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Hope Mountain by Rhys Jones

There was a man stood by the stile at Hope Mountain. My mood must have been plastered all over my face because he said, “Cheer up, it might never happen.” 

I walked on, ignoring him. You see it had happened. I’d got into heavy debt, I lost everything, my business, my house and my marriage.

I came to a waymark sign and followed its direction up a path. I reached into my rucksack and gripped the rope inside. I heard footsteps, there was somebody walking towards me coming from the opposite direction, it was the stranger from the stile, he'd somehow got in front of me. I quickly moved off into the trees.

My noose swung in the wind. I’d chosen a tree next to a ruined wall, I sat on it as I prepared myself to do the deed.  That's when I saw the stranger approaching me. He looked from the noose to me and then casually picked up a rock.  I watched him but didn’t say a thing. 

“This is just a rock, on its own it's nothing,” he said, “but, together with all the other rocks it makes up this mountain. Every mountain starts with just one rock. Hope is the same, get one piece and then another, eventually you’ll have a mountain.” 

He handed me the rock, then walked away. 

I pondered his words as I put the noose around my neck and stepped off the wall. My feet dangled freely, the pain was immense and I instantly regretted what I'd done. I suddenly realised I wasn’t done yet, deep down I still had hope for the future, for myself. As I struggled to free myself I saw the stranger standing in front of me, he asked me if I wanted to be let down. I desperately wanted to say yes but the rope dug so deep into my neck, crushing my wind pipe, that I was unable to speak. All I could do was attempt a nod. I wasn’t sure he understood because my body had gone into violent spasms. This was the last thing I remember.

I must have passed out, but I woke up on the ground. My body, especially my neck, was in agony. The rock the stranger had given me was in my pocket. I wanted to thank him but I've never seen him again. I've kept the rock as a reminder, though. 

A reminder that there is always hope, even if it's just a small amount and it’s hard to see. Look for it and you’ll find it. Every rock is needed to make a mountain. Every piece of hope builds up towards a reason to live. So if you’re ever feeling low and find yourself in the area, take a walk up the mountain and come back down with your own piece of hope. And if you happen to see the stranger be sure to thank him for me.

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