Author's Comment: Okay this is a long short story I wrote for English class last year. I am rather proud of it because it is the first story I have ever completly finished to the point that there was nothing else I could possibly want to add. It's a little on the unusual side and to tell you the truth I was very hesitant about posting it. Please be honest and tell me what you think. I plan to enter this story in a nation wide Teen Talent contest so any immprovements you think I should make please tell me.
Oh, and no plagiarism, please. I hope that there's not even a need for me to say that. I worked very hard on this story and I'm not about to let any of you take it away.
Alright, now enjoy.
"On the Way to Nowhere"
It had been two hours since Joel had seen any vehicles on the rural back road. The last one he saw was a rusty old station wagon loaded down with luggage. The seventeen-year-old had held out his right thumb and gave the driver a honest-to-goodness smile, hoping he would stop to give him a ride. The station wagon only sped up, driving swiftly out of sight. After that, Joel gave up trying to hitchhike.
Joel had no clue where he was going. He just walked, following any landmark that happened to capture his fancy, as though they were signs leading him to his Promised Land. At the moment his guide was the sun setting in the west, lighting the sky ablaze, turning the whole world into a red and gold inferno. Joel’s own flush seemed to melt away under the summer heat.
“What I’d give for a glass of ice tea right about now,” he spoke to himself. Instead he settled for a gulp of warm water out of his plastic canteen. His whole body ached from walking all day; the heavy pack on his shoulders didn’t help much either. With each step Joel learned to hate the sun even more. He welcomed the coming of night with open arms, if it meant even the slightest relief from the heat.
Sick and tired of walking, sick and tired of the heat, and sick and tired of being sick and tired, Joel’s attention soon shifted to finding a place to sleep for the night. He didn’t have to look long to realize he would be sleeping under the stars, there were no signs of man-made shelter in sight.
Without bothering to stop, he let the pack slide from his shoulders and drop to the gravel with a thud. He lifted his arms out to his sides, hoping to capture a passing breeze. Only a brief breath of air graced his burning limbs as he lazily walked around his pack. The odor of his own body stung his nostrils. Now he knew why no one would give him a ride. He half sighed half groaned. For what reason? He didn’t know. He brushed his sunburned arm across his sweaty brow and let it stay there as he stepped about in an awkward circle, surveying his surroundings.
If anyone were to see him at that moment they might mistake him for a half-crazed Indian performing some sort of pagan dance around a sacred knapsack. Well, they might at least be right about the half-crazed part. The heat was definitely playing tricks with his head. He made three whole rotations before any of the landscape actually registered in his mind.
On either side of the road there was nothing but empty space. Wide open fields that seemed to wave and bend in shallow ditches and sloping inclines. The land was strewn with stones. All about the field rested several gigantic boulders. They were like monstrous beasts that had fallen asleep a hundred years ago, and during the course of time had forgotten how to wake up. There they lay, sound asleep, with the golden green grass as their beds. Their weathered hides seemed to shine as the dying sun cast its rays upon them. The monsters’ ghosts were slowly emerging from the stone, stretching their shadows towards the first star that shone in the east.
There were no trees; at least none big enough or close enough to really matter much. Joel spotted a large group of them a mile or so away, but there was no way he was going to trek all that way just for a little shade. He’d rather just collapse in the ditch and wait out the night.
He looked back to the west. An unusual landmark caught his eye. A dark, jagged line sliced across the field off to the right. Joel squinted into the sun to see what it was. He took one, two steps closer. A small smile of curiosity pulled at his lips. It was a deep rift, a rocky ravine, which meandered its way from the road towards some undefined destination to the north.
“That’ll do.” Abandoning the sun, Joel shouldered his pack once again and made his way towards his new guide.
He spared no time in reaching the ravine. He soon found himself standing on the very brink of a twenty-foot drop. Of course that was probably the rift’s deepest point. Joel scanned his eyes up the ravine to the north; it erratically changed in depth as it snaked its way across the field. It went from twenty feet deep, to ten, then down to a mere six feet, then fifteen, then back to ten again.
Joel had hoped to find some shelter down below but his instincts strongly advised against the idea. The slopes were too steep and the entire ravine was lined with massive boulders and loose stones.
An image flew through Joel’s mind of tripping on a jagged stone, tumbling head-over-heels down the rocky incline, smashing his scull on a boulder, then slowly dying of multiple fractures and exposure. Unpleasant.
“No thanks, I’ll pass.” He took two steps backwards, then turned and walked north, continuing his search for a place to sleep.
