Had I known things were going to end up like this, I might have started differently. I might have decided to shoot for another outcome, or come up with a backup plan.
Maybe, but not likely.
I was about three minutes away from find out if it really was going to end up like I feared. Probably. What’s the worst that can happen? Well, I didn’t really want to think about the worst. I have a pretty good imagination; I can imagine some pretty awful things. If I let my imagination run loose unrestrained it wouldn’t take long for me to turn into a raving lunatic. Maybe that’s I didn’t plan for too many options. That would require looking too carefully into the future, a future that might have me ending.
I remember once when I was a kid, me and a couple of friends had always wanted to climb to the top of this mountain. Not really a mountain, more like a hill, the elevation was only a couple hundred feet. But when you’re a kid, that’s high enough. The trees were thick, and it didn’t take long to lose sight of the road below. We’d tried a couple times, but never got really far.
There wasn’t anything particularly special about this one little hill. There hadn’t been any mass murders, or abandoned mines that swallowed kids whole, or a couple of wildcats that lived in the area. It was just a hill. But every time we’d started out, we’d lost our nerve. The trees were thick, and the road wasn’t the only thing we lost sight of.
You could easily see the top as you walked toward it, but once you started pushing through the brush, all you could see was five maybe ten yard ahead. The only thing that kept you pointed in the right direction was the slope of the hill. We figured that as long as we were walking up hill, we were going towards the top.
But there was one area that had these really strange trees. They had very thick branches, and blocked most of the light from coming through. So it got pretty dark, pretty quick. There was also that strange feeling, just outside of consciousness, like we were being watched. We never made it very part past that point.
At least until that one day.
We’d always given each other a hard time, never taking full responsibility for not following through. Always blaming somebody else. Of course, we’d jump on any excuse we could to turn back, but once we got back to the main road, and our fear had vanished, we would turn that excuse into an example of weakness for whoever had originally come up with the excuse.
I had been two weeks, and we’d been talking to each other pretty harshly. Brining up all the previous times we’d given up, sharing as much criticism of each other as we could remember. We made a pact, to the top. Only to the top. No excuses. No backing out. Even If we saw the living dead we wouldn’t turn back.
So we started out, until we got to the dark spot. Again we hesitated. But we pushed through. We were surprised when we saw the cabin. Not really a cabin, more like a shack. We were sure that nobody lived up here.
We stopped, studying the shack. It looked deserted. We approached it slowly, the strength of our unbreakable pact quickly shrinking into the back of our minds. We peered into the window. Nothing. We checked the front door. Not even a lock. We pushed it open, nothing. Empty.
Just a shack.
We decided to keep pushing toward the top. We’d check the shack again on the way back. We left the shack and started walking up hill. Within about twenty minutes, the trees thinned out considerable, and we could see the top. The sun became bright again, and we started running. When we reached the top, all of us were smiling. Big, huge, smiles of both happiness and relief. All those times we’d started out, and then turned back gone. We’d beaten those demons in our heads.
We remembered the shack. Our minds raced with excitement. Maybe we could sleep there one night. We formed a plan. We’d tell each of our parents we were staying at each other’s house. Then we’d all meet up with our sleeping bags. We’d have to bring some flashlights, and some candles. And maybe some food. Like a loaf of bread, and a jar of peanut butter.
I checked my watch. It was time. I blocked the fears from my mind, and pushed forward into the light. I suddenly had a feeling somehow that everything was going to work out.
I walked out on stage, and audience stood, and applauded. I smiled.
It was showtime.
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