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A House in the Wilderness
The enormous pine trees towered above the forest, scraping the brilliantly blue and cloudless sky. They cast very little shadow under the noonday sun, and Artemis felt the heat perspire his head, sweat dripping down his temples. He continued to climb the steep hill as quickly as possible, breathing heavily from the humidity. He had to finish the trail by tomorrow, or else he would run out of supplies.
There was not a breath of wind that day, and the tall pine trees did not stir. Even the birds seemed to have quieted down. The wild forest was completely stilled, as if frozen in time. Artemis discovered a small opening. It was a natural miniature cave on the side of the mountain, all dark and gloriously shady. Artemis couldn’t help but to take advantage of his luck and collapsing inside for a momentary break.
He caught his breath for a minute, and then reached into his backpack for a granola bar. The wrapping crinkled surprisingly loud in the silence. He sat back against the far wall and chewed slowly, gazing at the view. Past the trail, past the trees, there was an abrupt downward cliff. And there was the breathtaking view of enormous, tree dappled mountains.
Artemis took a deep breath of fresh air. It was beautiful. He continued to wonder, awestruck, at the sharp peaked mountains that were slightly taller than where he was sitting. He suddenly felt so small, so miniscule in comparison to all this. He was much more tired than he thought. His legs felt like lead, sinking into the ground, and gradually, Artemis felt him self sinking into a deeper and deeper into the realm of dreams. The sun sank as well, further down toward the horizon.
A loud and sudden boom from the heavens woke Artemis with a start. He jumped up and checked his solar powered watch: four o’clock! But why was it so dark? He poked his head out from the miniature cave and twisted his head to look at the sky. The day had drastically turned from cloudless and sunny to heavily clouded, obscuring the sun entirely. Artemis cursed him self over and over again as he pulled on his back pack and draped a large plastic bag over his back pack and himself. He couldn’t stay here on the mountainside through this storm. He had to go to the top and then down the trail on the opposite side before this storm could get any worse. He scrambled up the trail, avoiding loose stones and gnarled roots that were just made for tripping people. How could he have been so careless? By now he was at the very top. A loud crack! Somewhere nearby startled him, and he stumbled. He stepped on a loose stone and slipped, falling and tumbling down the mountain side. He was saved by a thicket of bushes that were growing offside the trail.
Artemis tried to move. Slowly, he twisted himself in a way where he was able to see where he had ended up. The steep mountainside sloped down dangerously below, absent of trees and covered in loose, bumpy sharp rocks. Excellent. Artemis looked up to where he had fallen from, and it, too was covered in bumpy rocks and sharp stones that he had rolled over. Slowly, very slowly, Artemis turned over on all fours. He began to climb up, back to the trail, and discovered that his backpack felt strangely light. When he got back to the main trail, he discovered that his backpack had been torn open somehow and looked back to where he had come from. His sleeping bag was tumbling down, down, down the mountainside. His tent was nowhere to be seen. And Artemis had no time to waste.
He made his descent down as fast as possible. Several times, he would hear an earsplitting crack, and deep rumbling in response in the clouds. Rain poured out from the sky, soaking Artemis. Like his other gear, the rainproof covering was lost; it had been blown away and swallowed by the vicious storm.
Eventually, he reached the trees, and the ground began to more or less level out. This was a good sign, but the wind was picking up. The tall trees creaked and moaned in a spine-chilling way, and Artemis quickened his pace. The rain now did not lash down as before, but was caught by the treetops and poured down in miniature waterfalls. Artemis could feel his strength failing, but just as he though he could go no more, he spotted an opening ahead that signified the end of the trail.
Could it be true? Did he finally make it? Artemis’ excitement was extinguished however, when he stepped out of the opening and saw a wide, open field….and nothing else. He didn’t remember this part of the trail; it was supposed to loop back to the parking lot. Curiously, he stepped out. It looked like a large field, just miles and miles of long, green grass. And a black blotch in the distance.
Artemis stared. What was that? He pulled out his binoculars, luckily undamaged as they were tucked inside a thick leather case. The black blotch, he discovered, was a house. Clearly, incredulously, there was a house in the middle of nowhere. Hoping to get help, Artemis headed in that direction. The rain had stopped now, and the greenery everywhere was dripping. A clear, brisk sound of a bird screeched somewhere in the distance. The clouds opened up just a crack, and a deep orange spot of light shone down. Artemis could see how all the clouds were slowly opening up, and the breeze calmed down to a gentle breathing. The storm had finally fallen to slumber. Orange and yellow rays of sunshine shone down brilliantly between cracks in the grey clouds, like spotlights in mother natures very own concert. Artemis forgot about his tiredness for a little while until he reached the cabin.
The cabin was built solidly. Wooden tree trunks were stacked on top of each other to form walls and a roof. He knocked on the front door. What if it was abandoned? He thought. But the door swung open and a tall woman with long, dark hair stood before Artemis. She asked him what it was that he wanted. Artemis asked her if she knew where the closest road was.
She looked at him strangely. The road is right there, she told him, pointing to the west. Artemis lifted his gaze and saw a grey road right beside them, squiggling away in the distance. Artemis felt so embarrassed for not seeing it before that he was at loss at what to say next. Eventually, he was able to bring himself together to ask if she knew where the road went. Depends where you want to go, she answered him. Her eyes twinkled. Artemis didn’t understand. He just wanted to go home. The woman stepped out of her cabin. She shook her head. She apologized.
-I don’t think you will be going home, Artemis.
-What do you mean I can’t go home? Where am I supposed to go?
-Don’t you understand, Artemis? She asked. (For some reason, she knew his name.) You are not going home. I’m sorry.
And she disappeared.
Artemis started to go down the road. The breathtaking landscape continued to extend everywhere. Eventually, he reached a fork in the road where the path split up into two. One path looked as if were going up a mountain, a very tall mountain. It was the tallest mountain Artemis had ever seen. The other path continued went down a sloping hill, and he spotted a city sparkling away in the distance. It looked beautiful, but a cold breeze blew from that direction. Artemis shivered, for the breeze brought an unpleasant feeling about that place. He knew, for some reason, that it was a very bad place. He looked up the enormous mountain. A beautiful golden ray of sunlight was shining on the mountain, and it looked so peaceful, so beautiful…suddenly, Artemis realized that he wasn’t coming home. He was going up the mountain. He felt a very warm feeling, better than happiness, flood his heart and shoot through his veins. He went up the path toward the mountain, and up to the golden ray of light.