At last, as he slowly made his way along the ravine’s rim, Joel’s eyes landed on a bowing oak tree, standing alone amongst scattered stones and golden weeds, not twenty yards from where he stood.
“Hello Shelter!” The boy said right out loud, rather pleased with himself. There was a new spring in his step as he approached his tree. He laughed aloud as though he had just conquered a new world. Then, for some strange reason, Joel was compelled to stop and just look at the oak, to regard its earthly hues, random symmetry, and tortured lines. Its emerald leaves were withered from the sun, yet still held so much life that was screaming to be released. A brief breath of wind rustled its branches, it sighed deeply to itself. Was it with determination or depression? The tree’s gnarled bark closed in tightly around it, forming a tough shield against the rest of the world. And there it stood, tall and proud, yet shivering sadly, All Alone.
Joel sighed deeply. He adjusted the pack upon his back then reverently took the last few steps till he stood directly beneath its branches. He reached out his hand and ran his finger tips across its rough bark. As he did so, a silent vibe of mutual understanding passed between them. He stood there for a moment, just stood there, lingering in the shadow of the tree. He gazed expectantly up at the beast, and at that moment he decided that he hated it. With a despising humph he dropped his pack to the ground and kicked at a protruding root.
“You’re tired, Joel. Just eat something and go to sleep.” Totally ignoring the first piece of his own advice, Joel stretched out on the prickly golden grass and blinked at the sky as the last rays of the sun were snuffed out, leaving only the smoky blue of night. His eyes slowly began to fuse shut. His senses began to dull as sleep swiftly overtook him. Only his hearing remained.
All around, the music of night began to play. The grass on the ground and the branches in the tree rustled and clicked in the breeze. Crickets and cicadas, mosquitoes and moths, insects of all kinds began to sing. Somewhere in the night the high pitched trill of a tree frog joined in, followed by the bellow of his cousin toad. Somewhere in the night an owl cried, a night fox yipped, a gentle deer mewed. And all this followed the constant beat of Joel’s heart.
Suddenly the music stopped. Or, at least it seemed to be put on pause as a new strange sound began to sing: an eerie moan carried on the feeble wind. The sound reached into Joel’s mind and yanked him from his sleep. He sat up right with a start automatically listening to the sound. What was it? An injured animal maybe? Rushing water? No. Was it just the wind? Yes, it must be just the wind. Only… it couldn’t be just the wind, because when the wind whispers it doesn’t actually speak the words of men, right? Joel sprang to his feet and strained his ears to listen. That was not the wind; it was a human voice crying out in anguish.
“Hello?” Joel called out into the night. There was sudden silence. He cupped his hands around his mouth and called out louder, “Hello, is someone there?” The moaning and groaning suddenly came back with frantic desperation, Joel couldn’t quite make out exactly what the voice was saying but he distinctively could hear the word “Help.”
“Hang on, I’m coming! Let me hear you, I’ll find you.” The teenager quickly dug a flashlight out of his knapsack then tossed the pack aside, leaving all his things where they lay. Following the bright yellow orb that bounced back and forth on the ground, and the agonized voice in the air, Joel found himself running in the direction he had come. Soon he reached the same ravine he had been following not twenty minutes ago.
“Where are you?” Joel called out to the darkness.
“I’m over here! I’m over here! Please hurry!” It was a male’s voice, though high pitched with pain. Joel could hear the words perfectly now, he wasn’t too far away.
“Keep talking! I’m coming.” He hurried along the same ridge he had followed earlier, over the same dry stones and dying weeds.
“I… I’m stuck! I can’t move. I think… I think I broke my leg.” The voice sounded sick, like the man was going to throw up.
“Okay, I’m coming. Where are you?” Joel asked again.
“I’m in the bottom of this pit. I’m stuck under a rock. I can’t move.”
Joel flashed his light down the steep slope of the ravine and panned it across the floor. And sure enough, there lay the frightened man with his lower half pinned under a fallen bolder. His face crumbled in a wave of relief.
“Oh, thank God, thank God!” That’s all he could say.
“Whoa!” Joel stopped only for a moment to survey the situation and plot his way down the steep slope. “Hang on, man, don’t try to move. I’m coming down.” He carefully descended the steep slope. He accidentally kicked loose a small stone. An apologetic gasp passed his lips as he watched it tumble downwards. The trapped man shielded his face with his arm just in time to protect himself from the projectile.
