APROXM: SHORT STORIES

THE LUMINOUS PATH

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PREFACE: Epithany.



Stars faded in the brooding night sky, and clouds rolled back and forth ominously. It would have been a rather pretty sight to behold, except I was lying on the ground with a severe headache and a lack of pants. I felt for my golden pocketwatch, something that was so very dear to me, though in this state I couldn't discern why. Patting my bare leg gave me an epithany: I was completely declothed. Startled at this realization, I jumped up and scanned the area for any signs of danger and/or pants. I found nothing, nothing except a twinkling light billowing directly in front of me, sheltered by tree among tree. In fact, I did a quick spin around and realized I was beleagured by forest, with the clearingaround me being the only saving grace. I put my focus back onto the light and decided to myself that if I indeed could not remember how I got here and I indeed am lacking pants, following this light might be the only thing bridging me between dying here in a cold land and living in a warm abode. With a quick internal debate, I decided to throw caution to the wind and set off on a journey towards the indiscriminate light.

Thick vines lashed out at me as I braved my way through the forest. It seemed lighter going in, but as I continued deeper and deeper, tree stumps and the ground formed an irrational ratio. For the sake of saving myself from embarassment, I'm going to pretend I didn't trip over jagged rocks and plant my face deep into the soil a few times. But what I did do was follow that beautiful light. I never seemed closer, it always seemed farther. I felt like I had been walking through the jungle substitute for hours and felt hunger pangs vibrate in my consciousness... and stomach. I became distracted by my hunger and let my eyes off of the light as I searched the leaf-grazed forest ground. An ant convoy seemed to be minding their own business, but in this dimly lit growth, it could have very well been a span of rocks. I then entertained myself with thoughts of tiny pebbles marching throughout the woodland, searching for food and adventure, then quickly reminded myself I was hungry, which led me to search for anything edible or at the very least digestible. As I searched, I realized my mistake and hastily brought my eyes forward, and observed the abscense of the light. I felt a knot in my stomach form as the sudden realization that my only compass had dissappeared in this horrible thicket, when the next basic human need arrived at my subconsciousness: water.

It was at this moment when nature seemed to answer my plea for help, and I heard the faint rushing of water. It was also at this moment that my mind began to erupt into horrible thoughts of my sudden untimely demise, and the wonderous thoughts that if I do die, someone is going to find me laid up against a tree, completely naked. I panicked, and rushed the sound of waves. I blew through branch after branch, bramble after bramble, vine after vine in this godforsaken coppice. As if a cliche ruled my life, my foot played football with a large boulder and the boulder won, sending my body rocketing forwards. I crashed into putrid smelling muck, caking my face with the earth. I screamed at the sudden pain flowing throughout my figure, but the dirt muffled it to the point where only the rushing tributary could listen to my embarassment. Wait, what? Tributary?

I raised my body up and although I could not see anything besides the rough dirt and a disheveled earthworm crawling around, I heard the rushing water before me. I cautiously took a few steps forward, balancing the dangers of being blind and being near a rippling river when I slid on smooth clay and launched forward into the coursing creek. I thrashed around aimlessly trying to get a grip on an outward root or a boulder or anything but instead found only the comfort of more rushing water.The torrent of water whiplashed me and washed the mud off of my visage, allowing the benefit of seeing how close I was to dying, with jagged rocks protruding out of the base of the river, inviting me to be stabbed and killed. I screamed as I passed by the rocks, each one discussing the benefits of being stabbed, my frame being beaten and slashed and bruised and maimed by the emotionless hazards. I wished for my family, if they even existed, and I wished I could be reunited with my golden pocketwatch and gaze upon the picture inside just once more. I began to form sentimental thoughts of my eventual death and that I would've rather died doing something incredible, like riding a blimp with a saddle and cowboy hat, rather than dying in a dark estuary completely naked, when the river began to thin itself and become narrower. The rush died down and became slow and steady as I plummeted back into the earth for a second time.

I rose from the ground for the third time tonight and observed my surroundings, then realized I couldn't observe my surroundings because my features were once again caked with gunk, so I approached the creek with caution and washed the mud off, scrubbing with deep concentraton and flinching in pain as I dug into my wounds. As I finished ridding my face of the rest of the gunk, I felt around my body and realized how wounded I was. Cuts and scrapes littered my face like unwelcome pimples on a teenager. Deep wounds and stabs formed a constellation over my frame. My legs and arms had the honor of showcasing tearing and blood. After observing my body for a few minutes, I doubled over in pain and let tears wash over me. Through misty eyes I examined something I thought lost forever,

Light.

The world stood still. Branches stopped swaying. Leaves rested on the earth. The creek refused to budge. I didn't hear any birds on this awful journey but if they existed, they were silent. My eyes pierced the light, yet the light seemed to pierce my eyes. I wiped my teary eyes and stumbled forward, ignoring my bruises and wounds. I hobbled at an alarming pace, a hobble turned into a walk, a walk turned into a sprint, a sprint turned into a dash. I almost seemed to glide through the forest, avoiding nature's obstacles, staying close to the river but with a goal on my mind. The creek and light finally guided me to my destination. As I stepped out of a few trees, I found what produced the soft glow of beams that began and ended my journey.

