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The Peculiar Happenings of One J. R. Pryatt
An autumn’s day, with ease, makes the city streets seem ambient and truly picturesque from the Persimmon trees’ leaves of luminous orange and radiant yellow that blow gently in the breeze. The wind, cold and ominous, emphasized the afternoon sun that shone ambient rays of light onto the sidewalk as I enjoyed a lengthy promenade to a nearby bus stop after I painted a friend’s house near Warinanco Park in Elmora, New Jersey. I never planned to go help him because of the extreme distance between his and my house; however, my recent addiction to coffee dragged me towards the new Starbucks constructed in his neighborhood, in honor of Union County’s passion and desire for said beverages. When I arrived to the bus stop, I noticed a middle-aged man dressed in business with a high regard for the Wall Street Journal as he buried his rounded, tedious face into the black and white pages of words manufactured out of spite of the illiterate populace.
“Do you have the time?” the man asked me. His ambiguous mien in his cordial eyes made me disregard the emotions in which he expressed. I could tell he wore a wrist watch that he concealed, and, for some reason, it appeared as though he forgot he even possessed one. We awkwardly waited at the bus stop for approximately fifteen exaggerated minutes before he built up the nerve to ask me anything. I some-what struggled with the answer because I became confused and unaware if his question tested my ability me to see if I noticed his watch on his wrist, or if he truly forgot his watch. For some reason, I became distracted by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee across the street that overwhelmed my nostrils; most likely because I writhed in my very state of position for the taste of a cup o’ joe. Before I could utter a syllable, he became abruptly distracted by the wrist watch he wore. It appeared as though my glance upon his arm reminded him of his jewelry. With a glimpse of the road to my left, the scheduled city bus arrived with a slow gait and stopped at every red light while a bitter wave of traffic prevented it to move any faster. Eventually, when the bus arrived, I bid him farewell with a casual nod even though he concentrated his attention with business, time, and printed stories. His attitude clearly portrayed to me that he waited for the next bus. With a few forward steps, I boarded the bus.
In my diligent search, I became comfortable in a seat which happened to be positioned before a young boy that slept and rested his weary head upon the glass window. The bus contained few people which made the decision to sit near the front easier. However, I developed the sense of apprehension about the absence of parents for this child. His parents, if any one watched over this boy, allowed this eight, perhaps nine, year old child, to ride a city bus in Staten Island, whether or not he rode the bus for a long duration of time, and venture off into the city on his own. Even though this unaccompanied child roamed this city full of lunatics, I decided it to be my liberty to not question the guardianship of this boy, but if anything went wrong, I would look out for him, even though I knew nothing would happen. Quite exhausted from the physical labor I performed earlier, I seated myself near the front which seemed reasonable for my fatigued legs. From the boredom of the ride and curiosity, I pondered and contemplated on the idea of sleep:
With a dead conscience, dreams may crash into our thoughts and poison the mind with illusions of vivid illustrations. It’s a natural and strange phenomenon of the human psyche that can only be explained by either temporary death or the process in which we transfer our minds to parallel universes and dimensions, far beyond our grasp and control. As tired eyelids close with the western sun, and dreams develop, our vessel of a body will be left behind as our mental state travels to lands we only see in our dreams; we only know in our dreams…
My soliloquy, with the potential to continue, came to a stop when Martin Avenue, my street, arrived with vengeance. As I stood up, the young boy awoke with a sudden jerk, and departed the bus behind me. The wind’s chill left me to beg for warmth with a scar of frozen skin. I walked down the block with a steady pace as I noticed the symphonies of car horns and Eastern Bluebirds’ songs of melodious harmonies. Colossal brick buildings, from the effects like that of a Doppler, passed me by, as I did to them. The city bus feared to stroll down my street, probably because the skies wore clouds that set the nerves on edge about its shoulders. Without any reason, the bus, with a cloud of grey that spewed from the muffler, turned onto the perpendicular street, and left me to the pavement underneath my feet as they cursed my heels. As time passed, my apartment building stretched across the skyline and I arrived at the red, wood doors marked with obscure windows, disproportional to the square indents left on the outside of the entirety as it faced the black topped street. I always hated how much required forced strength influenced these anchor-like doors. A wave of heat drowned me, as well as the stench of fresh paint, as I entered the building. The smell almost knocked me off my sturdy posture. For some strange reason, I lived in that complex for six years now and, yet, I felt like I’ve never been used to a single square inch of that bizarre apartment. I noticed that the door didn’t slam, as it so often does. With a glance over my shoulder, the boy from the bus entered the building just as I shivered from the high temperatures. I never saw this child until the bus ride earlier, and he lived in my apartment building. How did I not notice? He even went in the elevator with me! Appalled at my inability to notice the tenants in the same living space as me, I contemplated on how I missed the existence of the boy. He followed me as we entered the hardly capacious elevator. The fragrance of burnt crayons rushed and forced its way through my nostrils like cocaine and caused me to lose control of my ability to breathe steady. I stepped back from the room as he stepped into the elevator.