The man just nodded. Joel continued on, being even more careful not to stir up anymore loose rocks. Within moments he was down in the bottom of the ravine, alongside the stranger.
“Thank God… I thought I was going to die.” The man’s voice was weak.
“Don’t worry, man, I’m going to get you out of here.” Joel quickly assessed the situation. The man’s left leg was lodged in just such a way that if it had instead been pinned a few inches in either direction than where it had been then he probably would have lost his leg. By some miracle it had landed between two other rocks that helped hold up some of the pressure. Now, thankfully his right leg was completely free from the boulder, several smaller rocks were piled on top of it but more than likely they would only result in bruising the leg. Joel carefully began to clear some of these smaller stones.
“Okay, besides your left leg, does anything feel broken?”
“Well, I feel pretty much crushed all over. But I’m pretty sure the only thing that is really broken is my leg.” The man closed his eyes, his face was flushed.
“Man, you’re lucky, you know that?”
“Luck’s got nothing to do with it.” He winced. “This really hurts.”
“Yeah, I know. Just sit still.” He carefully lifted a heavier stone from off the man’s right ankle. Joel figured he better distract the man. “So, do you have a name?”
“Gamaliel.” The man breathed softly.
“Excuse me?” Joel pointed the light at the man’s mouth, he wasn’t sure he heard him right.
“I said ‘Gamaliel.’ That’s my name.” He said, as though every family on the block had a kid called that.
“Ga-Gama… Gamal.” He tried to pronounce it.
“Gamaliel.” The man with the strange name offered to hold the light as Joel worked. The boy handed it to him without a second thought.
“Ga-mal-iel. Gamaliel. Alright, I got it.” He cleared the last of the stones from his right leg and carefully inspected the limb for possible injuries. As he suspected, it only looked bruised not broken. “Can you move that?”
With a grunt, Gamaliel slowly lifted the leg and bent it back and forth.
“Yeah, it’s real sore, but I think it works.”
“Good. Now, let’s try to move this boulder.”
Joel knew the rock was too large to lift. He would have to roll it somehow without crushing Gamaliel in the process. He found a long, solid branch laying a few feet away. He took it and carefully wedged it under the boulder. He selected a rock about the size of a loaf of bread and placed it under the log to act as a brace. Rubbing his hands together, Joel turned to Gamaliel to give him instructions.
“Okay, on the count of three I’m going to push down on this branch. That should lift it just enough for us to roll it off your leg. Try not to move your left leg, alright? Just, don’t move. Now, keep your right leg away from the boulder, I don’t want it to get crushed in the process. Okay?” Joel tried to speak with confidence; he spoke calmly to the victim so as not to get him panicky.
“Okay,” he took a deep breath, “I’m ready.”
“Alright. One, two, three!” Joel put all his weight onto that branch. He could feel the giant rock lifting up ever so slightly, but it did not roll. “Come on, Baby, move!” He pushed on it even harder but it wouldn’t budge. Before Joel could even think of his next course of action, Gamaliel lifted his right leg and gave the stone a huge shove, yelping in pain as he did so. The action had the desired effect. The boulder rolled off Gamaliel’s leg and both of the young men crumbled to the ground, panting for breath.
After a moment Joel sat up and looked at the stranger.
“Yes.” Gamaliel spoke just above a whisper. His eyes were still closed.
“Can you move?” He slowly crawled over to inspect the man’s leg.
“Give me a second.” The man seemed afraid to look at his injuries. Using extreme caution, Joel moved the two stones that had saved Gamaliel’s leg.
“It doesn’t look too bad.” He tried to reassure the man. Gamaliel finally opened his eyes, he slowly pushed himself to a sitting position, Joel gave him a hand in doing so. He slowly tried to move the crushed limb, he winced then went still.
“I know, I know.” Joel took the light back from Gamaliel and scanned it up the steep embankment. “Do you think you can make it up the slope if I help you?”
“I can try.”
“Okay, that spot there doesn’t look too steep.”
“Okay.” Gamaliel reached out his arm; Joel squatted down next to him and pulled the man’s arm over his shoulders. Supporting his weight, he helped Gamaliel to stand to his feet.
The two figures slowly, carefully and silently climbed their way up the incline. It took them a good five minutes to reach the top. They then slowly hobbled across the field and collapsed under the tree. After a moment, it occurred to Joel that Gamaliel’s leg should probably be put in a splint. Thankfully, he had paid enough attention in health class to know how to do this. Without saying a word Joel stood up and began to search for beams to construct the support. He found three long, straight branches that would do the trick.
