Nearer and nearer the creature came, until it only a few feet away. Hem and I both jumped in opposite directions of the monster, and it went crashing into the pile of bones. That was just enough time we needed. We ran as fast as our legs could possibly carry out of its lair and through the cramped tunnels, the freak of nature slowly coming closer and closer to us. My legs were just about to give in from exhaustion when I saw the dim light of the exit.
It was the break of dawn and the storm had ceased when we tumbled outside of those wretched tunnels, knee deep in fresh snow. I looked back and saw that the monster was standing just inside of the cave, as if stopped by some sort of magical glass wall. Hem had turned to look too, and then started laughing
“So the legends are true. Poor monster can kill and terrorize my people, but can’t get a little bit of sun?”
I couldn’t help but laugh with him as the creature yelled one last mighty roar before it lumbered deeper into the cavern. We both sat there, panting and in disbelief that we made it out alive.