Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.
“You don’t want to go in there,” the old man warned.
Jake peered at the dirt road cutting through the dark forest. Blackened and naked branches loomed over the road like spindly fingers ready to snatch anyone that dared to venture near it.
“What’s that you say old man?” Jake said as he shifted the weight of his backpack that held all his hopes and dreams for a new life.
The old man hobbled off the porch of his run-down shack. It was the first time Jake had a good look at him: dirty with ratty clothes barely clinging to him.
Stay here, you’ll have plenty,” the old man said. “You’ll have plenty if you stay right here and never take a step there. That fortress is just there to keep you out."
“I say you don't want to enter,” he said.
“Isn’t this the only road to the fortress on the hill?”
“As a matter of fact it is,” said the old man. “That forest, though, is dangerous!”
Jake had been down dangerous roads before. What was different about this one, he wondered.
“I have to get to that fortress,” Jake responded. “I have traveled high and low through desert and icy fields. I’ve swum across raging rivers and trekked through thorn-laden brush, just to get to that fortress – that gateway to a better life.”
“Stay here, you’ll have plenty,” the old man said. “You’ll have plenty if you stay right here and never take a step there. That fortress is just there to keep you out.”
Jake's journey was to get to the coast where all his hopes and dreams were. He was told he’d find work there, a new home, a new life. The fortress was merely one last stop in his long trek before he continued onto this promised land.
“Tell me something,” Jake continued, “Why is it dangerous?”
The old man ruminated before saying: “I was like you, many years ago. I was traveling to the coast and needed to get to the fortress for supplies. When I got here, a very wise man warned me monsters lurked in those woods. I heeded his warning and stayed put.”
“Have you seen any monsters?” Jake asked.
“I've seen shadows; that's good enough for me.”
There’s something out there. Something huge and something strong. It will crack the trees and you can hear them snap deep into the forest. Listen!”
“Shadows?” Jake responded. He screwed up his brow as he let the notion sink in. “You’ve only saw shadows.”
“There’s noises too,” the old man warned. He was visibly perturbed to be questioned in the way Jake did. “I heard distant howls.”
“Like a wolf?” Jake queried. “If so, I’ve dealt with them before.”
“No!” the agitated old man snapped. “There’s something out there. Something huge and something strong. It will crack the trees and you can hear them snap deep into the forest. Listen!”
Sure enough, something akin to trees snapping was heard. At first, Jake jumped back, startled. Was the old man right that something was out there? Before he asked, the old man hobbled to his rundown shack for safety.
“Come on!” he yelled. “Before it’s too late!”
He peered into the deepest darkest part of the forest. About this time, he became aware of something. A wind blew through. The trees swayed and made all kinds of sound. That included the sound of “snapping” trees.
“See, I told you!” the old man said as Jake craned his head toward him. “That was the monster the wise-man told me about! It’s not worth your life to get to that fortress and then onto the coast. This is a good place to set up your new life.”
Jake glared at him, and then shook his head. He came to a realization.
“I think I'll take my chances,” Jake finally said.
He walked down the road, despite the old man's protest.
“There’s danger down the road,” the old man yelled in vain.
Jake didn't look back. There was no need to fool himself that disposing his dream was the right thing to do. He’ll take the hard journey to get to the place he felt he belonged.
He made his way to the fortress, and eventually made it to the coast. And found a new beginning.
© 2018 Dean Traylor