When he returned to the camp he was surprised to see that Gamaliel had already constructed a small fire. He sat there now, stoking it with a stick.
“Whoa… uh… that’s cool.” Joel’s eyes darted over to where his knapsack rested against the tree. “So, you… you found the matches.” He did not feel all that comfortable about a stranger going through his things.
“Nope, didn’t need them.” The man stared deep into the flames. Joel was taken off guard by his response.
“Really?” He knelt beside his pack and pulled out the First-Aid kit he had stolen from a convenience store a few days ago. “What? Did you rub two sticks together or something?” He did a quick inventory check of his things as he spoke; nothing was out of place, not even the matches. He curiously glanced sideways at Gamaliel.
The man smiled, flame light danced in his eyes,
“Or something.” He looked up at Joel; the smile still stretched across his narrow face.
Joel smiled back awkwardly, allowing that odd moment to pass. He immediately went to work constructing the splint around Gamaliel’s leg.
“It’s getting late now and it’s pretty far to the nearest town. So you can camp out with me tonight then I’ll help you get to a hospital in the morning. Alright?”
Gamaliel didn’t seem to be listening; he was staring up at the sky, intently studying the stars. That was the first chance Joel had to really get a good look at his new acquaintance. The man looked older than Joel, though not by much. He couldn’t be any older than nineteen or twenty. He wasn’t a large man, but he wasn’t excessively scrawny either. He appeared to be about the same height as Joel and he had a medium bone build. He was dressed very simply. He had on ordinary blue jeans and a plain; dirt smeared T-shirt, which had been white earlier that day. On his feet he wore standard steel-toe hiking boots, a feature that also had helped to save his feet from being crushed. His hair was light, but in the dim glow of the fire it was hard to tell whether it was blond or just a light brown. But what really caught Joel’s attention were Gamaliel’s perfectly clear blue eyes. Those two perfect, unwavering eyes held some strange secret, a mystery that Joel was not meant to solve. The boy looked away, returning to his task at hand.
Soon the splint was complete. Gamaliel spoke a soft “Thank you,” Joel nodded his “You’re welcome,” then lied back in the deep grass. Listening to the whispering leaves, he wondered if he should try and get some shut-eye. He looked up at Gamaliel who was still sitting upright, staring at the stars; he decided against the notion to sleep.
Then, just as Joel had come to the conclusion that Gamaliel must be a complete recluse and decided that that was probably a good thing, the stranger turned to him and said straight out,
“Hey, you got any food? I am really hungry.” And just like that, as though someone had flipped a switch in his mind, the man became mister Hey-I’m-Outgoing-Let’s-Talk.
“Oh yeah, sorry. Where are my manners? You must be starved after that ordeal.” Joel reached into his knapsack and pulled out an easy-open can of tuna and a package of saltine crackers, food he had nabbed from someone’s basement pantry the day before. Gamaliel ripped off the can lid as soon as Joel handed the food over.
“Oh thanks. You know, five hours under a rock can sure do a number on one’s appetite.”
Joel nearly choked on his own saliva.
“Five hours! You were down there for five hours? That can’t be right. I thought when I found you I was fresh on the scene of the accident.” Gamaliel was busy shoveling cracker loads of tuna into his mouth. “How come I didn’t see you?”
Gamaliel shrugged and swallowed at the same time.
“Well, you weren’t looking for me, why should you have seen me?”
“Well, then I should have heard you crying for help.”
“I stopped calling for awhile; I didn’t realize anyone was listening. I had been calling and calling for so long and no one answered, I guess I just got tired.” He scooped up more fish and crammed it down his throat. “Do you have any water?” Joel handed him his lukewarm canteen.
Something just didn’t seem quite right. Joel sat back and watched the man as he downed all the remaining crackers and the entire can of fish, half suspicious and half amused by the stranger.
“So, how’s your leg feeling?” Joel nodded towards Gamaliel’s injury, after he had given the man a chance to digest.
“Uh,” The young man laughed feebly, “Broken.” His clear blue eyes rose to meet Joel’s, he smiled softly. “But it’s not as bad as it could have been. I cannot thank you enough for saving me.” Joel shrugged and smiled down at the ground. For a few moments no one spoke. There was a definite gap in the conversation, something most people would call awkward, something that seemed to take place a lot between those two men. But the silence didn’t bother Joel one bit; in fact he welcomed it. Maybe Joel was actually the reclusive one. But the silence must have bothered Gamaliel because he shifted uncomfortably on the ground then picked up the conversation again where Joel thought it had been dropped for good.
