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"The Secret of
King Kong Mountain"

by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

This story was published in the
December 2004 issue of the KidVisions webzine,
edited by Tyree Campbell

“See, Jen, they call it King Kong Mountain,” Billy explained as he led the way through the woods.  “What happened is King Kong came out here and got buried under a landslide.”

“I heard it was Bigfoot,” Matt said.

Billy sighed.  “Why would they call it King Kong Mountain if Bigfoot were buried under it?”

I nodded, seeing Billy’s logic.  My fingers clutched tight around the handlebars of my bike.  “I don’t think King Kong is real,” I said.  I looked around and noticed how dark it had gotten but didn’t say anything.  Billy almost never invited me along with him and I didn’t want to give him any excuse to ditch me.

He sighed heavily again.  “Course he’s real, Jen!  Where do you think they get the ideas for the movies?”  He shook his head.  “I swear, sometimes I think you’re too dumb to be my little sister.”
“Am not!”

Matt laughed, glancing over at Billy.  “You really think she’s ready for this?”

“I am so,” I said, because I was and knew it.  And Billy knew it, too, because he made this big smile and winked at Matt and he just said, “Trust me, Matt, this’ll be great.”  Then Billy turned to me and said, “You aren’t going to chicken out, are you?”  And I wasn’t going to chicken out so I shook my head to let him know.  He almost never let me come along with him, so I wasn’t going to let him down.

But we had been walking for a long time.  I wasn’t scared of the dark, but when you mix the dark with the woods and being so far from home with no adults around and, again, it being so dark, maybe it wasn’t fear so much as common sense that made me say,

“Maybe we should go home and come back tomorrow.”

“Told you she’d chicken out,” Matt said.

Billy stopped and turned toward me.  “You want to go home, go home, but we’re not scared.”

“I’m not scared!” I said, but I don’t think they believed me because they laughed and kept walking.  They walked so fast that I had to run to catch up.

Then I saw it.  The path spread out in front of me and the ground dropped away.  I walked over to the edge and saw dirt all over the place.  It looked like sand, like a steep desert along the side of the hill.  But it wasn’t sand, just a lot of loose dirt.  Part of the hill had slid away, with no plants growing, except for a tree that had been in the middle of it but was now toppled over.  The jagged rip along the base marked the stump.

“They say,” Billy said, leaned in close to whisper to me with a spooky voice like he used for ghost stories, “that King Kong’s the one who kicked over that tree.”  I gulped as Billy climbed on his bike, voice growing casual.  “We race down the hill.  It’s not really as steep as it looks.  Just dodge around that tree and you’ll be fine,” he said.  Matt climbed on his bike, too, and got into position right next to Billy.

I wanted to climb on my bike, but I kept looking over that edge.  My right hand held the handlebar on my pink bike and shook, but because it was cold, not because I was scared.

Billy laughed.  “Want us to go first, Jen?  We’ll show you it’s nothing to be afraid of.”  He got into position to pedal.  I nodded slightly.

Matt shouted, “Last one down’s a rotten egg!”

Billy got moving a little ahead of him, though.  His legs spun wildly as he launched over incline.  The wheels connected with the loose dirt and kicked it up into the air.  Some of the dirt flew into my face.

I had to admit that it didn’t look as steep with them going down it, but still, it was steeper than any hill I’d gone down.  If I had to stop, I wasn’t sure that my Pink Princess bicycle would be able to get a grip in the dirt of King Kong Mountain.

My eyes teared up because of the dirt and I had to rub them.  When I looked down again, I didn’t see Billy, Matt, or their bicycles anyplace.  It was getting too dark for me to even see their tread marks in the dirt.  I thought I heard some bushes rustling around down at the bottom.  “Billy!” I yelled.  “Matt?”  My voice dropped off until it was barely a whisper.

No one answered except some echoes through the woods, and the crickets, and birds.  I got scared cause I heard a weird screeching sound which might have been a bat and I knew that bats drank blood because Billy had told me so.

Then I heard another screech, but this one wasn’t a bat.  It was a kind of “oog-oog” sound, like what a monkey makes.  I looked around now and yelled out again, “Billy?”  Then I heard bushes moving nearby and I spun around, but everything was quiet.

After about a minute, noise exploded from a bush near me.  It was a big scream, like from a monster movie.  I wanted Billy to come and help me, but Billy wasn’t there and I was all alone and I didn’t know what to do if King Kong came out of the mountain and grabbed me and climbed up a building, although even the biggest building in town wasn’t nearly as big as the Empire State Building and the police she knew didn’t have helicopters.

“King Kong?” I asked, kind of wondering what I’d get for an answer.  I stepped backward and my foot slipped on the loose dirt.  I almost fell over the edge, but instead I forced myself to flop forward, hitting the ground with an “oomph.”  My arm hit a big rock and I couldn’t see it, because it was dark--When had it gotten so dark?--but I was sure I was bleeding.

I started to cry.

There was a rustling in the bushes near me and I looked up.  Matt stood next to me.  “Wow, Jen, you gotta calm down.  It was just a joke.”

I blinked up at him, trying to stop crying.  “A joke?”

Billy stepped next to him and nodded.  “Yeah.  We skidded off about halfway down, left our bikes in the bushes, then crawled back up.”  He held up a tape recorder in his hand and pushed a button and animal sounds, the King Kong sounds, began playing.