“Are you okay?” he asked. This little kid, with an amiable smile, kindly held the door open for me, despite his small stature.
“Yeah,” I coughed into my inner elbow,” The smell’s a bit intoxicating.” I just about coughed up a lung when I found my inhaler in my pocket in results of my desperate vagabond. I gasped for air and my heavy suspirations of breath calmed to a steady pace.
As I entered the elevator with skepticism, the little boy looked at me with a broad smile, “When you’ve lived here as long as I have, you get used to the odd smells.”
Now how in the hell did he live here longer than I did and I never noticed him?
“How long have you lived here?” I asked with half-filled lungs as I began to calm down.
“Oh, since I was 1…or 3. It’s hard to remember around a specific age,” he explained, “But before I forget, what floor are you on?”
I almost forgot what floor of the apartment building I lived on from the panic attack, and the whole this-little-kid-lived-here-longer-than-I-did-and-I-never-noticed-him thought that stained my mind. I struggled to say, yet, stuttered, “floor 13.”
“Well, I live on seven,” he stated, “Looks like I’m getting off before you.” He pressed the appropriate buttons, stretched his small arms towards the buttons and the elevator jerked upwards as that burnt smell still stained my nostrils.
For some reason, I couldn’t help but feel like a pariah amongst this native to the apartments I became so vaguely familiar with. Out of all 20 floors, he lived on seven; and in the same building, no less! I never felt so out of place.
The pseudo-wood panels on the walls of the elevator, for some reason, seemed to stick out to me more than ever in contrast to the cherry red carpet we stood on. With the resonance of a bell, the elevator doors opened and revealed a lengthy hallway that split off in two directions, but still found a way to be filled to the ceiling with the scent of freshly brewed coffee. The lights lit the foyer with a manner unlike that of the elevator as it, in a motion that exaggerated the distance of it, made the walls appear to go on forever and a second. My stomach stabbed at my back from the odor that over whelmed and drowned the elevator. I longed to get to my apartment to relax and brew the coffee I desired all day.
“This is my stop,” the young boy said with his smile he still wore that warmed the heart. The elevator doors shut and left me to the four walls coated with false wood.
I waited for the elevator to ascend six floors and amused myself as I investigated the room for odd patterns on the wall and carpet. The florescent lights began to give me a migraine. I could tell because of the sudden weakness in my vision and the flashes of light that inundated my eyes. I put my head down to avoid eye contact with the light and noticed the brightly colored backpack the young boy left behind. With my conscience, I felt it my duty to return his bag or I’d never live it down. I really began to think that I would never drink that cup of coffee I wanted all day. Eventually, my apartment floor became visible, subsequent to the bell, and tempted me to come home to the fifth door on the left. I ached for a cup of coffee, but perhaps a visit to the seventh floor would treat my stomach as it writhed and calm it for a bit. I pressed the button that matched the little kid's floor, bag in hand, and impatiently waited for the elevator to descend and release me into the coffee smelled hallway.