“So, have you ever broken any bones before?”
“Yes.” Joel squinted his eyes at the fire and nodded his head slowly, as though he were reverently pondering the thought. “I broke my cousin’s wrist once in an arm wrestling match gone mad.”
Gamaliel jerked his head up towards the boy, surprised. A sly grin crept across Joel’s face. The two laughed together with the same stomach-based cackle. Then they fell silent once again. Joel looked up at Gamaliel; the man still stared at him, waiting for the boy to properly answer his question. Joel gave in and answered with a nod.
“Yeah, broke my arm,” he lowered his eyes and breathed something like a laugh, “Twice.”
“Really? How’d that happen?”
A sudden warning fired off in Joel’s mind. Who was this guy? Why did he want to know about his broken arm? Joel’s mind raced back to those two separate occasions when his right arm snapped, and to the man who caused it to do so. Anger sprang up in his chest. He looked back at Gamaliel. The man’s eyes were soft, harmless. Joel sighed deeply, trying to clear his mind of that horrid memory. He turned his eyes towards the sky. A bitter tear escaped and made a mad dash for the ground.
He refused to look at Gamaliel. He put all of his mind and will power into the act of averting his eyes. Why was he doing this? Why was he so ill at ease? Joel didn’t know for sure, but he could tell that something wasn’t right, this man was not normal. He could feel Gamaliel’s eyes burning into the side of his face. The man was watching him, he could tell. Maybe he wasn’t staring, but he was definitely watching.
A shiver ran up Joel’s spine. Don’t look at him, Joel. Don’t look at him. You’re paranoid, Joel. Don’t look at him.
There were Gamaliel’s eyes looking back.
He had this very strange, serious look on his face, as though he was protecting something of great importance. Yet his whole expression was kind and full of compassion. A definite expression of concern lingered on his brow as he regarded the boy. Joel thought this was very odd, even frightening. Wasn’t he supposed to be the one fretting over the injured man whom he had saved from the rocky ravine? Not the other way around.
“I’m sorry; I didn’t realize it bothered you so much.” Gamaliel lowered his voice, tenderly. His gaze returned to the flames.
“Bothers me? Uh… why should it bother me?” Joel had to think quickly to cover up his sudden show of emotion. “It was just a broken arm, right? No big deal, no big deal at all. It’s actually kind of funny in a way.” His voice was shaking nervously; he wasn’t doing too good. “They were both caused by really stupid mistakes of my own doing. Both times I-I was laughing so hard I barely felt the pain. The first time I broke my arm I-I fell skateboarding, yeah. And the second time I was… brawling with the same cousin with the wrist.” Joel threw in a laugh for good measure. Boy, was he a terrible liar when it came to short notice fibs. Give him two minutes to plan a deception and he could fool any lawyer any day, but not when he has only two seconds to think and nothing to work with. Gamaliel saw right through him. In fact, he saw more of the truth in Joel than what anyone should have been able to see.
Gamaliel turned back to the boy. Joel was surprised to see tears glistening in the man’s own eyes. Gamaliel took a deep breath then said,
“He cares for you, Joel. I know it may not always seem that way, but he really does. There’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t kick himself for not being the type of father he should be.”
Joel froze. His mouth dropped open and his tongue went dry.
“How did you…” He couldn’t complete his sentence.
“I know he hurt you, Joel, but you need to forgive him. He is no reason to run away.”
How did he know? Joel never said anything to Gamaliel about his father or anyone else for that matter. He never told him that he was running away. He never even told Gamaliel his own name. How did he know these things?
“But he’s not the only reason you’re running, is he. There’s Mason, your very best friend. He hurt you too. He betrayed you, Joel. Oh, believe me, I know how that feels. He betrayed your trust, he hurt you but you need to forgive him and set things right once again. He is no reason to run either.”
“How… how do you know Mason?” Joel’s eyes widened. Gamaliel ignored his question.
“Oh, and then there is Netanya, sweet Netanya. Why are you running from her? No matter how fast you run or how far you go, you cannot change what happened to her. She’s gone, Joel. She is not coming back. Of all the people in this universe; why run from her when she isn’t even in this world anymore.”
“Netanya.” A sharp pain pierced through Joel’s heart at the sound of her name.
