Carson's Mountain This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

July 24, 2011
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Kat ran her hand along the edge of the low stone wall, all that was between her and the seemingly never ending drop off Carson’s Mountain. Carson was waiting, still waiting after seven years, just out of sight. “Come on, Kat. Come down so we can explore.” Carson said excitedly.

Kat stepped up onto the stone wall.

“It’s been so long, when are you going to come with me?” Carson questioned his voice bored.

“I don’t know if I’m ready yet, Carson.” Kat whispered leaning forward off the wall, looking for him. “Carson? Where are you?”

“I’m here Kat. What are you afraid of?” Carson sighed.

Kat watched her trembling hands for a moment. “Promise you’ll finally come back with me after we finish exploring?

“Of course I will! But if you never come down here, we can never explore. If you’d just come down with me seven years ago, we could have gone back that very afternoon and our parents would never have had to know we came here in the first place.” Replied Carson easily.

“We never should have come up here, Carson. You know they told us not too. Please come home with me now. Prove them wrong. They all say you’re not coming back. They say you’re dead. But you’re not dead, you’re not dead right, Carson? You talk to me every time I come.” Kat sat on the wall, brushing away the tears that danced down her cheeks.
Carson didn’t like it when she cried. He told her it made him sad. She promised him she wouldn’t cry anymore.

“Come on, Kat. Just a few hours then we’ll both go back. How excited will they be when I come back? Back home after seven years. You’ve already made them wait that long, are you really going to make them wait anymore?” Carson argued.
“Okay, okay I’ll come. But we go back soon, promise you’ll come with me, Carson?” Kat begged him, fighting the tears out of her voice.
“Of course we will, Kat. Now come on, just jump.” Carson urged her excitedly.

Kat closed her eyes tightly for a moment, “Just jump.” She told herself. But when she opened her eyes again to jump, she wasn’t at the low stone wall. She wasn’t surrounded by mountain flowers with the wind blowing her hair in her face. She was in her bedroom. Surrounded by the white walls, the metal and glass furniture. All reminders of how many years it had been since she’d last seen him.

They had come up to her room that day to get her field journal before they went up on the mountain. Her room, light pink with white wicker furniture, a little table in the middle of the room, a stuffed animal dressed for tea sat in two of the four chairs.

“Why do you have two empty chairs?” Carson had asked.

“One’s for me.” She replied, and though she’d never tell him, the other empty one was for him if he ever wanted to come for tea. “The other one is for Tara bear, but she’s not ready yet.”
Carson seemed satisfied with this answer and they were soon on their way outside.

“Where are you two going?” Kat’s mom called as they went out the back door.

“We’re just going down to the stream to catch tadpoles.” Carson replied easily.

“Katherine! You’re going to be late for the bus.” Kat’s mom called from downstairs.

“Right, school.” Kat muttered to herself. Her parents moved her to a new house, a new school, six years ago. Just a few weeks after she’d come home without him. The house had never felt like home, and each of the schools and the people in them remained just as cold and unwelcoming as the first day.
Her parent’s never understood. They talked about “The accident.” They acted like he was never coming back. They talked about her like she was someone different. Like she wasn’t their daughter anymore, but rather just someone living in their house.

They didn’t talk to his parents anymore; they drifted apart after Carson had stayed at the mountain that summer. They told her she was never to go back up there, but she went up to talk to him almost every weekend. She never stayed long, but she had to talk to him, she had too.
Kat finally rolled out of bed and staggered to her bathroom, she leaned over the sink and turned the cold water on. She splashed her face with the icy water until she felt a semblance of life, even if it was skin deep. She dried her face and went back to her room. After digging through her dressers and hang up clothes, she finally decided on a plain white tee with a black zip up hoodie tossed over it, and a pair of naturally faded jeans and black converse.

She took about two seconds to brush her shoulder length dark brown hair back into a hair tie, then brushed her teeth before grabbing her backpack off the floor where she she’d dropped it unopened the night before.
She took the stairs two at a time and ran through the kitchen on her way to the front door.

“What about food Katherine?” Her mother called after her.

“No time.” Replied Kat as she dug through the pile of crap in the mudroom. “I’ll get some at school.”

