Short Story Review: “Assault on the Summit” by Daniel Coble

4 of 5 stars.

Part of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, the fictional Leng region of Tibet or Nepal had its own esoteric beliefs and cultural practices, perhaps not of human origin. As other writers dive into the world of Lovecraft, Leng has appeared more often–usually a place where explorers, researchers and anthropologists disappear [see Marc Laidlaw’s “Leng”]. It’s often hinted that something alien, or perhaps a fungal-based lifeform dwells on the desolate high Himalayan plains.

While not mentioning Leng by name, this tale shares many key ingredients with Leng mythos. Like Jeff VanderMeer’s “Fragments from the Notes of a Dead Mycologist”, all that is found of the 19th Century adventurer is notes and letters. Professor Charles Polk disappears on the slopes of Mt. Nending in 1871. Letters detailing the probable last days of his life are not found for over 140 years.

In letters to fellow academics and to his wife all back in England, the pompous British adventurer notes his troubles in securing Sherpa guides for his ascent up a mountain rumored to have a temple at the summit. Then two Sherpas stroll into the Sherpa village and offer to take him up. Strangely, the villagers fear the two newcomers and deny that they are Sherpas. Polk starts to witness odd behaviors by his guides. They seem to talk and listen to shiny stone orbs when they think the Brit is out of sight range. Also, food, ropes and other supplies start to vanish in the night . . .

This tale appears in Abbreviated Epics, a Third Flatiron Anthology, edited by Juliana Rew.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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