“Of course there are a thousand other reasons why you are running away, many of which you do not even know are there. Like the voices in the back of your mind that are constantly calling you worthless. Or that dagger in your bottom drawer that calls to your flesh, thirsty for your blood. And your reflection in the mirror that mocks you each and every day. Do you really think that if you run far enough these things will just go away? No, course not.” He spoke so matter-of-factly that it did not even seem strange when a smile spread across his lips.
Joel suddenly felt cold, freezing cold with… with what? Fear? He could feel the color flush from his skin. An involuntary shudder rushed past his lips. His whole body vibrated. Was he shivering? Gamaliel’s unwavering gaze locked with his. Those two perfectly blue eyes; those perfectly clear, blue, evil eyes would not let go of Joel. Evil, evil, EVIL… they were evil, weren’t they? Gamaliel’s lips curved softly into a knowing smile, his expression soft yet piercing.
Joel crawled a few feet backward in a crab-like fashion, but he could not look away from the man. Gamaliel did not move, his expression did not change, he did not respond to the boy’s sudden action. Joel quickly scrambled to his feet; he instinctively placed his clenched fists up close under his chin.
“Who are you? What do you want from me?” Joel yelled with enraged confusion.
“I told you, my name is Gamaliel.” He said so calmly, as though nothing were happening.
“No, no, I don’t care what your name is! Tell me the truth! What do you want? How do you know all of this about me?” He threw his arms down and out in rage. The log on the fire collapsed at that same moment, sending a burst of sparks into the air. “What, are you stalking me or something? Did you follow me when I ran away? Have you been watching me all this time?” The fire once again popped, reaching its tortured fingers towards heaven, before collapsing again with a gentle whoomp nearly dying completely this time. “Well? Answer me! Did someone send you to spy on me? Have you been following me all this time?” He shouted again but his voice quivered slightly, losing its strength and betraying his fear.
Gamaliel’s face fell to an expressionless state. All was still and silent. Joel stood there holding his breath for what seemed like hours before the man finally answered. With complete confidence Gamaliel looked even deeper into Joel’s eyes and simply said,
Joel slowly backed away from the fire in a terrified state of shock. Of course he had accused the man of stalking him but by no means did he expect him to admit to doing just that. Nausea suddenly began to bubble from the pit of his stomach. He opened his mouth to speak but the only utterance that came was a feeble, “Why?”
Gamaliel sighed deeply. He looked up towards the stars as though to seek their approval before he turned back to Joel and plunged in with his response.
“Joel, I have been following you because you are about to make the biggest mistake of your life. I’m here to try and stop you.”
“What? I don’t understand. You’re… that’s why you’ve been following me? To stop me from making a mistake?” Confusion. “I don’t get it. I don’t even know you! Why should you care what I do?” Joel spat back defensively. Gamaliel ignored his question.
“You shouldn’t be here, Joel. You are on a road to nowhere. If you continue to run away from your life you will only find death.” He spoke gently but with a definite air of power and authority.
“What are you talking about?”
“You can’t keep running, Joel!” Gamaliel raised his voice, his brow creased and his eyes pierced. He suddenly looked much taller than he had been earlier; by the way, when had he stood up? Somewhere in the back of Joel’s mind it registered that Gamaliel’s leg was supposed to be broken.
“And why can’t I?” He raised his voice to match the stranger’s; he stomped one step closer to the man.
“Because you are Blind, Joel!” His voice blared out with such power that it actually caused the boy to stumble backwards. He tripped on a stone and fell to his seat. “You are so angry and so full of pride, you will not forgive and you won’t turn back. You are strong willed, my friend, but right now your will is focused in the wrong direction.” Gamaliel took two steps towards the boy. Joel jumped to his feet and took several steps back.
“Shut up! Shut up, man. You don’t know me. You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“Sadness and depression have been yours for so long you refuse to exchange them for joy.”
“That’s not true!” It wasn’t true, was it?
“All of these things have caused you to go blind to the truth. And though you are not yet deaf, you refuse to hear. You can no longer tell what is right and wrong.”
“Stop it! I said stop!”
“You have built a wall around yourself, Joel. You have crawled into a shell.” Gamaliel stepped over the dying flame and slowly proceeded towards the distraught young man. Joel continued to back away as he drew near. “And do you know what happens when one locks himself away from the rest of the world?” His perfectly clear, blue, maybe-evil eyes suddenly became very sad as he came closer and closer. Joel suddenly found himself backed into the lonely oak. “When that happens he begins to believe the lie that he is All Alone.”
