[Short Story] The Path, Part 1

in writing •  5 months ago


Maybe it really was the other way. No, no. There’s little use in having thoughts like that now. I have to commit, have to keep going.

… Although… if it really was the other way, then with every step I’m just going further and further in the wrong direction. I scrunch my eyes shut in frustration, trying to flush those familiar doubts from the folds of my troubled mind.

Of course, it isn’t that easy. It never is. Just keeps gnawing at my hindbrain, like the sound of mice in the walls. Getting louder, and louder, and louder, until…”FUCK!” I shout into the featureless white void all around me.

“FUCKING SHIT!” I turn around and begin running the other way. My footsteps against the smooth, white walkway do not echo any more than my shouts did. There’s nothing out there for sound to bounce off of, apparently.

It’s also not clear where the light is coming from. It just seems to be everywhere, at a uniformly comfortable brightness. I slow to a jog, then eventually go back to walking. I can’t tell if it makes any difference, as there are no visible reference points to judge speed by. Just me, the walkway, and the void.

I stop, hands on my hips, and catch my breath. Then I lay down flat on my stomach and inch my way to the edge so I can peer underneath it. Still nothing. No pillars supporting it from below. No suspension cables, nothing. How does it stay up?

If I could only find a label somewhere. A logo. “Such-and-Such Construction Company”. Why snatch someone away from their life and stick them here, wherever this is, without leaving clues? What’s the point of it, then?

Feeling rejuvenated, I pick up the pace to a brisk walk. The path ahead narrows to an infinitesimally small point at the horizon. Is it still the horizon if I can’t see the sky? This isn’t the sky, is it? There’s nothing under me. I can’t be in space, there’s air to breathe. I am neither warm nor cold for that matter, but a constant comfortable temperature.

I’ve never seen a cloud here. Nor birds. There’s not even a gradient, everything is evenly lit and the same shade of white. It’s even difficult to make out the path sometimes if I’m not paying attention.

I’ve made the right decision. I have. I feel good about it. Right? I do. Don’t I? I begin to tremble, walking more and more slowly, struggling to prevent what I know is coming. I clench my jaw, grinding my teeth.

“God fucking damnit” I mutter, and turn around. I have to! What if the decision to reverse course was the one that would’ve doomed me? Taking me further and further from the exit, while I’m none the wiser?

This way. THIS way felt right in the first place! It was this way, wasn’t it? When I wake up, sometimes it’s easy to lose track of which direction I was heading in. I would say I’m ninety percent sure this is the way I headed when I woke up this morning.

Or...night? There’s no sun or moon, it could be three AM right now for all I know. But then, I’d feel it, wouldn’t I? The human body has some sense of the day/night cycle, doesn’t it? I should’ve kept track.

The very minute I wound up here, I should’ve made a point to recall what time it was before. I could’ve...no, wait. Without a watch or something, there’s still no way I could’ve...No. It wouldn’t have made any difference.

Nothing makes any difference. There is no difference here! Just this unbearably bland white nothingness. Is it nothing? Or everything? I forget. I think white light is all the colors of light combined, but it’s the opposite for pigment.

I wonder if I’ve passed the starting point… if I can even call it that. Whatever point along this path that I first woke up at. Then again, if it goes on forever in both directions, there is no true center. I wish I had something, anything to leave as a milestone...if I had clothing, I could take off a sock or whatever and leave it there.

That way I’d know how far I’ve come. At least, how far from that point. I couldn’t measure travel time in days, but I could measure it in sleeps. Four sleeps away from the sock. Five sleeps. Six. But whoever did this to me must’ve thought of that.

Of course. Of course they thought of it. That’s why they didn’t let me keep my clothes. That’s why there are no pillars, otherwise I could count them to measure distance. I just have to keep going in this direction. I never should’ve doubted myself.

What’s the use of doubt when there are only two directions I could choose? When neither direction has anything to recommend it over the other? Can they even really be called different directions, when nothing distinguishes one from the other?

That nagging little voice chimes in like it always does. Saying the same damn thing as always, too. “There is no exit.” Shut up. SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP you little fuck. You think I haven’t considered that? I’ve done nothing BUT consider it.

There’s no wind, of course. That would create a meaningful difference between the two directions. If the wind blew parallel to the path, then in one direction I’d have to walk against the wind, where in the other direction I could walk with it.

That would make the decision easier, so of course there’s no wind. Of course. If it blew perpendicular to the path, it would feel different going one way versus going the other. I can’t say exactly why, but I feel certain that would undermine whatever all of this is meant to achieve.

That’s all I can do. Notice stuff like that, and try to model this situation in my mind. To figure out from what little there is to go on who might’ve put me here, and why. There’s just so precious little to work with. White path. White void. Me.

I don’t have any enemies...that I know of. None that could afford to build something like this, certainly. I try to shit again, in hopes I could at least leave an identifiable mark that way. Nothing. I can’t piss either.

I do gradually get hungry and thirsty as I grow more and more tired. But every time I lay down on the path and fall asleep, when I wake up my hunger is gone. My thirst is gone. Am I just...am I starting over at the same position every time I wake up?

That can’t be. It can’t. But if it were true, how would I know? How could I tell the difference? God damnit. Even Sisyphus knew which direction to go. At least he knew he had to go up the mountain rather than down it! I’d gladly push his boulder at this point, just to have something to do.

Am I being fed while asleep? I don’t see how. If I’m being drugged, there are no needle marks anywhere on my body to indicate it. I’ve thought many times that it must be a dream, but it’s too vivid. I’ve only rarely had dreams this vivid, and even then, they never lasted so long.

Despite my every effort not to, as I walk, I imagine the exit receding further and further into the distance behind me. Anxiety swells within me until finally overflowing. I again curse loudly, turn on my heel, and head in the other direction.

It could be this way! It could. What was my reasoning for going the other way in the first place? I didn’t have any. If it’s actually this way, I’ve only wasted countless hours going in the wrong fucking direction!

It was like this before, wasn’t it? Even before I woke up here. Any time I made a choice, I unavoidably destroyed all the other possible lives I might’ve lived. Rather than dwell on it, I instead wonder why it is I remember having a life before this.

I’m in Hell, aren’t I? It can’t be a simulation or I’d have no memory of a life before waking up here. But this isn’t the Hell I’ve read about. There’s no fire here. Neither is it agonizingly cold, as some conceptions of Hell in other religions are described.

There are no wicked little goblins tormenting me with red hot pokers, either. The only one tormenting me is myself. If I could just… choose! Just like that, all at once. If I could fully commit to one direction and never look back…

Maybe I was close to the exit. I might’ve been! Maybe I only had another hour of walking to go before finally reaching the only way out of here, just to turn around and head in the wrong direction! Based on what? Fear. Uncertainty. Those two things are closely related, I think.

Did aliens do this? I never believed in aliens. Then again, I never believed in a white void with an endless walkway either. Assuming it is endless, I mean. For all I know there are exits at both ends, and my dumb ass will never reach either just because I can’t decide.

I wish there were somebody else. If there were two of us, we could each go off in our own direction and I’d feel some degree of solace knowing at least one of us would make it. Unless there really are no exits.

Give me SOME indication, you bastard! Or… bastards? I don’t know. However frantically I shout demands and threats into the void, I receive only silence in reply. How like the silent indifference of a universe which owes us no explanation.

Stay Tuned for Part 2!

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Scary build up!!