The ash had fallen for month, piling up like snow. They wore a kerchief over their mouth, often wet to catch the ash before it could enter their mouth. The water dripped down their chin. They didn’t remember the last time they were dry. They didn’t remember the last time they had breathed good air.
“Is the mountain going to fall down?” their friend asked, as they had every morning.
They pushed the branches aside, ash sliding off to float to the ground, as it had every time the branches moved. They looked out, as though the mountain might actually move. It stood there, silent. As silent as the ash.
They tried not to swallow. Water, ash. Tired of both. “Not today.”
They all knew what had come to pass when the mountaintop lit itself aflame.
Amina and Ayako even rose their heads from where they slept to look out toward the skies, before returning to their slumber. Kasey watched them, then looked up herself. It was an event she had been awaiting for a long time. She grabbed her shoes and that grabbed the hounds’ attentions again.
“Time to see him.”
The three of them climbed the mountain with a practiced motion that showed their experience with the journey. Amina and Ayako didn’t spend too much time sniffing around, wasting energy. They knew Kasey would be going all the way to the top. They were prepared.
Kasey would be, as ever, the first one to tire. She would not give up though, she would not slow down. The mountain remained the same hurdle it had always been. The fire had long since died, Kasey watched the sky grow dark without the flames to lighten it.
When they reached the top, they saw the phoenix, grooming itself anew. With a sigh, Kasey sat down with Amina. Ayako ran over to her friend, born anew.
It was how a phoenix lived. Kasey lay on her back and soaked up the warmth of the ground.