The Fool on the Hill

I did not know why I was here, huffing and puffing my way up the incline, my feet slipping on the dew-soaked grass. My body strained with this little exercise, but I continued up the hill, proceeding to question my goal. Up I went, and eventually, the ground began to level, my lungs gasping large breaths of chilled morning air. I began to walk forward, still recovering from the hike.

A friend of mine once said the troubled mind will try to find a place of solitude, somewhere to think and relax, the peak of this hill seeming to be a place to fit the description. Yet my mind was definitely not distraught, but still had forced me on this small trek. I'd only been strolling by on a nearby street, familiarizing myself with my new town of residence. I thought a lengthy morning walk would be good for my head, not to lead me to climbing a hilltop.

Whatever the reason was, and now having caught my breath, I wanted to relish my reward for making the climb, standing straight and looking around. From the top, I had a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside. Rolling hills could be seen all around, leading to plains of pastures, the now almost miniscule town far below me; a group of aged houses compiled around a few streets.

But what truly made the sight magnificent was the glowing orb that was the rising sun, peeking over the horizon, bringing its rays of warmth along with it. Its light stretched across the landscape at a low angle, casting shadows amongst the hills, but bringing new life and color to the day. It painted the sky a stunning mix of orange and red, outlining the thin clouds that floated above. Quite a glorious sight, if I say so myself, having not seen such a view before.

Standing there, taking in the sunrise, something seemed to change in the air. It wasn't the temperature or anything, but just the feeling of another within my presence. Turning slowly, I found my presumptions to be right, a man having appeared behind me.

He was neither tall nor short, yet his age was obvious, his face carved with wrinkles and liver spots. A curved nose arched over straight lips, his head seemingly bald to me, covered by a brown bowler hat. He wore a large trench coat, matching the color of his hat, falling down to his ankles.

As I studied him, he only stood there, hands buried deep into the pockets of his coat, his eyes staring off past me. I did not know if I should be afraid or just plain curious, remaining still, feeling a small breeze ruffle my hair. The man had appeared so silently and unexpectedly, the wind causing more noise then he had. There were other details I noticed, such as how the man didn't seem out of breath at all. Truthfully, my body could use more physical activity, but this was someone who was quite past their prime, yet seemed to have made the climb much more easily then I.

"Mornin'," I said, wanting to try anything to break the silence. His eyes finally moved towards me. They appeared black, yet weren't necessarily cold, only shining as though giving a hint of a hidden knowing. The man gave a small nod, returning his gaze to the sunrise.

I couldn't help but look back myself, seeing the orb once more. I relaxed, letting the sight take me over, calming my confused mind.

"Beautiful, ain't it?" came a voice, my eyes whipping over to the man. He had actually spoke, his voice rugged yet soft. He was now looking at me, a small smile forming on his lips.

"Yet no one cares…" he muttered. "Just moving along in the world… fighting amongst themselves… not bothering to open their eyes and not worry about what they need to do…"

His eyes had glazed over, seeming to become lost in deeper thoughts, continuing to mutter. To me, he was slowly becoming crazed, continuing on with his whispering of words, hearing only bits and pieces of it. I felt a pang of worry rush across me, not sure if I wanted to remain on the hill much longer…

"If only they could see this! This magnificent view! To relax and be at peace as they look upon it! " exclaimed the man, looking to the sun and land beneath it once more. Once again, the urge to look took over, glancing back. The people in question the man spoke of were a mystery to me, but he continued to be right. The orange of morning was being taken over by the yellow of day, the process slow yet steady.

I did not hear anymore from him, wondering if he had finally stopped his ramblings. As I turned to face him, I was met by something I didn't expect; empty air. My eyes darted around, trying to find where he had vanished, looking at multiple angles down the hill. No sign of him. I only had averted my gaze for a few seconds, but he had managed to disappear. I could find no trees, no structures, nothing for him to hide behind. He was simply nowhere to be found, my mind baffled at how he'd managed to do so.

I stood there, my head spinning. With nothing else to do, I began to walk down the hill, back to the town. My mind continued to wonder about the man and his disappearing act, eventually finding myself on level ground and walking amongst the town's streets. I walked to the local pub, entering the smoky interior, the place not too crowded, a few men here and there.

I made my way to the bar table, sitting down onto the stool, letting my arms rest on the polished wood. My head bowed, staring absent-mindedly at the pattern within the table, my mind still fixed on the man.

"Never seen you 'round 'ere before," said a voice, looking up. It was the bartender, a quite bulky man, a pudgy face staring down upon me.

"Just moved in," I replied. "Becoming familiar with the town…"

"Ah, I presumed so…" the bartender said. "Don't get many new folk around 'ere much. Quiet town."

I nodded. "I can tell."

The bartender chuckled, the sound low and booming. "Name's Ted by the way."

"Paul," I answered simply.

"Care for a drink?"

I nodded, telling Ted what I wanted, his rotund form shuffling off to grab my drink. He returned a moment later, pouring it into a large glass.

"So Paul… somethin' troubling you?" he asked, glancing up to me. I blinked, not sure what to take of the question.

"What do you mean?"

He shrugged. "You came in with a lost expression on your face. Was just curious."

I sighed, rubbing my eyes. "Well, if you really want to know… You know that large hill, just on the edge of town?"

He nodded.

"Climbed it this morning," I said, continuing. "Quite a nice view, the sunrise and all… but then-"

"-an old man appeared and started rambling on about somethin' or another."

I looked up to him, now losing the count of how many times I'd felt confused that day. "How did you…?"

"You're not the first, lad," said Ted, seeming to hold back a laugh. "We've all seen him before. Not frequently, mind you, but maybe once or twice over the years. He has a good tendency of showing his face to any new residents… I've heard 'em all."

"Well… I guess that explains a lot…" I muttered. "Does anyone know about him personally?"

"Not from my knowledge," replied Ted. "Barely shows his face, and no one knows where he lives. Once in a blue moon, we'll see him standing up there, silent and still. Won't move, even when night falls or the weather goes bad. Most call him a fool."

"A fool on a hill…" I mumbled, laughing lightly. I felt rest-assured, knowing the man hadn't been some hallucination, now seeing that everyone knew. It was simply a crazy old man… or was it? My mind began to ponder, thinking of the possibilities. If the old man's mind truly wasn't lost of sanity, if that was the case, why would he go to the hill, just to stand there? I remembered his words, realizing they had some meaning.

My own mind began to perplex itself, forcing myself to shake off the thoughts. Would the truth of the man really matter? The chances were I would never see him again, Ted having already said he was a rare sight. No need to worry over a miniscule event like this…

After a few moments, I finished my drink, saying a farewell to Ted, giving a small wave as I exited the pub, beginning to walk towards my new home. Out of sheer curiosity, my eyes wandered back to the hill…

…and lo and behold, there he was. Standing up there like an erected statue, unmoving, almost appearing petrified. His figure was black, the sun rising behind him from my point of view, a spot within the fiery orange. I stood there, staring at him, a small grin on my lips, his words echoing in my words once more, thinking them through.

Maybe this man, the one they called a fool, truly wasn't a fool at all…

Maybe they were the fools.