The elevator descended, yet stopped, and struggled to open the doors. Not even the bell alerted that the elevator stopped. Impatiently, I waited for the doors to open. Beads of sweat and anxiety flowed down my temples as I began to panic and breath heavy. I hit the blocked doors with all my might while I made a commotion that shook the entirety of the elevator. Despite my efforts, nothing seemed to influence the stubborn doors. I almost broke down in tears when the lights shut off but a wave of relief flowed in my veins from the darkness. Without the light that antagonized my headache, I thought I might be at ease. I worried if the migraine’s pain, still vengeful, plotted against me. The absence of noise rounded and impaired my ability to hear except for the natural noises and functions of my body. I almost became deaf from the quiet atmosphere deep within that accursed elevator. With doubt at my side, I feared I may never see the light of day again. My pulse started to beat boisterous beats of blood in my wrist and neck as it expressed my veins. My lungs hyperventilated and pounded against my chest with enormous power that prevented me to breathe. I reached into my shallow pockets for my inhaler, and became disappointed when I brought it to my panicked lips only to find it empty. I struggled to catch my breath and I attempted to calm it with natural gasps of air and failed to do so. I breathed heavy which only made the panic attack worse. My eyes searched for a source of light, even in the desperate event of a headache, and became flooded by the dark. I screamed and the sound hit my ears with a force unlike sound itself, like that of when lightning strikes thunder. I slammed my fists upon the door and felt the bones in my hands crush under the pressure from the incredible force that caused my fingers to grind against each other. The pain created friction, a rug burn from my skin as it rubbed against my clenched palms as they hit the doors. I became mad from the darkness and backed into the corner with the back pack still nearby and began to reassure myself, even though I knew it to be lies, that everything, in time, eases its difficulty and intensity. I became furious, a vicious bull from the stale odor of burnt crayons that lingered far beyond its welcome. The smell laughed at me in my imprisonment and crawled into my nostrils with a devilish manner. Like a trapped animal, I began to claw at the walls in my hopes of escape. My fingernails collected every ounce of pain and bled from the intense strength I forced upon them. They cracked, yet my nails and fingers became numb and allowed me to ignore further pain inflicted on them as well as the blood that seeped from the open wounds. It’s difficult to recall how long I dug at the walls with my hands, but I know twenty minutes passed, at the least, from the tolerance to the infliction of agony. Seconds faded to minutes, minutes; hours, or so it seemed. To occupy the time, I sang to myself in a calm, soothed voice like that of a mother to her woeful child. Without my vision, I quivered as a withered soul without a drop of hope in my blood. A flicker of the lights, and optimism in my skull, the door opened and the bell rang. My heart sank to the floor and I burst into tears from the fear of my madness. I never thought I’d escape from the elevator. However, the madness only seemed to continue.
As the elevator doors opened, they seemed to reveal no hallway, but three, very different doors in a chamber that released the aroma of linen. A pale yellow paint, almost a Navajo white, smothered the walls and exaggerated the illustrations of the doors in contrast to the dark carpet below the barrier of the border on the bottom of the wall. With a glance at the first door to the left, I noticed it to be a thick oak, perhaps a rich mahogany with a brass door handle, centered in the middle that twisted my reflection in an obscure manner. Clearly visible that this wood edifice, with its hinges, a swing door, seemed more common than I thought, but still wore value, to me, because of its unique characteristics, the merit of the door told, which condescended my presence, told me otherwise. I knew this door most likely originated from European descent in an age of aristocracy. The door wore highly detailed finishes beyond the imagination with illustrations of mellifluous lines and images like that of euphony to vision. It clung to my eyes as if it screamed to be opened. I didn’t think about the other doors so I reached out to its handle, and, with a downward motion, the handle prevented any further movement, as the door appeared to be locked. I took a few steps back to find a key of some sort; however, the door handle lacked a key hole, just as the other door knobs. Confused, I disregarded the peculiar event and took notice to my other options in disappointment. The second door, fixed in the heart of the room, appeared to be very pedestrian; an average passageway into a room that could’ve belonged to any of the apartments in the building. Its copper door knob fit to the characteristics known as a passage knob, only because it lacked a keyhole, like the first door. Without words the door told me it held no secrets of the imagination, but an entrance to an endless eternity. The last and I saved to explain this one for last, happened to be pastel white as it mirrored shades of grey that emphasized its hue. It intrigued my senses, even to the touch, for it held this essence about it that even the most intellectual dialect could not explain. I could not determine, even by sight, what kind of wood the door happened to be made of or even where it derived from. I questioned its charisma with a feel of its surface: rough, yet a smooth-like texture that contradicted the door’s actual consistency. However, it wore mystique on its golden door knob. Confused in what to do, I contemplated on my next movements. I needed to return the little kid's back pack, but I knew that the apartment building I became so familiar to no longer existed. I knew that to a science. If I cowardly returned to the hellish elevator, I knew my demise would take place within that chamber. I became very much interested and grasped the white door’s knob of value with my right hand, still bruised from my panic attack, and entered the door.
