To read part 2 of The Thicket, click here.
I never planned to stay for long. The fruit of the meadow quickly lost its novelty, but I couldn’t seem to walk away. I was intrigued when the voices directed me to new varieties of fruit deeper within the grove of trees. Boredom with my current diet whet my appetite, and I followed their leading.
When I stumbled over an exposed tree root protruding from the rocky path, I made a painful discovery. Long, sharp thorns grew on the branches of these trees. My bleeding palm did not prevent me from noticing an unusual fruit hanging within my reach. This time, I didn’t hesitate before eating it. Afterward, I grabbed one more before sitting down to tend to my wound.
As days passed, I headed deeper into what had become a dense thicket. I bore many scars from the thorns, yet I could not ignore the promise of new delights to be found a little farther ahead. Satisfaction was always a temporary state. Voices no longer spoke to me of the glory of choosing my destiny but of ways to appease my hunger.
At times, I would remember my days with the gatekeeper. I would try to imagine what his road was like, and I wondered if he missed traveling with me. The voices would remind me that he was gone. I could not return to the way things had been before. They assured me that, one day, I would find my way out of the thicket. The promise of another meadow gave me motivation to continue onward.
Only a few days would pass before that promise became a reality. This new meadow was just as lush and beautiful as those of the past. I collapsed in the warm sunlight on the edge of the grove of trees and slept for what seemed like an eternity. When I awoke, the sun was beating down, hot and cruel. I raised my hand to my forehead to shield my eyes.
There was a searing pain in my head, and I jerked my hand away. Blood began to drip from my forehead and roll down my cheek. I looked at my hands and cried out in fear. Thorns and small fruit were protruding from my flesh. I attempted to jump up and run but found myself unable to move. My feet had taken root on the edge of the grove of trees. My transformation seemed to take only moments. I was simply another tree in the meadow dripping with ripened fruit.
As a traveler approached me, a voice called out to him, “Make your own choices. Listen to your heart!”
I recoiled in terror; it was my voice! I watched the naive traveler’s eyes as he reached up and grasped a fruit from my branches. He hesitated for a moment, took a cautious bite, and then quickly finished it. Afterward, he sunk to the ground in blissful ignorance. For a moment, I was horrified; then, I laughed to myself.
“What a fool! He deserves what he gets!” I was shocked by my callous thoughts. Before long, he would be like me. My emotions swirled uncontrollably. Now I was feeding others the same fruit that I knew had enslaved me. I was helpless to stop it, and part of me delighted in it.
To be continued…
Co-Authored by Brad Poplin
Featured Image by K. Mitch Hodge