The first time I saw him I could not breathe. He literally took all sources of oxygen from the depths of my lungs. My soul became attached and I knew I had become ensnared. My soul was forever connected, my heart eternally drawn. What was he? He was like nothing I had ever seen before. So I followed him.
Hills became valleys, valleys became mountains. Mountains became fields, fields became forests. Past the burning sensation my legs felt on the hike, through the currents of the river that flowed between the two tallest mountains that I would soon have to overcome in order to reach him; fighting the bitter cold of the snowy caps, only to find myself relaxing and sinking in the beauty of the flowers that grew in millions and in multitudes of color. And then I was there.
The trees became skyscrapers, no longer miniature woodland, but an overwhelming forest. The brilliant green was like nothing my eyes had ever beheld. It could have been a trick on the eyes, an illusion of the sun, but I knew better. This was no game, no dance between the reflection of color and the twinkle of light. This was his place, his secret hideout, his home.
Although the outside held great beauty, it in no way resembled the extravagance of what it contained. Upon entrance, the first sense that overwhelmed me was smell. Everything had a fragrance, each unique, and each determined to be known. Flowers blossomed in every nook; birds chatter filled the atmosphere with a peaceful music. The force and power of the waterfall created a humble spirit, yet was the cause of the calm that ran in my veins. It was so quiet I could hear the legs of a spider dash across the grass, yet so loud I couldn’t distinguish between the crunch of the leaves beneath my own shoe and the rustling of the leaves above my head. The breeze blended with the pattern of my breathing, as if it somehow had climbed within my body and discovered the secrets of my soul and wanted to assure me that it would never reveal me for what I was, or why I was here.
There were many paths. Each one designed for a specific destination, but each destination unknown to the participant. Choosing which one to take was a task within itself. Each path had a different color stone for the feet, a different color rose for the decorative fence, and a different color butterfly for the guide. My spirit stirred, a whisper danced past my lips and down my throat, finding its way to my main artery, from which it began to pump confidence into my system. I had the answer; second path from the right, the one with the blue butterfly.
The moment my toes touched the path my heart lurched. Each step, from the beginning, caused an excruciating pain to torment my entire being. Once did I dare to turn around and attempt to go back, but I couldn’t take one step towards my starting point. The invisible wall that had been built from the entrance to my current position prevented me from doing so. For every step I made towards the end, there was another invisible force there to keep me from returning.
Closely following the pain came sorrow, a type of sadness that comes from the gut; a blend between realization and guilt. I knew why I had come, but I no longer wanted to follow through with it, I wanted to flee. A chill shuddered down my back, an ice flooded my senses. Suddenly there was a fear, a fear of what was to come. Questions racked my being and I knew my choice had changed. I no longer wanted to be the person I had been before. Voices told me I couldn’t change, that I needed to push forward and complete the task. I fought; I battled with my inner self. I felt a presence, a hand reaching within my heart. Then I could breathe. It was as if the burdens and weights of my past had released their hold on me. I was free, weightless, and happy.
I moved forward with a new confidence. The end was in sight, and upon arrival, I would have a decision to make. I began to run, channeling my newfound joy to my legs. I ran like I had never run before. The speed was incredible, I felt like I was flying. I came to a halt at the very end of the path. One more step and I would be there. Hesitantly, I placed one foot onto the ground in front of me. I could not see my surroundings; I didn’t know what to do.
“Come forward. Do not be afraid of what you cannot see,” a voice echoed with authority.
I will never know where that voice came from, but as soon as I stepped forward, the environment came to life. Animals of all kinds progressively came into color, trees and grass gradually obtained life. Whatever I had been expecting to find, this was not it. I walked through the clearing, passing creatures that seemed oblivious to my existence. The trees began to move, and I froze as everything around me began to swirl and transform. The experience was similar to riding in a car at full speed. You look to the grass beside you as you drive and it makes you nauseous because you’re moving so fast. Then it all came to a stop, and there he was.