As I entered, the wind picked up and a wave of white light flooded my entire body, or the migraine finally took a hold of my equilibrium. My vision became so inundated by the sea of light, my mind ached and my tongue twisted under the influence of the room as it spun out of control. My temples began to beat upon the sides of my skull as if hands scratched at my skin. The light provoked my headache as it caused my red, beaten hands to tremble at my sides. My innards and esophagus, at war, broke out into a violent rampage, which in turn, gave my stomach permission to act out in accordance to misbehave. I salivated and tried to hold back my stomach acid with every effort in my will, however, even in the upmost tragic moments, my body could not control its actions. I will cease to note the events that took place, but I will add that I became very nauseas. A sudden rush of cold air streamed down my spine as I recovered from the sickness. I adjusted my eyes, the blindness seemed to clear, and I became very well aware of where I happened to be. The enormous movie screen, with daunt, put demons to shame as it shook my brittle bones. The taste of dirty, candy coated, and I use that term in disgust, floors entered my mouth with a distasteful fashion. I couldn’t help but feel as though I’ve been there before, but the fundamental nature of an outside atmosphere assured me of my previous thoughts. I thought, for a few moments, that I happened to be outside, and, yet, walls enclosed me in a room. Rows of seats appeared before me in a manner of a movie theatre with that white screen overhead. I made my way to the front row in the first seat I saw while that screen burnt holes into my soul. The chair felt like a comfort contradiction in the terms of my tiresome state of mind; any make-shift chair apparatus would make do. With rusted springs in my back, I stared up at the white screen. It wore malevolent pupils even though a completely blank, white screen positioned itself upon the wall before me. Unfortunately, the whole room held silence, despite the calm breeze that settled my nerves. To prevent eye contact with the screen, I closed my eyelids, and attempted to calm my ability to breathe as I absorbed every pound of air outside my nostrils. I thought, for a moment, that I my nerves eased. A downward motion led me to believe otherwise. I thought I started to slide down from my root position, however, I could feel the wind pick up and slide past my skin. With fear in my thoughts, I began to believe my body started to fall towards hell. Momentum picked up and my velocity increased faster than ever. Faster and faster- the fall seemed endless. Fear question the method in how I would slow down or even what would stop me from my fall. Anticipation rushed through the tip of my head and fell out towards my feet as I descended. Faster, faster, still- the rush began to manipulate my heart beat. The pulse within my veins no longer contained cadence, but random beats of hurried murmurs. Finally, the impact took into effect.
I hit a surface of some kind. My face, the first of my body to make contact with the pavement, looked dreadfully gruesome from my smashed bones and the torn flesh. I became well aware that what I hit to be pavement when my jaw cracked on rocks and released blood through my open mouth with bits of teeth. My head bounced off the concrete from the incredible velocity I gained from my fall of what I believed to be ten to fifteen feet. My hands absorbed much pain, as well, in a failed attempt to catch myself in my fall as I prevented pain to be inflicted on my face. The palms of my already beaten hands became raw and torn from the rocky surface of the asphalt. I lied on the ground in agony and attempted to recover from such a dramatic fall; twisted my sore body in hopes to soothe my severe wounds. Bruises covered my arms more than my sleeve of skin, even though in some areas my arms held unclotted scabs. I rose upward from my tragic fall and noticed that I happened to be in a concrete graveyard, left to oblivion. With an upward glance from where I descended, there happened to be an endless sea of open, dark blue skies just as the movie screen with the demonic eyes that intimidated my soul. I dropped the young boy’s bag in pure ire; it became clear to me that this child originated from some unfathomable dimension of hell. The pavement seemed to swallow the scenery, but worst of all, a deep, clouded fog began to roll in and enveloped my surroundings. Scared for my life, I ran like hell and left my shadow behind. Soon enough, the fog clouded my body in a mist that prevented me to see any further than two feet. I sprinted with all my strength and stopped dead in my tracks. I, unfortunately, hit a brick wall, face forward at full force. My nose broke, since it hit the wall first, and became an unbearable experience that is difficult to explain with words. The bricks absorbed all of the impact and returned the strength forced upon it, onto my head as it throbbed and bled horribly from when my skull hit the wall. The pain inflicted from earlier, without enough time to ease, became immensely irritated and incredibly sore. A surge of shock took a hold of my pulse in an attempt to seize my heartbeat. I still remember how the smash of my face onto the bricks that stole the breath from my lungs. I fell to the ground in pain without a trace of oxygen in my lungs.