“What about homework?” Her mother asked coming to stand behind her.

“It’s in my bag, mom.” Katherine replied distractedly pulling the umbrella she was looking for out of the pile. “I’ll clean this up when I get home.” She said as she stood up and ran out the door.

She glanced down at her watch, twelve minutes ‘til seven, which put her two minutes ahead of schedule. She walked slowly kicking a small stone along the ground as she went. She needed to be at the bus stop at eight o’clock and usually she was there by five ‘til eight. She finally walked to the end of her street and stood silently waiting with the five other middle and high school students who lived on her street.

The bus pulled up, in all its ugly yellow glory. The six climbed silently up the steps of the bus and Kat followed last, muttering her hello to the bus driver. She passed row upon row of seats reserved for the middle school students, her bag catching on most of the seats as she went. Finally she took an empty seat at the front of the high school area, and listened to music by herself the rest of the ride.

By lunch time, Kat was ready to go. She was glad it was Friday, she got to leave school early and if she were lucky, her parents would go out, leaving her to visit Carson. She walked down the halls after her last class. Counting each tile as she walked, when she got to the end and multiplied it by five tiles across she was reassured that there were still 280 tiles in the hallway, it had never changed, but still she counted every day. Her bus ride home was as quiet and as lonely as her bus ride to school, but she didn’t see it as lonely, she had them to talk to.

She first met them just a few months before. It had been several weeks since she’d been to talk to Carson, and she’d been in need of someone to talk to when they showed up. Like Carson, she never saw them, or never more than a shadow of them. But when she wasn’t at Carson’s mountain, she knew she could talk to them. They would always talk to her too. As much as she liked talking to them, she preferred talking to Carson. She was pretty sure that more of them were coming, she was always hearing new voices now, and when they got into an argument, they would start shouting, she knew the only way to silence them was talking to Carson again. He had a way of making everything right again.

When he finally came back from the mountain, he’d make everything right, nobody would be sad anymore, and she could go back to her old house right next to his, and she could wave at him through her window again. He parents could be Mommy and Daddy, and her room could be soft and sweet again.

She got home and found a note from her mom on the table

“I’m out with Mrs. Thompson; I’ll be home by 11,
Your father is working late tonight, but he should be home by 10.”

Kat crumbled up the note and tossed it in the garbage. That meant she had seven hours to get to Carson and get back. That was the longest she’d had with him in months. She grabbed an apple from the fridge and dumped her bag on her bed. She ran out through the garage door grabbing her bike on the way. She got on it within about ten seconds of pulling out of the garage.

It was five miles from her street to the base of the mountain. Beyond that it was a five minutes hike up to Carson. she rode as fast as she could, her dark auburn hair flying out behind her in all directions and her clothing blowing against her much too slim figure.

They were arguing now, loudly, Some of them were yelling, others whispering, each echoing around and around adding to the confusion and chaos in her mind. She got to the base of the mountain in the same fifteen minutes and twenty six seconds she always did, and she only paused a moment to hide her bike back in the woods before starting up.

The way she always could, she could hear Carson yelling for her in the distance.
“Come on slow poke! You’re almost to the top.” He yelled laughing, the way he had the last day she’d seen him. “You can take a break at the top, I promise!” She ran faster and faster at his urging.
“I’m coming, Carson, I’m coming.” she shouted breathlessly as she ran.

Finally she reached the top and she sat on the low wall. “Carson? Carson, I’m here.”
“Hi, Kat. why don’t you come see me anymore?” Carson replied, his voice quivering as any seven year old boys voice would when he was upset.
“I’m sorry. It’s just with Mom and Dad, it’s so hard to get away from them anymore. They always want to know where I’m going, and they wouldn’t let me come if they knew I was coming here.”
“Then don’t go back, Kat. Come with me.” He argued. ”Just once, then I can come back with you. Then everything can go back to the way it was.”

“Carson?” Kat asked “Why can’t anyone else hear you? Why do they all say you’re dead?”
“They don’t know me, none of them.” He replied. “Only you do.”
“Why can’t you come back now?” Kat pleaded “I promise we can come back again. But they all say you aren’t here. Why can’t we just go home?”