I quickly took in a breath, the very air about him held majesty. He knew why I was here, yet he was not afraid. He paced for a moment, and then sat underneath a tree. Golden hair flowed wildly, moving in the wind like a dance. Eyes so intense I could not hold their gaze. I straightened my back and reached behind me. I drew out an arrow and placed it inside my bow. I drew back, feeling the adrenaline flood through my blood. This was why I was here, why I had come so far! Yet I knew I couldn’t do it, it felt so wrong. He looked up, stared straight into my soul. It was then I realized he could not be slain. This lion was different than all the others. He stood and walked up to me, inches from my face. My hands were quivering, my lips trembled. I lowered my weapon. And then he was gone. He had completely vanished, leaving me to stand in the open all alone. I fell to my knees and wept.
Thoughts raced through my mind at such an intense speed that it gave me a headache. How could I have even considered destroying such an incredible beast? As my tears fell, so did raindrops. The more my tears flooded the earth, the more the drops watered the ground around me. My peripheral vision caught movement on each side of me; I paused and looked up. I had been deceived. This was no ordinary shower from the heavens; these were my tears, taken and made into something beautiful. The last tear of mine slid down my cheek and fell. The most absurd part was that it did not fall to the ground. No. My tear was caught in midair, wrapped in a protective bubble and drifted to an open patch of grass where it was slowly lowered until it was sitting on that patch. After a moment or two, the bubble sank into the ground and a plant bloomed from the dirt. Slowly the stem obtained height and color, a bulb for a flower, and then the creation had expanded into its full glory. Everywhere I turned there were new flowers, all from the tears that I had wept just moments before. It left me in awe, yet there was also a sense of fear in which I did not know what to think about this place that I had stumbled upon.
I stood and gathered every ounce of strength and courage I could in order to leave. The way from which I had come was no longer existent; I had to make a new path. I observed my surroundings, taking a mental picture of all that I had inadvertently created. There was an archway to the left, one made from many years of twisted branches and tough weather, yet delicate as if intentionally made with care. I chose to go towards it, hoping it would lead me back to where I had come from. As I approached the archway, I realized that the sun was shining extremely bright. It was almost as if the whole patch of forest was glowing. The leaves became golden and the trunk was the most exquisite brown. I entered and fierce warmth entered my stomach, which was soon followed by a feeling of nausea. The ground beneath my feet was shifting, moving forward at an incredible rate. As the pace picked up, I noticed that my balance was never shaken. I stood perfectly still as if the ground was not moving at all. I could not make out my surroundings, and perhaps this was the purpose. Maybe I was not meant to know all that this place contained. I knew it would be impossible to comprehend everything about this dwelling place, but I wanted to know what I could.
The ground came to a sudden stop and I was thrown forward. As I flailed in the air, fear crept into my heart. It started as a cold chill in my fingers and toes, and then made its way slowly to my stomach where it dwelled for many moments. After torturing what I had eaten for breakfast, it slid up into my heart; a cold hand that squeezed the warmth from earlier out. My mind was racing, how could it be that I was to die at this moment in time? I had no family to worry about, no close friends who would miss me when I was gone. My life was of no significance to the world or even the tiny town that I lived in, so it was not that that I was worried about. No, instead I was worried that the people and children of that world would not get to know the joy and experience what all I had just gone through. As soon as that thought entered my mind, everything froze. I was caught in midair. The blackness around me began to illuminate itself. Millions of tiny dots were around me, twinkling with a dull yellow. I reached out to touch one, deceived by its brilliance to think that I could actually hold one within my palm. As soon as I touched the first one, they all disappeared, leaving me with a terrible feeling.
What was this place? Why had I decided to come here, to follow Him? The answer was clear, yet my body did not want to accept it. This had all happened all of a sudden and there was no time to cope or adjust to my surroundings, I simply had to go. I pressed on. The winds picked up and the sky grew dark. It was as if by touching that one tiny, glowing light I had turned off the light of the entire universe. The air around me grew heavy with the smells of soil and dirt. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, climbing out of a hole after experiencing an alternate reality. I reached the surface and looked around me. I was back. Time to start over.