A Conversation at the Crossroads
And so it was that I came to the crossroads.
Three choices lay before me. Four if you count going back to where I came. I however, did not consider that much of an option for although I had little complaints about my past travels, they were conquered, as it were, and no longer held much interest to me.
Three choices, then, of where to go next.
“Quite a decision, isn’t it?” a smooth, smoky voice asked from my left. I turned and looked at the well-dressed man standing next to me. I hadn’t heard him approach. But then, I didn’t suppose you ever really heard him coming up behind you anyway.
“Yes,” I replied in a noncommittal sort of way.
“Do you need help deciding?”
“No.” I was about to add “thank you” but thought better of it. What was the karmic cost of thanking one such as he?
Turning away, I gazed out onto the landscape, letting my eyes drink in the details of the roads before me.
Straight ahead, continuing along the same line I had been walking, lay the City. I could just make out the hazy shapes of skyscrapers in the distance. If I took that path, I would, in short time, find myself in the City, working as I have, moving up through the corporate ranks and piecing together a comfortable life. The path was straight and true, with nary a pothole in sight. The chances of getting lost on such a path were slim at best.
“That’s a good choice,” the man said, interrupting my thoughts. “Lots of people choose that road. It’s a safe road to walk. Not many potholes, as it were, along the way.”
“Mm-hmm,” I nodded, half to myself. It unnerved me how he echoed my thoughts but I didn’t tell him that. He probably already knew.
And why choose any other path anyway? I had the experience to navigate that road better than the others. The terrain, although somewhat new, was still familiar and comforting. I knew what lay ahead, for the most part. That, in and of itself, made the road appealing. Who doesn’t want a little security in their lives?
And yet, I found my eyes being drawn to the right. There, another path went off into the distance. This road, rather than being mostly straight like the first road, took turns and dips and climbed hills. I tried to follow the line of the road as it stretched to the horizon but couldn’t. It veered from side to side and up and down very often. It was a road of hazards and risks and I didn’t know where it ended. Did it lead to the mountains? Or the valley?
“Maybe both,” the man said.
“Maybe,” I agreed and immediately berated myself. I should not be listening to him, I knew. But it was difficult to ignore someone who voiced your own thoughts.
Then, there was the third road. It ran for a short way, then apparently dropped off into a large chasm. I could not see the other side. Why, I wondered, would anyone want to walk that road? How would they?
“Oh, that road is not for you,” the man said.
This time, I turned and looked at him. “Why not?” I asked.
“You must jump.”
I looked again at the road and the chasm beyond. How could anyone jump across that? I couldn’t even see the far side. But somehow, deep inside, I knew others had before. And, even deeper down, I knew I could make the leap as well.
“How do I do that?”
He shrugged his shoulders. It reminded me of oil running down a slide. “I can’t really tell you that. Unless, of course, we can reach some sort of agreement.” He smiled then and I had to turn away.
I studied the road. It called to me. Here, here was the ultimate test. A leap of faith, as it were. A leap into the nether, destined to either land on the other side in triumph or fall into the chasm and disappear from the world. Either way, I would be remembered.
The idea got stuck in my head and wouldn’t let go. Despite the end, I would be remembered, simply for trying. Would the same happen on the other two roads? Maybe. But not by the world. If I took the third road, I would be remembered by everyone.
“There was someone, once, like you,” the man said in a conversational sort of way. “He was torn about taking the third road as well.”
“Oh really.” I tried not to sound interested.
“Robert was his name, as I recall. Nice young man. Played a mean guitar. Really good, I mean, really good. Wanted to be the best, though. Wanted to be the best in the world.”
“So we struck a deal, him and I. I showed him how to leap across the canyon there. He did it. Reached the far side. Became the greatest guitar player the world had ever known.”
I wanted him to continue the story but, at the same time, I wished he wouldn’t speak anymore. His words buzzed around inside my head like a swarm of flies. It was difficult to think clearly while he spoke.
Pushing his words away, I studied the three roads once more. The safe, straight road, the twisting adventurous road and the leap over the chasm. Which should I take?
“What happened to Robert?” I asked, letting the question escape before I had a chance to cage it. My curiosity bested me once more.
The man shrugged again. “He died. Just like everyone else.”
I nodded. Of course.
I made up my mind. I placed my foot on the road and began to walk again.
A story from.....