“I’ve been waiting here for seven years, Kat.” He replied, his voice frustrated “You’re never ready. Why do you even come anymore? Why can’t we just go?”

“I’m sorry.” Cried Kat, “I’m still scared like I was seven years ago. You said everything was gonna be okay! You pinky swore, you wouldn’t let me go, but then you left me. You made me wait up here by myself. I waited all day and all night. You never came back.”

“I’m sorry, Kat” said Carson his voice sad now “I thought you were coming, I never left. I’ve been here all along.”
“Then come back with me. Please, Carson?” Kat begged him again.
“No, Kat. I’m not coming back until we finish exploring.” His voice set as any stubborn child’s would be.
Kat lay back onto the the cold stone of the wall. “If I come with you, just once. We can go and never come back?” She asked him quietly.
“We never have to come back.” He agreed easily.
Kat sat up, “Okay I’ll come.” she whispered.
“No! Don’t do it. Don’t go with him.” They cried “Don’t go.”
Kat jumped back in surprise, the voices always left her alone when she was with Carson.
“No!” cried Carson in surprise, “Come on, Kat. I’ve been waiting so long.”

Kat backed away from the wall. “Carson, where are you?” she asked her voice high and scared like it had been the day he first left her standing there alone.

“I’m right here Kat. I’m where I’ve been all along.” Replied Carson calmly.
“Then why, why can’t I see you? Why have I never been able to see you in seven years?” she questioned him, her voice still high and shaking.

“Kat, why are you asking now? Don’t you trust me? Haven’t you put everyone through enough pain? You’re just a little girl, Kat. You don’t know anything. I’ve been here the whole time. But you just can’t see me. If you could see me, none of this ever would have happened. This is all your fault. No one likes you. You’re the reason they all think I’m dead. You couldn’t make them believe I wasn’t. You’re useless. It’s your fault. It’s all your fault!” He shouted at her.

Kat backed farther from the wall. “Carson? Why are you saying that?”

Why would Carson, her Carson ever say that? He said he’d never let her get hurt, he’d said she was like his little sister, he told her she was pretty and funny and smart when the other kids told her she was stupid and ugly and weird. Why would her best friend say that.

“Carson, please...” She begged him.
“No!” he shouted back “I don’t want to wait anymore. I’m not coming back, never, never, never. I hate you, Kat! Just go away. No one wants you. You have no friends, your parents don’t love you, you are nothing.”
“I thought you were my friend, Carson. I thought you were my best friend.” she whispered not bothering to hide her tears from him.
“You aren’t my friend, Kat. You never were and never will be. You are just a stupid little neighbor girl who can’t even tie her shoes.”

Kat shook her head tears dripping off her face of the the dirt road, her back as tight against the mountains exposed rock as she could get.
“Please, Carson, Please take it back.” she cried
“No.” replied Carson. “I won’t take back the truth. I’m leaving now. I’m not wasting anymore time waiting for you.”
Then silence.
“Carson?” Kat called through the silence, “Carson, where are you?”
There was no answer to Kat’s call and she slowly walked over the wall
“Carson?” she whispered softly “Anyone?” she asked to the complete silence she’d grown unaccustomed to. Nothing, no one said a word, they were gone. Not even an echo lingered in her mind. It was completely empty, completely silent. All she could hear was her own faint thoughts asking why.

“Carson?” She asked one last time. “I’m coming.”
Kat leaned over the edge of the wall. “I’m coming.”
Kat took a deep breath, closed her eyes and jumped forward into nothing.

Katherine Janette O'Connor age 15 was found dead Saturday just off Chesterfield trails on what she and her family knew as Carson’s Mountain. Police say she jumped off the small stone wall some 300 feet up. Her family believes that her death is a delayed result of a tragic accident at the same wall almost exactly 7 years ago when her best friend [Carson Daniels] fell from that wall and died. Her mother says “Katherine never really got over his death. For years she argued that he wasn’t dead. She finally stopped talking about it and her father and I assumed she had finally realized the truth.” Authorities are unclear on what prompted her to jump when she did, but there are no signs of foul play.

Katherine’s memorial service is scheduled for Monday October 10th at Jackson Baptist Church, to begin at 11:00am.

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