I stood up, too mad now to worry about crying, and said, “Billy, you rat fink.  You big fat jerk!  I’m going to tell Mom on you.”

In the moonlight that filtered through the trees, Billy’s face contorted.  “You ain’t gonna tell her nothing, Jen.  It was just a joke.  Not my fault you don’t have any sense of humor.”

I pushed at him, then punched at his chest, even though he was bigger than me.  “I’m gonna tell Mom and you’re going to get in trouble for scaring me.”  Then I went to kick him in the place you aren’t supposed to kick boys, but he caught my leg and twisted it.

I fell backward, the dirt skidding out from underneath me.  This time, I couldn’t stop the fall.  My face smashed into the dirt as I tumbled down the hill.  The grit got between my teeth and up into my gums.  I swallowed some of it, I think.  My eyes began to water.  There was a rock hidden underneath the dirt somewhere and it cut into my arm as I rolled along.

The fall didn’t last too long.  My head smacked right into that overturned tree.  Pain danced all over, like my brain was playing drums.  Or maybe it was my heart, because I remember I could hear each thunk-thunk like an earthquake.

Billy and Matt ran down to me, though all I could see was their dark shapes.  In fact, it seemed to me like there wasn’t any light anywhere, except I could still see a few things.  Some plants and leaves, but they were far off.  Around me, it was all just that dirt.
The dirt in my mouth had mixed with spit to make a pasty clay.  I tried to talk, but couldn't get the breath to make a sound.

“Oh, man,” Billy said, “I’m so sorry.  I didn’t mean to push you.”  He knelt down.  “You okay, Jen?”

I nodded but then I heard Matt say, “Look at her face.  There’s blood all over.”

Right about then my eyes went wide, but not because of the blood.  I was looking past them both and saw a big, dark thing rising up out of the dirt.  It towered, five times the size of a grown-up, and about the same shape as a person, but with big, thick muscled arms.

“Look,” I whispered, having finally found my voice, and pointed past them.

Billy and Matt both turned, probably thinking I was out of my head and seeing things.  Then they saw it too.  Both of the boys screamed like they were girls even younger than me, and I would have laughed, if my chest didn't hurt so much.

They turned and went running off into the woods and I thought it was real funny to see them so scared and running away like that when here I was, all bleeding.  Too hurt to be scared by King Kong, I guess.

And King Kong stepped closer to me and hunched down.  I still couldn’t see him real well, but I thought he was kind of breaking apart.  And I realized he wasn’t really one part, but a bunch of parts all stuck together, and then those little parts were kind of shifting around and becoming little people of their own.  Each one was now about half my size, so there were a lot of them.  One of the little figures stepped toward me, and a bright beam of moonlight shone on it and I gasped.

The little guy was made all of the dirt of the Mountain.  He was kind of squat and wearing clothes, but the clothes were all made of dirt, too, and so not the kind of clothes you’d get at the mall.  He didn’t have any hair, but other than that he looked kind of normal, except for being made all out of dirt.

“I’m Jen,” I said, spitting the clay out of my mouth.  He tilted his head a little and smiled at me, then nodded.  He didn’t say anything, but walked over and touched my head where it was bleeding.

Now others of them came over to me and began looking all over his shoulder, and they made little hand gestures, like sign language, and nodded seriously at each other.

The one who had come over first walked away and the others followed.  They all stood in a circle and the dirt began swirling around in the middle of them, opening down into a whirlpool, then sand flowed up to fill that hole.  Only this was real fine sand and it glowed silver and I remember wondering if that was the moonlight, or if the sand was actually glowing.

Each one of them took some of sparkly dirt and brought it over and sprinkled it on my head and I figure the sand was glowing because it was magic sand, like pixie dust or something.

When I stood up, my head didn’t hurt any more.  I smiled down at the little guys and waved, and they waved back.  I wanted to talk to them, but I was pretty sure they couldn’t talk, because they hadn’t said anything yet.  I was trying to figure out what to do next when the people just began to break apart and they all dissolved into the ground again.

I began to walk up the hill, but it was hard because the dirt was so loose.  But I think the little guys helped, because I swear that steps began to form and grow hard as rock.  I walked up them and, when I was done with a step, it kind of blew away and went back to looking like a normal slope of dirt.  No one would guess a step had ever been there.

At the top, my bicycle was still there.  I didn’t know where Billy and Matt had gone, but I decided go home without waiting for them.  I climbed on my bicycle and pedaled along the path and, luckily, found my way out of the woods without a problem.

When Billy and Matt came running into the house, breathing heavy, they were screaming about how King Kong was going to eat me and they’d tried to fight it off, but couldn’t.  They told all that to Mom and Dad, who looked at them funny, because they knew I was back alright and taking a bath.  I heard that and laughed.  They called Matt’s parents and he had to go home.  Billy was sent to his room for telling tall tales and forgetting his bike in the woods and letting his sister get lost, even though I’d found my way home first.

Billy doesn’t play jokes on me any more and he doesn’t push me.  He asks me all the time if I saw King Kong, too, and I just smile and tell him I didn’t see any King Kong that night, which is the truth, and I don’t ever lie.

Of course, I don’t tell him what I really did see.