A lone traveler sets down a narrow, broken road. No one knows exactly where this traveler is headed: be it wife, sweetheart, son or daughter, we know not. We do not know his name. For now he is simply the Traveler. We do not know much about him, but he has a common goal and is unwavering in his course.
By day he walks by light of the sun, and by dusk, a bright lantern. At night, the Traveler rests and sits by the warmth of a fire made of cedar and birch.
Always, the Traveler is by that narrow road. Never does he leave it. For though rough and narrow the road is, the road the Traveler walks is straight and true. The Traveler knows this though he never had walked this path before. The Traveler knows that the road he is on will take him home.
The Road is broken yet not many have walked it. Yet the Traveler walks it now. Persistent, steady, and fixed on the way before him, the Traveler makes his way to his home.
Now it is winter, and snowflakes fall gently on the road. Icicles hang from the evergreens in the distance and on the naked maple trees above, which whisper to each other in the slight breeze. From their hard and weathered brown trunks, they tell stories of other travelers who have come this way.
All is clear and silent. Nothing moves now along this way, except the Traveler.
The Traveler is seen walking along the snow covered road. Boots making soft noises in the light carpet of snow and breath coming out in vapor; he walks on. He stops from time to time, rubs and blows on his cold hands to warm them, and then keeps moving. Always the Traveler keeps moving.
Tonight, the Traveler sits at the edge of the road and warms himself around a bright fire. As he ponders the day’s events, he eats roasted deer and some hazel nuts he had picked along the road which the trees had graciously provided in abundance. Presently the weary and exhausted wayfarer falls asleep, slumbering peacefully by the road.
Morning comes and the Traveler awakens, spreads the ashes of his cold fire, andresumes his journey.
A week passes and the weather becomes bitter. The wind stirs up from the south and blows an endless stream of ice upon the Traveler. Yet the Traveler with his head bent and hands tucked in the folds of his fur coat, moves on, persevering and determined; he walks. Though his head is bent, his spirits are high, and though it is bitterly cold, he is thankful to be able to feel it.
Food becomes scarce and game becomes difficult to find. The Traveler, with his supply of venison exhausted, becomes hungry, his eyes searching for any sign of food.
On one day that is clear and calm, the Traveler is seen walking on the road. Then he stops suddenly. For there, two hundred yards from the road, is a large herd of elk. The animals are healthy and fat and would make an excellent meal for the hungry traveler.
The Traveler’s mouth begins to water at the sight and unconsciously begins to wander off the road. He then catches himself and shakes his head. The animals were too healthy looking to have survived the winter. Also the animals were too far off the road. Despite the temptation, the Traveler must not leave the safety of the road.
Then, before the Traveler’s eyes, the herd of elk begins to fade. The Traveler understands. It is a mirage, an illusion, crafted by some unseen enemy to entice him to walk from the safety and protection of the road and then to destroy him. The Traveler turns away and walks on as the once promising meal… fades into nothingness.
Presently a deer crosses the road before him. It is a little gaunt and thin, yet the Traveler, thankful for this blessing, wastes no time and kills it quickly.
The rest of the afternoon the Traveler dresses the carcass. Wasting nothing, the Traveler works long into the evening.
The Traveler finishes just as the pale western sun descends the valley. Again, the Traveler makes a fire and roasts his renewed supply of meat.
The Traveler eats his food by the light of his fire. And when finished, belly full and with grease on his chin, the Traveler begins to sing. Content and cheerful, the Traveler sings songs of celebration and praise, and fills the valley with musical sonnet.
After his much praising, the Traveler falls asleep, still muttering thanks for his many blessings.
In the morning, the Traveler is seen walking on the road. He is refreshed and happy. The sun is above him and his feet, continually reliable and carrying him to his home, is below him.
A day passes; a month, a year, and then two. The Traveler walks the road with a bright sun above him.
The Traveler is now old and aged. His face and eyes are wrinkled by sun and wind yet his eyes continue to shine bright as they look one way to the other, constantly looking at the road.
The Traveler is almost home, he can feel it.
Then, the Traveler smells a new yet familiar odor. It is the smell of the sea, and the Traveler can feel the coolness pressed against his tanned face. The Traveler walks on and the feeling becomes stronger and distinct. Then, the Traveler comes upon a fork in the road. To his left is a new path. This path is wide and is beautifully laid with white stone, and unlike the road he walks, this new path is dusted with many a footprint, yet the road looks strong and reliable. The Traveler seems to hesitate, deciding whether to take this new, shining path. But the Traveler hesitates for a second only and then moves on his original route. The Traveler is not fooled, that beautiful road is not the way. Though strong looking, it is weak. And though it looks reliable, it is not. And though paved with white stones, beneath is yellow filth.
The Traveler walks on. And unknown to him, the path that looked strong, reliable, and paved with white stones becomes narrow and cracked. It descends slowly from view and drops suddenly through a pass of broken rocks that are pointed sharply and stare at the sky in grotesque ugliness. The path continues downward until it reaches a discolored and ugly sea. The water there is green and beats heavily upon the rough brown shore. There is nothing living there. There are no birds or animals, and the fish float on their bellies on the surface of the water, dead and bloated.
The people, who walked this once promising path, become trapped by the pass and are left to starve by the side of the sea or face painful death by hideous beasts.
We do not see what compels the Traveler to take this long, harsh voyage. We do not see an end in this journey that the Traveler had chosen to take. We do not know if the Traveler makes hisdestination, but if we watch, we see the Traveler pass through a grove of tall Elders and then emerge to the sight of mountains rising majestically above him as he watches below in awe.
These mountains the Traveler sees are more beautiful than anything he has seen. They cannot be described other than they are so graceful and filled with tranquil beauty that it leaves the Traveler in utter astonishment. The sight that the Traveler beholds is indescribable and leaves a burning feeling inside the Traveler that fills him with divine and eternal peace.
It is a feeling that he has not felt fully for a long time.
From atop one of these mountains are bright lights that shine through the darkness. The lightsare alittle waysin the distance; they are warm lights, shining like a beacon from a little house atop the mountain.
The Traveler sighs with happiness, ascends the mountain with easeand then walks to the wide gate of the house. The Traveler, now, is overcome with joy and he fights back tears. For this is home.
A person, or several people, burst from the door. They greet the Traveler with ample happiness and joy. They congratulate the Traveler for a job well done and lead him inside and close the door behind them.
Now if you listen, we can hear celebrating coming from this little house atop the hill. And if you might wonder who it may be for, I shall give you an answer.
They are celebrating the long awaited arrival of the Traveler, who had indeed, through trial and hardship, returned home.
© Copyright 2016 Jacob Olson. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Religion and Spirituality
Short Story / Literary Fiction
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