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You could tell just by looking at them. The way their eyes seemed to focus and refocus every time something new flew into frame, how, at night, while gazing into space, they would salute every star in the sky, and how, in the morning, just walking to work, they would skip over every blade of grass. You could tell when someone had reached the summit of Devil Hill; it was as if they knew something you didn’t, as if they were all laughing at the same inside joke.
Apparently, Satan himself hung out up at the top, offering a glimpse at all of the beauty in the world to anyone who managed to meet him up there. He did this because he knew most people wouldn’t manage the climb, and he found it very amusing to watch them scream their way to the bottom. Devil Hill was a lot more like Devil Cliff, and all of the beauty in the world couldn’t save those climbers.
I knew this too. Frequently, I would come out to the surrounding mountains to paint a landscape, only for my painting to be spoiled by a rotten corpse, carrying the same easel I carried, harboring the same hunger in its eyes, tainting my greens and blues.
But sometimes I would paint anyway. The bones obstructing the foreground intrigued me; were these the bodies of painters who were simply hungrier than I was? Painters, in their desperate attempts to capture beauty, searching for it on cracked ledges I wouldn’t dare step foot on, paying a price that I could only dream of affording?
I wondered why none of the glazed-eye survivors of Devil Hill could ever paint a picture of this grand vision surrounding them, why only blacksmiths and carpenters ever made it to the top, never poets.
I had to know. I was wasting my days trying to force nature into a canvas, when I didn’t even understand what I was looking at. If I could fit a fraction of the truth into a painting, I would be a master, and I knew that truth was waiting for me at the top of the hill.
I made it to the top. I won’t bore you with the details of the climb, because, to be honest, it wasn’t very difficult. A few loose footholds and a couple shaky branches, and I had the entirety of Devil Hill below me. Digging my fingers into the dirt, my hand slipped into a perfectly shaped crevice, one that could only have been carved out by thousands of climbers before me pulling themselves up at the exact same spot. It was strange, but it felt natural, so I kept pulling until I stood on top of Devil Hill.
Lo and behold, there he was, horns and all. He introduced himself, remaining very polite the whole time, a plastic enthusiasm in his voice usually reserved for weddings and graduations. Without much of a show, he offered to show me all of the beauty in the world, as promised. And, of course, I triumphantly accepted. I had just climbed Devil Hill, after all.
He opened his bag, and there it was. I listened to the stories of every ant ever crushed underfoot, I watched the sun boom into existence. As the heat unfolded over a rocky Earth like sugar dissolving in water, I stood on top of Devil Hill, and I watched the grass grow, I watched every star in the sky stare right back at me and salute. I could see everything, every painting, every rooftop, every first kiss and every last one. Everything was beautiful.