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Journey By: Luke Cummings

I stop where I stand atop a hill, the warmth of the sun gently flowing down onto my head and my shoulders. A temperate breeze blows against my face, pushing its way through the course carpeting of my beard.

I turn to the right and scan my surroundings, taking in the heart-stopping beauty of my world. The sky above is a masterpiece of rich blue and billowed cumulus castles whiter than snow; below that lies an infinite expanse of green rippling its way to meet the horizon.

My eyes drop to the ground and I see the path of dirt upon which I have paused. I follow this path all the way back down the hill and notice that it branches off in many places, and those branches split again and again, creating a web of paths snaking in every direction for miles.

I turn back to my direction of travel, away from the vastness below the hill, and crane my neck to spy the top of the trees that tower over me. Their countless, wooden tentacles sport thick, emerald foliage that waves and flashes in the wind. Back down at ground level, I see that my path continues; a tunnel through the trees, crossed and dotted by rays of sunlight.

I feel a burst of excitement swell within my chest, and I trudge forward, soon enveloped by the beauty of the forest. The wind brushes through the trees, casting its whispers of listlessness into my ears. My pace quickens; I feed from the energy around me and above me.

But then I halt. The path is no longer one; it splits into two separate routes that disappear into the timber. The route is no longer decided for me; I must choose for myself.

A tangible fear spreads down from my brain and into my heart and soul. I am paralyzed. I stand still, my eyes moving between each side of the fork. One path is worn with travel, rutted by countless footprints. The other is bare, save for a few prints that blotch its smooth, untrodden appearance.

I have been faced with this choice before, many times in fact. But this one is far different, and much more terrifying. When I was in the fields I could see the destination of all the paths; I could see where I would end up, where I wanted to go.

Now I stand in a dense wood, and my view is limited to the next ten feet of path at best. I cannot see where each fork will take me, or if there are quagmires or impassable rivers or vicious animals or dead ends; I am afraid. The doubt rushes into my mind like a tsunami into a city. What consequences will my choice inflict? What rewards will it bring?

I know one thing:  I cannot stay here, for the night is coming, and I must reach my destination before I can no longer see or move.

I clinch my eyelids together; I squeeze my fists into stones. I slowly draw in the air; then I exhale, long and languid. I feel my heartbeat slow, and my mind clear. My eyes snap open, and I focus on the path that I know must be right.

I lean forward until my foot has no choice but to catch me, and I use the momentum to begin walking.

I must now go on. I have chosen my path.

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