Darkness continued to shroud the coppice, yet I could still make out miniscule details with the help of the abode's light. The wooden cabin stood tall at what appeared to be roughly two stories high, with windows plastered all around, shining gently into the forest. A porch guarded the home, with ancient rocking chairs ruling the decoration. I would have continued to describe the exterior when all the lights went out. A confused expression formed on my features until roughly a minute passed and the lights flickered back on. I had then realized that I had simply stood here in the boundaries of timber and home and decided to march my way to this gateway to freedom. As I walked, I began to regain feeling in my frame and was able to walk almost like a normal person could. I strolled towards the front door and climbed the creaking steps. I raised my fist to knock the door but froze. I stared intently at the entrance and felt a sense of familiarity. I felt as if I had knocked on this door many, many times ago. I struggled with my fist, feeling conflict with the door. I probably would have stood there for hours if I hadn't smelled a peculiar scent, but I did. My nose stiffened and I noticed a window to my left was cracked open, welcoming any visitor or danger. I peered through and viewed an empty living room, complete with a crackling fire place. This registered the thought that someone was home, and thus, I ignored my odd sense of de ja vu and knocked on the door. Patience ran thin as minutes ran by. I knocked twice, thrice, then overwhelming panic set in. I started thinking things I didn't want to think, remembering things I didn't want to remember. In my exploding state of mind, I slammed my foot into the door, sending the wooden barrier flying across the room, and sending splinters all into my bare foot. Ignoring the pain, I stumbled through the doorway and into the living room. My mind was screaming, and I felt like I wanted to plunge myself into the fireplace. I was afraid, I couldn't figure out what this cabin was doing to me. I viewed another doorway and bashed through it, and in that moment I regretted ever following the light.

Bodies. Bodies laid up everywhere. An old man formed a snow angel on the ground, with what was assumedly his cane piercing his heart. Two young children were facedown, slumped over in their chairs, both with gunshot wounds in their scalp. A young woman was bolted to the fridge by a knife. I drew close to this woman, and examined her face. It was one of surprise and of terror, preserving the moment of a horrible event. I leaned in close and tears unexpectantly streamed down my face. I uttered a word I didn't think possible.

Mom.

Red. Red everywhere. My vision was plastered with red. I started to dry heave, I vomitted.

My vision blurred. Where was I? My father, he lay there. My brother and sister, they lay over there. My mind became fragmented. I couldn't see straight. Lights flickered on and off, blinding my hazy vision. I unclenched my jaw to scream but not a sound came out. I channeled my emotions through physical destruction and burst through the back door, ending up back into the forest from which I had escaped. In my hazy state I found the river that brought me here and followed it into the darkness. Tears littered the path as my mind began to form memories and thoughts. I wanted whoever committed this atrocity buried in the ground, and if it hadn't happened already, I was going to do it with my bare hands.

Running dwindled to ambling. I couldn't process images through my brain except for my only companion, the river that had hurt me. I followed the river to its end, a rotting tree stump. It was gloomy, but I was able to distinguish shapes laying on the stump. I drew near and discovered that they were clothes. I brushed them with my hand and felt blood, still wet. My eyes widened at the epithany that the murderer could be right in this very clearing. I felt my body grow cold as I veered my eyesight to the left and found a loaded revolver laying next to the stump. I grasped the weapon with sweaty palms and cocked it. The only thought going through my brain was that of murder. I debated how I was going to punish the horrible stain of a human being when a particularly shiny object glimmered beneath the clothes. I hesistated, as if I knew what was coming next, but I pressed on and shoved my hand underneath, and produced a golden pocket watch.

I achieved enlightenment at the cost of my sanity. I pieced together the puzzle using the clues I had stumbled across on this accursed stump, and screamed to the stars for penance. My eyes hovered above the pocketwatch, and every muscle in my chassis restrained itself to stop me from disclosing the details hidden within the miniature clock, but I refused their proposal and ripped it open. A lone picture of my mother, father, brother, and sister stared back at me. I stood still, not daring to move an inch. I turned to the bloodied attire and tried them on. It was a perfect fit. I looked around at the beleaguring woodland that surrounded me, that surrounded this creek, that surrounded this stump. Wind billowed softly, carressing my cheeks. Mist hung close to the ground. The night sky kissed the earth goodnight, and the sun slowly climbed the trees. I laid my bruised and beaten body up against the stump and let tears expel from my eyes. I clenched the golden pocketwatch in one hand and used my other hand to guide the revolver's barrel to my head. Though no one could ever hear me, I whispered the first words of the morning to the world, with a hoarse gasp.

"I'm sorry."

And as I slowly pulled my finger towards the trigger, I thought to myself once more, a simple phrase. "I achieved enlightenment at the cost of my sanity." And then, I pulled the trigger. And then, the birds of the forest awakened and scattered. And then, the forest stood still. And then, the earth stood still.

And then there was silence.