The mountain penguin had a very happy life. We as humans weren’t exactly meant to see this life, though; it is only by the fate and happenstance of luck that we were able to find exactly what the mountain penguin was and how it lived on a mountain. I never realized that the mountain penguin would impact my life as greatly as it did.
I had hiked on the Appalachian Trail for many days, in the beginning stages of my journey from Fannin County, GA to Piscataquis County, ME. It was a lonely journey, but it was worth it, in my opinion, for the beauty of the nature of it all.
I felt more complete upon undergoing long hikes, and this would be the longest hike I would ever take. The winding paths and bristled trees were like a second home to me during this trek northwards.
After a very long time hiking one particularly hot and humid day, I began to tire of all this walking. Since it had been a while since my last bath, I decided to head down to the closest reserve of running freshwater, a small creek, and bathe in it for a while. It was a few hours’ diversion, but I decided it would be worth it in the end.
And that was when I saw the mountain penguin, down by the creek. It was in the water, trying to find some fish to eat. I froze in place, confused about what I was seeing; had I been infected with some sort of disease to become delirious?
I inched up closer and closer to the mountain penguin, just to see if it was really real. As I approached, it turned from the water and looked at me. It squawked a pleasant squawk. It was not afraid of me, and it was indeed an actual living, breathing creature.
“What are you?” I asked. How could a penguin have ever gotten all the way out here? I couldn’t understand how such a peculiar event had occurred.
It squawked. It quickly became clear that the mountain penguin did not know English, and because I did not know Mountain Penguinese in return, we could not communicate properly. I daresay, we were as good as gone in terms of being able to convey information to one another.
I no longer bothered to speak to it, so I merely watched as it grabbed a fish and ate it, and then got out of the water. It shook like a wet dog, ridding itself of the water all over its body and sprinkling droplets all over the nearby vicinity. I decided that I would follow this mountain penguin, since it did not seem unfriendly towards me.
We walked down a path, in a very different direction than the trail, for about an hour. It began to get a little dark, and I began to feel a little sleepy. Fortunately for me, the mountain penguin reached its small cabin, where it made its residence each night. There were no locks on the door, and it had no electricity, but I had my doubts that the mountain penguin cared for that sort of thing anyway.
The mountain penguin squawked, seeming to invite me into the cabin. So I went in with it, and saw the homely home this penguin owned. There was a small bed, a small fireplace, and a rocking chair with a few books nestled by its side. There was no bathroom in the house, but, once again, I had a feeling the penguin cared not for these modern conveniences.
The mountain penguin lit up the fireplace and began cooking something on the pot above the flames. It had a sweet aroma of meat and nectar, neither of which I had tasted for a very long time.
I sat down in the rocking chair, and let the smell embrace me. I felt so tired from all my journeying, and…
I woke up many hours later, with the mountain penguin sleeping in its bed. Laid by my feet was a small bowl of chili, the kind that the mountain penguin had cooked when I had passed out. Caring not to wake its slumber, I packed my things and prepared to leave the mountain penguin’s residence. I ate the chili while I did so, of course.
It was not yet dawn, but I left the cabin nonetheless, while saying a quiet farewell. I walked for an hour back to the creek from which I diverted my path, and then rejoined myself with the Appalachian Trail.
The trail continued to be hard and tiring, but there was something different about the way the trail felt… except it was not the trail that had changed; it was me.
I would never see or even hear about the mountain penguin again. I do not know if any other soul has met it, or if anyone believes the stories I tell. But I know in my heart of hearts that the mountain penguin was one of the greatest things to ever happen to me, despite its simplicity in existence.
If you are reading this, wherever you are, thank you.