I saw a city in the distance. Majestic towers of silver and gold graced the skyline. As the light shone upon its golden spires, I felt flushed in a wave of awe. As I trudged upon the darkened earth, nearing my goal, trepidation set in. Something seamed amiss. I could not place it. Did I see a blemish upon my city of gold? After years of searching, had I come all this way for naught?
I shook off this feeling of dread and continued toward my goal. Surely life could not be this cruel. I have lost friends, families, and home. I have sacrificed the core of my being l to come home where I belong.
Suddenly a gnarled root reached up to snag me. Looking back I saw that the path that I had just came threw was overgrown. Disconcerted, I started off anew. A howling off in the distance sends a shudder though my soul. I hurried on. Even though this moment is something that I have strived for my entire life, I feared to take another step. Gathering my courage, I went on.
Who am I? Am I the last man on earth? My entire life has been filled with loneliness. I have no memories of parents, past or kin. A locket that hangs around my neck is the only connection to humanity that I have. I don’t know who she is. I have often wondered if she might be my mother. I have recollections of the past that do not contain any faces. I know how to speak. I can read. I can postulate. I just cannot remember.
Loosening my sword in its scabbard I continue on. The only book that I have ever read talks about this golden city upon a hill. Filled with life and love, it is hope that has brought me to the doorsteps of this house. Every step brings me closer to the end of my journey.
Trepidation has begun to set in. I fear to go on, I fear to go back. Fear of what may lie ahead, fear of what may come behind. Anticipation is such that it brings terror upon my soul. Not knowing where your next step might lead is daunting indeed. When you have given your life over to an ideal, but are not sure of the outcome, the dance with fate begins.
As I pass by a puddle, I stoop and gaze at my reflection. Hair as black as coal and eyes of gray stare back at me. A spot of blood on my cheek is a testament to my last grasp at civilization. Tiring of the beard that I have sported for years, I have used my knife to relief myself of the last vestige of my old life. No more do I want to wander this world as a dirty and matted animal. I have washed out the crust and crud of my old life and risen anew.
Thoughts of that gesture sparks a memory. I start to recall some of the past.
I opened my eyes. Silence. Darkness. I try to breathe but the air is hot and stifling. Panic floods through me as I struggle to draw a breathe. There seems to be something before me, blinding my senses. Gasping, I reach out and rip the veil off of my face. Looking around I find that I am resting on a funeral bier. Wood piled upon wood, rising up to my final resting place. The stench of oil assaults me, overwhelms me. I can feel it soaking into my clothes. A viscous fluid that permeates me body and soul.
Looking around I see a torch that seems to have just gutted out lying at my feet. I can see the smoke still rising, wafting up upon the gentle breeze. Where is everyone? What is happening? I call out for someone, anyone to answer my cry of anguish. The silence is deafening. My eyes dart back to and fro, searching for any signs of life. There is no movement. All I hear is the sound of my own breathing.
I am in a clearing that is surrounded by trees that reach up into the sky, shadowing my body and casting me into darkness. Their majestic presence rises before me as an apocalyptic foreshadowing of things to come. Autumn leaves of auburn and gold cascade down their trunks draping me in a blanket as taciturn as the shroud that I have just removed. No birds are singing their songs, no crickets chirping in the perfect harmony of natures omnipresent dance. Seclusion is the only tune that plays on and on in my mind.
Rising off of my tomb, I try and stand. My legs wobble as they touch down on the green carpet of my destiny. A road that is not seen, but stretches out before me nonetheless. Is it fate or instinct that makes me take that fatal step forward? At this point, it would be so easy to just lie back down and let death wrap his gnarled hands about me. No, the spark of life is just to strong. To let Thanatos have his will, there must be some part of myself that welcomes the end of all that is to be.
Gazing out at the scene before me, I notice a canvas bag that is lying at the side of my bier. Pulling open the straps, I see a jumbled mess of items that have been carelessly strewn inside. Hoping to find some answers to the riddle that now lie’s before me, I grasp the first thing that I find. I feel the binding of a book and draw it out. The outside is worn and faded. Opening the book, I can make out the words “ To my beloved Jarel, your light guides my soul, and the Lord guides my feet”.
For the time being, I set it aside and continue on with my search. A glint of gold captures my eye as I reach in and draw forth a golden locket. The chain is tarnished, the edges worn with age. Pushing back the covering I faintly discern a picture of a woman. I can barely make out her features in the dim light of the fading sun. Her face seems so familiar and seems to spark a recognition within me.
“Jarel, why do you wander? What is it in you to that makes you forsake all that we have built?” I can only shake my head. I can feel the pull of the wild as it takes hold of me.” Say what you will, think what you might, but I need more than planting crops. I need more than tending sheep. The world has to encompass more than this valley.” She lifts her eyes and I can see the sadness that lies therein.
Grabbing my pack , I sling it over my shoulder and quietly slip outside. Turning, I place my hand upon the door, wanting to go back inside and comfort her, knowing all the while that such a gesture would only bring us both more pain. I whisper “ I’m sorry.” as I turn my back and march resolutely on toward my destiny.
As I set my feet on the path before me, I take one last glimpse of my home. The faded wood stands as a stark contrast to the bright colors that surround my childhood abode. Although I have spent many a joyful time playing thereabouts, there is something in my soul that cries out in loneliness. There is something within me that aches for the times of my childhood, yet longs for new adventures, new friendships, and new worlds.
A flash of lighting brightens the sky. I see a furtive movement in the recesses of the palace above. Could it be the life that I have sought? My feet begin to quicken their pace. I am anxious, despite the danger, to end this tiresome journey. The trees seem to gather together to block my way. An eerie and blood curdling howl suddenly erupts before me. I cannot see its source, but I can smell fetid breathe as it wafts upon the breeze. I slowly draw my sword. Clasping the hilt tightly, I scan the horizon, searching for anything untoward in the forest before me.
Although I cannot see anything wrong, I can feel the taint of evil deep within my soul. I stand stock still, listening and searching for anything that seems out of place. A trickle of sweat runs down my back. I wait. Though I have fought many battles in my life, I have never sparred with an unseen foe. Give me something that I can grasp in my hands, something that manifests itself intellectually, and I will conquer it. This spiritual world is beyond me. I t frightens me as no earthly creature possibly could.
Unimaginable pain explodes inside my head. I drop to my knees and pound at the earth in agony. My world is awash in terrifying images and anguish. Flashes of my life cascade before me. All of the half-truths that I have deluded myself with come crashing in upon me. All of the times that I told myself that their was nothing in this world save myself. The pain that I feel is truth.
Tears stream from my eyes as I realize that I have never been alone. God has always been with me. The howls that I heard were from my own heart, weeping that I never recognized that God was always listening to me. The sword in my hand was the sword of truth, never dull and listless, but sharp and unyielding, as truth should always be. The fetid breathe that I felt was my own fear, fear that I would never see my Lord, to bask in his love and forgiveness.
Now, with clarity, I can finally recall the name of the book that I had read so long ago. In my minds eye I can still see the words emblazoned upon the cover. The Holy Bible.
The pain, fear and loneliness are gone. I am no longer in the wilderness. The path is shining beneath my feet as I clearly see the city upon the hill. There is a figure approaching me and beckoning me on. I cast my doubt and worry aside and rush towards the end of my journey. As I move closer I can see a city with streets lined with gold, and my celestial guide awaiting me and drawing me on. I approach him and fall to my knees. Not in fear, but in relief and gratitude that my savior was always waiting for me with arms open wide and a love that is unconditional.