Those final words flew like a dart into Joel’s chest. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a single leaf fall from the tree like an emerald tear. A tiny drop of salty moisture trickled down his cheek and found a resting-place between his two quivering lips.
Gamaliel’s last words echoed in through his head.
Alone… alone. All Alone… alone, all alone. Leave… Me… Alone. All Alone.
"Leave me Alone!” Suddenly, as though out of some hidden primal instinct, Joel pushed off from the tree and lunged at Gamaliel. Time seemed to go into slow motion. In that still moment the whole universe seemed to close in onto the only two figures who mattered: The first was Joel flying through the air, arms outstretched with twisted hands, legs stretched back as his feet pushed off the ground. His mouth was twisted with a scream on his lips. His eyes enraged yet softened with tears. And somewhere in his chest a hardened heart was crumbling. The second was Gamaliel, standing as still as a statue. He did not flinch; no surprise lit his face. His two perfectly clear eyes glowed blue, Joel wondered in that split second how he could have thought those orbs were evil. The only movement he put forth was the gentle raising of his right arm as Joel came only mere inches from the man. Elegantly he stretched forth his slender hand towards the boy and a tremendous flash of white light surged from his finger tips sending Joel back up against the tree, and returning time to its normal pace.
Joel crumbled to the ground, not fully understanding what had just happened. He shook the senses back into his head then looked up to where Gamaliel stood, seeking answers to what had just occurred, only the same Gamaliel was no longer anywhere to be seen. In his place towered an apparition of a dream. A creature like a man of ten feet stood shining like the sun. He was clothed in the purest light that flowed around his feet like water and rose above his head like mist. His hair burned like golden fire. And his eyes were perfectly clear and blue as water, and perfectly good through and through.
Joel was speechless and terrified, yet at the same time filled with awe and total peace.
“Do not be afraid, my dear friend. I am not some ghost come to take your soul. I am a messenger, a warrior, your guardian, sent to protect you and show you the way.” He smiled down on the boy with the most loving face imaginable. “I have already expressed to you much of what I was sent to tell; now I shall give you the rest. You have a decision to make, Joel; you have two choices and only two.” The glorious being held one arm out towards the west, “You can continue down this road and run from your past life. Hide behind your walls and curl up in your shell. I can not tell you your future, but I will tell you this: no matter which you choose, you will succeed in worldly things; you have many gifts that will go far. But if you choose this life you will continue to stumble in the dark and live forever in silence. Right and wrong will never again be clear to you. No matter where you go, you will always be running from your life, once you truly begin to run it is nearly impossible to turn back.” He raised his other arm towards the east, “Choice number two: You can return down the road you came and head back to the life you left behind. Yes, life will always have its trials but you must learn to face them. Running away never solves anything. Return to your home and face your life head on, for there is where your destiny lies.”
“But… I can’t do this by myself. I can’t do this alone.” Joel’s voice seemed so small and weak compared to this being’s.
“Alone? Who said you had to face life alone? Life was never made to be taken on alone. You have never been alone, Joel, I have been with you since the day you were born, as have others like myself. I have always been there to guide and protect you. And our Lord and Master has been with you even longer. He speaks to his children all the time; it’s just that his children don’t always listen.” He smiled once again. “Open your eyes and your ears and your heart to him, he will never leave you.” Gamaliel leaned in close to Joel and placed his glowing hand upon his head. “You are never alone, my friend, remember that and make the right choice.” With one last smile he pulled away his hand and Joel’s world fell into darkness as he was washed under the most peaceful sleep.
The sun was shining. Joel could feel it spreading across his skin. Only today’s sun was different from yesterday’s. Today’s sun was not the same lording tyrant it had been the day before, today it was a cheerful friend. It gently caressed Joel’s body, pulling him from his deep sleep.
Joel opened his eyes. Green. The first thing he saw was dancing green. The emerald leaves were dancing with the wind. There was a wind today. And it carried with it the scent of something new and strange and exciting.
Joel sat up slowly. A smile spread across his cheeks. He suddenly heard the sound of laughter. He looked around to find the source of this outflow of joy, only to find that it was none other than himself. He was laughing! Why on earth was he laughing? Who cared? He was laughing, truly laughing. That was something he hadn’t done in a long time.
He finally regained composure but hung on to his new-found smile. He suddenly remembered exactly what had happened the night before. It had actually happened, hadn’t it? Or had it all been just a dream? Joel hopped to his feet and looked about for any sign of the man he had saved last night, or had that man saved him? Was he even a man? No, he could not have been just a man.
