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Danielle Mundy

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Cross Roads
By Danielle Mundy
Friday, August 06, 2004

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This is something I wrote when I was only 14, but it's one of the few short stories I still have copies of. You'll have to forgive the content; I was going through an Agnostic phase at this point so I was reading A LOT of Revelations and the Bible in general. If you get bored, scroll to the end and at least read that. It's the most active part of the whole story :)

Four people departed the Valley of the Dying together, each clothed in a white gown of swan feathers and silk. None had a name, or at least not a name that any of the others knew, for they weren't uttered in this in-between place of the living and the dead. Three of the travelers were youthful people, business oriented and political minded, that had spent their entire existance running a wild rat-race, climbing over others in a desperate attempt to touch the silvered edge of prosperity. Each believed that they were journeying to an ever-after of extravagance and riches; mansions of marble and limestone, any desire fulfilled. None could have known that the fourth traveler knew better, that he was their guide down this final path to oblivion.

This man had learned early in life that bigger wasn't neccesarily better; that the quest for luxuries often led to an irreversable path of destruction and greed. He had seen the golden gates of heaven as he lay dying in the hospital, had glanced the lush greenery and humble beauty that awaited him at the end of his voyage. His only fear was that these young aristocrats would not listen to the wisdom of an old man over the echo of their own selfish greed.

As they trekked down the path, the travelers noticed that one side of their path was edged by a dense forest, teeming with wildlife and glowing with filtered sunlight, and the other side beheld a thriving metropolis, vast buildings and a veritable sea of cars filling their eyes anywhere they glanced. Longing for their hectic lifestyles, the youths veered to walk by the city to at least see what they could not have once more. But the old man, desiring the sweet song of the birds and the steady chirp of the crickets to the violent blasts of car horns, moved to the edge of the forest to hear nature's serenade. The path twisted and slowly pollution and crime settled upon the city, engulfing everything until all the shining buildings crumbled to ash and all went to darkness. A light flickered ahead, so the travelers move forward onto a vibrantly lit path forked in two.

Down one path, a humble town of brick buildings lined the street that led to a tidy park encased in trees and greenery. The sky was a vibrant, cerulean blue set with a brilliantly shining sun which sent its reflection shimmering across a clear lake. Rippling waters lapped the banks where waddling ducks and frolicing deer dipped their feet in its coolness.

On the alternate path, a glistening town glittered in the sunshine. The town hall was beset with jewels, the tower capped in gold, and was guarded by marble sentinals sat at each entrance. Streets paved in the blackedt asphalt were framed by deep grey, unbroken sidewalks that seemed to stretch into eternity. All of this was back-dropped by a solid blue sky, cloudless yet no sun could be seen.

The wise man confidently stepped on to the path of the humble town by the forest while the others frantically shook their heads in opposition. They wanted to travel through the city of gold, but the old man nodded to the woods once more and continued on his way. As he neared the outskirts of the plain-looking town, a dark cloud arose before him. Unwavering, he marched on, comforted by what he'd seen as he lay dying.

Darkness enveloped the man as the others stared in horror, unmoving as he disappeared before them. They silently agreed that the lavish city was the correct path and they tore themselves from the sight of blackness that had settled on the other town. As they ventured into the city, the other path disintegrated and now only one path shone before them. Smiling, they hurried past the casinos and expensive restaurants crowding the streets, eager to view heaven fully.

But even as they moved through the city, all of the glamour melted away into slums and condemned buildings; littered streets and abandoned cars spoiling the once spectacular sight. A voice hissed in the travelers' heads, "You have chosen incorrectly, but you have one last chance to come to me. Follow the old man and he will guide you to me."

It had to be trickery. The old man had been consumed in the darkness inhabiting the other path, the one that had vanished as they veered away. But as they passed out of the once proud city, the old man stood before them, smiling and unchanged. He shook his head and solemnly pointed to their hands. Wide-eyed, each glanced down as a circle seered into their palms. Confused, they looked back to the man's outstretched hands which revealed naught but smooth skin devoid of any mark.

Suspecting deceit, the youths grew leery of the old man as he again commenced his travel down the path. Reluctantly, the others began anew, silently vowing to stay away from the man and his choices along the road. Once more, each side of the path depicted different scenes. Both had deep blue skies and white dancing clouds, but one was a valley and the other a mountain range with gnarled black peaks that longed to rip the sky open. When the man chose to walk the valley, the others immediately chose the hellish mountains; they still believed that he was sent to hinder them on their journey to heaven.

