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The Path

by Catherine Pollock  
12/26/2007 / Short Stories

The path before you starts out wide and curvy. Everyone around you is jovial, smiling and waving at you as they walk by without missing a step. You feel a sense of community, of camaraderie. All of you are taking the same path, heading towards the same place. You might as well get to know the people before you get there, right?

Only one thing stops you, and that is the superficiality these people display as they walk. They look friendly, they act friendly, but no one around you is really interested in what is going on. All anyone wants to do is get where they're headed.

The longer you take this path, the more you see and the less you like what you see. Those people who seemed so friendly at first are now showing their true natures crawling over and climbing on top of the people falling down in front of them, ignoring the grunts and groans underneath them. What is so horrifying to you as you plod along is that you are doing the same thing as the rest of them. Although you search for a way out, there is none. You have to keep going down this path.

Or do you?

Up ahead is a fork in the road. The path to the left is the same wide curves and more brutal conditions. To the right, the path is narrow. If anything, the right path looks like it has not been traveled in years.

A bright light is shining from this fork - a light so bright you have to close your eyes and shield them to keep from going blind. It is brighter than the sun, burning through your flimsy protective measures and imprinting a picture onto your eyelids. The pain is so great you can hardly bear it.

Until the whisper in your ear. It is a voice calling your name, calling you softly to the fork. Blindly, you stumble in the direction you think it is coming from and fall flat on your back for your trouble. People who started on this path behind you are now surging forward, their feet bruising your stomach, cracking your ribs. The masses leave no time for you to get up, and you are sure as you look up and watch them literally walk over you that you are going to die.

As your vision begins to blur, a startling truth enters into your mind. You look towards the light again, wondering if the truth is really truth or something your delusional brain has come up with in order to help you get through this ordeal. The light is just as bright as it ever was, but but there is something different. Your eyes are wide open and you are staring right into it, but you are no longer blind. In fact, the more you stare into the light, the more you see the shadowy figure making its way through the swarming masses of humanity towards you, offering its hand.

There is no end to the number of people coming along the wide and curvy path behind you, the lines go back further than the eye can see. Not a one of them is willing to stop and help you, but the shadowy figure (which is less shadowy as it comes closer) has.

The closer it gets, the better you see its correction, his face, and the beauty, the peace in it brings tears for an entirely different reason. This stranger, this man with the gentle voice who exudes fearsome strength at the same time, is coming for you. He saw where you fell, and he is coming to help you up.

You reach your hand out to him weakly, trusting for the first time no one will step on it. The closer the stranger gets, the more the crowd seems to thin leaving you alone. And when he offers his hand to you and helps you to your feet, you know there is a different way, a different path a different walk entirely from the one you've always known. As he helps you walk away from the crowded jungle towards the narrow path, you start to understand appearance is nothing in the face of the truth. It is not how people talk. It is how they walk that really matters.

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