Ultimately, I awoke as I gasped for breath and found myself in what seemed like a doll house furnished with obscure furniture that filled my mind of dreadful thoughts. The sliver of light in a small circumference provided by and around a small candle made it difficult to see the room except in the small portions of where light hit the subjects. I lay upon an old bed with white clothed sheets underneath me; the bed frames consisted of glossy brass. The room, cluttered to each end of the walls with childish, vintage toys, gave a seemingly unpleasant spirit about the chamber that sent shivers down my spine as it ached. Near the closet, at the edges of the doors that faced me, the darkness slept so sound above the wood floor and seemed to barely graze the outer dimensions of the rocking chair that still fluctuated. The main door of the room happened to be closed and prevented light to pass through the gaps around it. My bruises, scars, and cuts still pierced my skin. Sore, I struggled to open my eyes and become conscience of the situation. My blurred vision and rounded hearing set my nerves on edge as I attempted to comprehend the setting. A thought struck my mind: am I dreaming? I struggled to get off the bed, yet, found a way to slouch on my tired feet. I wondered with immense curiosity at where exactly I happened to be at and walked to the window. I knew I lost my sanity when I pulled away the curtains on the wall to discover a brick wall. A window pane surrounded bricks; a tragedy to scenery. I went through too much to keep my stability at hand. Fearful, I became haunted by awful thoughts of horrific ghouls as they tortured me if they found me. To add to the nightmare, the humid aroma of the atmosphere made the action to breathe a challenge. I panicked and immediately bolted out the bedroom door, which I’m still so unsure how I appeared there, or how any of the events that day happened. As I exited the room, I entered a dim hallway, perpendicular to the door, which wore strange, antique pictures on the walls. The hallway that directed the attention to the left treasured the sight of a door with a ray of light that peeked through the crevice it created between it and the door frame. To the right, the darkness rejected all light and drove terror into the fearful. No objects could be taken notice of, even with the most attentive perception. Behind the darkness, dwelled the laughs of children. I couldn’t mentally handle the sounds that ran down the hallway to my frightened ears. Breathless, I crept towards the stair case across from my initial position where the room I came out of happened to be. The laughter rang louder, as if the kids started to chase me. I sped up my pace with what strength I contained. While I pushed furniture out of my way, I almost stumbled and fell onto a glass table placed carelessly in the middle of a walkway to the living room. The voices neared closer to me as they almost made contact with the back of my t-shirt. On the back of my neck, the hairs stood up as they trembled in my own trepidation. I stopped when I reached the living room for I became apathetic if my fate happened to be left to the demonic children. In the living room, the same white door in which I stumbled upon earlier appeared before me and led me to the fate of my escape. I knew I couldn’t stay in that dreadful miscreation. With a quick action, I opened the door and ran.
I entered the doorway and suddenly dropped into murky water as I fell further into the depths of swamp water. I became completely enclosed by water as my lungs attempted to hold onto the last few gasps of air they possessed. I stayed under the water as I hoped that my lungs would cave in and my chest would collapse. Anything seemed to be better than to swim to the surface to discover a world of hellish demons and satanic children. As I sank, my eardrums crushed under the pressure. I opened my eyes to my fate, but the water became so murky, darkness prevented light to pass through. Something, in that instant, drove me to think things changed. With opened eyes, I found myself in desolation. I believed I died. Water no longer surrounded me; it didn’t even cling to my clothes or skin. I completely lost hope for my life when I found air in my lungs. It seemed as though my body contained happened to be in a cage without light. I dreaded that I happened to be entombed in a small coffin, as if I died in that elevator while I slept from some poisonous, loose gas line that caused me to hallucinate as it killed me with the lights off; alone. No one will find me. I’ll be stuck there for days, perhaps weeks if they don’t attend to the elevator in time. If they don’t find me in time, they’ll smell my corpse. If they even smelt me. If I died in there. Perhaps, I’m buried. Out of curiosity and the urge to find out if I lied in a coffin, I reached out my arms to find the walls a good one and a half of my arm span when I noticed something very odd as I smelt the atmosphere. The smell of brunt crayons rushed its way into my nostrils which drove madness into my temples. I found myself in the chamber of that dreaded elevator. I knew the state of death or sleep took ahold of my conscience. Nothing told me otherwise. No explanations told me why all of the dreadful events happened to me. I became scared to death. My heart beat pounded in my chest as I pounded on the walls with fierce blows until my hands became numb; I screamed until my eardrums rang high pitched tones and ached from the pure silence of the room. When I thought all happened to be at its worst, the migraine slowly made its way into my temples as it scraped the veins from the backs of my eyes. I screamed in agony, even though my ears couldn’t make out the sounds, not from the darkness of the elevator, or the presence of the elevator, not even the fact that I experienced horrific events that drove me insane, but the intensity of the migraine increased so dramatically that I believed I would explode from the severe and critical pain. Eventually, I became weary, and slept. Even though I experienced cruel and unusual events, I slept so sound. Seldom did I rustle in my slumber. I conserved the time to sleep; the calm after the storm to relieve my agony.