As before, the scene chosen by the youths perished as a violent earthquake opened a chasm that swallowed the mountains while the man's choice flourished in light spring rains that tempted flowers to bloom and trees to bud. And when the mountains were fully torn assunder, the others attempted to flee to the valley but found they were trapped on the path they had chosen. Terrified they had chosen wrong once more, each dared a glance at their other hand and spied the circle freshly burned into the skin. Confident once more, they turned back to the man waiting at yet another fork. Only one traveler began to feel a frission of doubt as she stepped forward.

At the fork, two winding paths led to houses set back from the road. One, a log cabin in the woods, had animals prancing and running about in play. The other was a mansion with golden gates encasing a huge lawn of lush grass that led to a cascading fountain. Brilliantly plumed birds and exotic animals roamed freely upon the well-maincured grounds.

Instinctively, the old man stepped toward the forest, signaling the others to follow. Instead of ignoring him, the woman quickly stood beside him and gazed at the splendor of the trees and fat animals. Feeling a slight tingle in her hands, she turned them over to look at her palms once more. The burns had vanished. Spinning around, she motioned the two others to join her. They smiled slyly, believing she'd been taken in by the man's trickery. Sneering, they turned away and ran quickly up the path to the mansion awaiting them.

Sadly shaking her head, the woman turned to the man and asked if they would receive another chance. "No. They had many opportunities to choose the road to heaven, but they would not listen. Their destination was pre-destined. I was sent back for you alone." They walked in silence down the meandering path and as they neared the cabin, the gates of heaven could be seen shining in the windows. Vibrant light encircled them as the stepped through those gates into the after-life
of harmony they'd chosen.

Meanwhile, the other two men were nearing the glorious mansion. It seemed the further they journeyed down the path, the darker and more desolate it became. The fountain's sparkling waters overgrew with algae and blackened, spilling over onto grass that was baking under a blistering sun. Refusing to believe they'd erred, they thought that were being deceived one final time. They pressed on as a violent storm threatened to reek havoc on the grounds.

They reached the doorway as the first flashes of light tore across the now black velvet sky. "We have reached heaven; we cannot be harmed ever again."
But even as these thoughts raced through their travel-weary heads, a laughter as deep and foreboding as thunder bubbled up from the white marble tile and stained it black as it oozed over the floor.

"Fools!" a piercing voice shrieked in their heads. "You saw only what was promised, not what was given. The others were wise enough to see past my exquisite gifts, to know they were merely a tempting package hiding the ugliness within. Now I want to see what's hiding in you." Laughter shook the mansion so that all of the luxurious tapestries and sculptures fell ruined to the blackned ground.

The men tried desperately to flee, recognizing the purity of the log cabin for what it was at last, but found themselves caught in a taloned red hand that had swooped down to encircle them both. Effortlessly, they were lifted from the floor and brought face to face with Hell. The beast bore fathomless yellow eyes encircled in rings black as the night sky. A mouthful of jagged fangs was twisted a smile that smacked of cruelty and power.

The hand squeezed the two fools until their very souls ran out in streams of red that dripped into a blackened cauldron. Tossing the vessals on the stained tile, the beast stooped to look at his catch. Two souls, nearly as black as his own, that had not known they were evil. It was a prize for heaven or hell to be proud of claiming. He was glad the man hadn't been able to corrupt them; didn't need goodness diluting their terror and agony as they pledged fealty to their true master. But he would have to hurry; another group would be arriving soon. And they always did come to him.
None could resist his riches so easily given.

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Reviewed by Robert Fullerton 1/22/2005
Echoes of your youth have emerged in your works today.. Do not ever ignore them, for they made you what you are, and what you will be.
Thank you, Danielle, for the fascinating journey...Bob
Reviewed by S. Ganguli Prometheus_Media 12/29/2004
I liked you story. See how I tried to copy.
This man had learned early in life that bigger wasn't neccesarily better-- that all are born small, some become big, while most remain small --- and that the quest for luxuries often led to an irreversable path of destruction and greed.
Happy new year.
Reviewed by Anniemoh Ohio 8/7/2004
Excellent write, Dani. It still amazes me that you could have been so "deep" at the age of 14.
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 8/7/2004
Not bad for writing this at 14! WOW! Great story, Danielle; enjoyed much~ Thanks for the sharing!

(((HUGS))) and love, your Tx. friend, Karen Lynn. :D

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