“Gamaliel!” Joel called out, “Gamaliel, are you there? Are you still here?” No one answered, there was no one there. “Gamaliel?” He was gone. Joel was all alone once again.
“Ha, ha! How easily you forget.” a voice on the wind laughed. Joel spun around in circles twice, three times. No one was there. Had it been just the wind? Joel shook his head and laughed,
“It’s never just the wind.” Joel looked up at the perfectly clear, blue, wonderfully good sky and whispered, “Thanks.” He looked back at the old oak one last time. It had changed. All that joy, all that life that had been locked away in its leaves was now free. It was no longer alone, now it swayed and sang and laughed for joy, dancing in the arms of the wind.
Joel took a deep breath of the fresh summer air and laughed out loud once again. Shouldering his knapsack, he turned south. With great purpose in his stride he made his way back to the road. For the first time in his life, Joel knew exactly where he was going.
That was very wonderful! It was very well written and detailed! It was beautiful! I loved it to death! I liked how you explained why he was walking later in the story and not the beginning. I can't say much more. It was perfect!
Wow, perfect? Really? You are too kind. I'm glad you liked it so much. At last there is someone I get to read it that isn't like "Who is this guy and why is he walking in the middle of nowhere? This is stupid!" and then stops reading after the first page. Yeah Holly!
Those who can identify with others thanks to rich detail... will find no fault with this beautiful masterpiece of art. Well, perhaps a bit of additional work could be applied to certain sentences to make them feel more natural... But those few sentences aside, this bit of fiction truly spoke to me. I have newfound respect for you, Omandy. You are a wonderful artist; don't ever let this incredible talent go to waste.
I shall notify all of my writing buddies of this short story and urge them to read it. Until our battle in the arena continues... we shall meet again.
WOTS, could you point out which sentences you think I need to fix? Just the ones that stood out the most to you. I want to make this story perfect for the contest. Aw... never mind, that's just another thing to put on your plate. I'll go over it again later.
But seriously everyone, if you see anything you think I should fix or work on PLEASE tell me. I really want to go to nationals this year.
Joel’s own flush seemed to melt away under the summer heat.
Alright, first off, is that supposed to be "flesh"?
He didn’t have to look long to realize he would be sleeping under the stars, there were no signs of man-made shelter in sight.
Important: Try to avoid using abbreviations with an apostraphe outside of quotations. It tends to sound awkward and unprofessional, although your use of it in this short story did feel quite natural for the most part. It suited the country-style theme.
The heat was definitely playing tricks with his head. He made three whole rotations before any of the landscape actually registered in his mind.
While it isn't completely necessary, these two sentences might best be fused with a semicolon. Look carefully for spots where semicolons might be appropriate; those spots are often easy to miss.
It went from twenty feet deep, to ten, then down to a mere six feet, then fifteen, then back to ten again.
Not to say that this sentence isn't well designed, but the overuse of the word "then" makes me a little dizzy. Try omitting it at one point, or replacing it with another word. This tidbit of advise can be interchanged with other similar situations, so try to avoid using the same word more than two times in a sentence unless absolutely necessary (in the case of pronouns, it is sometimes best to repeat names in order to avoid character confusion).
“Hello Shelter!” The boy said right out loud, rather pleased with himself.
Alright, now this one may seem rather petty, so pay close attention. I was going to point out something else, but this is a better example. It's best to avoid using words out of their proper contexts, and this a great way to illustrate it. See that underlined word there? Well, it's completely out of context. Another example of this occurs at least once in your story, and I remember exactly what it was (if not when). The word "just" should not be used to indicate something having happened immediately previous to the sentence, except in certain cases. I'd point these out, but I'd only end up confusing both of us.
And remember: Under the proper circumstances, anything I tell you could be wrong.
There was one sentence that stood out to me for some reason. I don't know why, it fit with the rest, but it just jumped at me. I'm just odd I suppose. Wonderful language and very descriptive. I loved it all, this is great work. I'm not sure how tough the competition is, but this will definitely get you somewhere! Good job on this one.
Wow ... I really liked the theme of this short story. "On the Way to Nowhere" beautiful title, it really jumps out at me. Descriptions were done like a master. It felt very realistic. This is definitely good to go for a contest and I'll bet my computer that you win, lol. I wish you the best of luck.
Well, I'm not sure which one it was. It's hiding now. But it was good. Like that paragraph describing the boulders, I love that. This is good stuff. Good luck in that contest. But I'm sure you don't even need luck.