“Hey, wake up,” an innocent voice said. I opened my eyes to see the young boy as he stared down at me. His smile that I became so used to transformed into the most peculiar, solemn mouth; not even a grin or frown. “You have my backpack,” he said, “I’d like to have it back.” His eyes, a lurid blue-grey like that of the morning’s sky, shone experience and intelligence. I thought I threw his bag away in anger at the concrete field, however earlier that happened to be, but it seemed as though I slept on it in the elevator; that dreadful, accursed, elevator.
My blurred vision struggled to clear as I attempted to collect my sanity of what happened prior to ended sleep. He took the bag from the ground and fixed it with care. “You know, you shouldn’t take things that aren’t yours,” he explained as he still fixed the crinkled backpack with his head down.
“I didn’t,” I retorted, “You left it in here when you left. I was going to return it to you…but…something happened…” I scratched my tender scalp. My hands and face, still beaten and bruised, assured that I experienced the true, hell-like events I thought I dreamt.
The child looked down at me, as I still lay on the ground. He asked me with his head cocked to the side, “What happened to you? Are you okay?”
“No!” I shouted with ferocity. “First, I was trapped in the elevator, then; I stumbled upon the doors…” I exclaimed to illustrate my bruises and cuts.
“Oh...you saw the doors. Well, I guess you ought to know…” he said in a mature tone. His facial expressions changed to that of an adult with those still childish features. “You see, I’m time. All of it. The entire concept manifested into an enigma. This ‘bag’ contains secrets, memories, dreams, reality, life, experiences, moments, space, time… a mere mortal, such as yourself, couldn’t grasp the intensity of such a presence. Most of the time, those doors appear. They’re portals to dimensions of what the bag holds. I’m usually around. People need to depend on me, yet they never notice when I’m around. I can be what you see now: a young boy with hope in his future, or perhaps an elderly woman behind you in line at the post office, or even a business man at a bus stop,” he explained with intelligence.
I barely understood the concept. For the most part, I understood that the bag happened to be a method and concept that acted as a storage system for all that humanity can offer: the arts, knowledge, creations, dreams, science, love; aesthetics of beauty. But when put into the wrong hands, it can cause chaos, violence, even worm holes, lapses in time, or at least I think.
“When put into human hands, this ‘backpack’ as people call it, can cause migraines or nausea from the intensity, even illusions of hallucinations and experiences of all that the bag holds. It’s far too powerful for earth, even this dimension, which was why I was carrying it with me to take home, but I guess the bag, with a mind of its own, found its way to you. It does that ever so often. It amuses me so, but at least it gained more to hold and it fell into your hands. Throughout the day so far, the bag found its way to two other people, but that’s beside the point,” he explained.
He left me to the elevator and I never saw him again. I still dream about that day and Time. I feel as though the entire journey turned out to be an experience to learn from: no matter what terrible occurrence happens, there will always be a way out of it, even if it leads to another awful event. To cope and survive the most horrific incident, you must trudge through the dirt and sort through the filth, and in the end, you’ll learn from the horrible and the damned. Optimism should run through our veins to know that when all seems uphill, when we’ve reached the summit, we’ve accomplished the impossible.