Short Story – I had to commit to the journey or the finish… I wasn’t even sure what that meant when they told me to check one box.
“Only check one box. If you check both boxes they’ll send you to the back of the line and you’ll have to start over,” a shaggy man in a red flannel whispered.
I glanced around the open space at people sitting and standing – everyone around me looked like the shaggy man – as some filled out forms and others sat in rickety chairs held together by wire and clothespins.
“What is this place?” I whispered back. I felt like I had been running for my entire life what with my palpable exhaustion oozing out of me like a stench-filled puss and I was surprised, shocked really, that after all that running this is where I ended up.
He furrowed his brow and slunk his shoulders and I got a strange vibe.
I leaned in closer and asked in a barely audible voice, “Is that what happened to you?”
He nodded twice as his shoulders drooped so low I thought he’d fold into himself and then his eyes shifted to the left.
Naturally, I too, looked left and then saw an enormous and elongated creature leaning against a textured wall that looked like rice, but how could there be a wall of rice? It made no sense – none of this made sense. This creature had six limbs yet it stood upright with twelve eyes (I counted) and all it did was hiss and spit at anyone who moved too slow.
Was I dreaming? Was I fucking high? What the hell was going on?
Finally, it was my turn and I bid my strange friend ado as I walked up to the long table and stated my name.
“Which is your commitment? The journey or the destination?” one of the three creatures at the table asked, holding a box to its chin.
“Why do I have to commit? What if I change my mind?” I answered. A stabbing pain shot up my spine and I wiggled as I tried not to fall to the floor.
“Which is your commitment?” a second creature asked after holding a box to its chin.
A million thoughts flashed through my mind in a second but the biggest one was: How could I commit to the finish when I had no idea what I was starting? What would be between there and here? What if I just ended up at the finish and I hated it?
“I commit to the journey,” I stated and puffed out my chest and looked in all twelve eyes.
There was silence followed by a growing buzz of voices.
The creature stared at me and then placed the box on the table and raised four of its limbs to the air.
My heart raced as it climbed out of its prospective spot and lodged in my throat. Damn, I’m a goner.
“Only rare specimens commit to the journey. Good luck Mr. Walker,” the creature hissed as it held that box to its throat.
The air swirled and popped and then I fell through the floor into the black.