The freezing air hugged around me as I flew down the mountain. Currently, I was skiing, something I hadn’t done much in my very straight-forward no-nonsense life. I work as a lawyer, have a wife named Monica, a daughter and a son. My daughter’s name is Rose and my son’s name is William. They are 8 and 7. But my family matters not right now. I was having the time of my life! I felt like a bird soaring through the sky. My family was waiting for me at the bottom of the mountain.
“I told you you’d like skiing,” Monica said in an I-told-you-so kind of voice.
“You were quite correct.” I said joyfully.
Rose tugged on my sleeve and said, “Daddy how long can we stay?”
I thought about this, and said “Two weeks.” The kids ran off to do something, and Monica followed with a sigh.
It had been quite an experience, and I felt confident so I went on a harder trail, feeling very confident now. I realized later I shouldn’t have been. I felt I was 8 and my parents had just said we were going to Disney Land. I pushed myself forward, and the beginner trail felt like nothing. The wind whipped my face so hard my eyes couldn’t keep open. I lost control, accidentally going faster instead of stopping. My skis turned and I saw the trail disappearing on the left as I watched a huge cave get closer and closer. The darkness of the cave swallowed me, and the end of my skis hit something hard. My boots popped out of their bindings.
“Ow!” I screeched. My voice echoed and made it sound like the cave was endless.
In my panic I hadn't realized I lost my coat. I peeked outside the cave to see if I could get it. I could barely see my bright orange jacket get picked up in the wind and drift away.
“Damn it!” I said with so much rage I wanted to burn down the trees. I don’t usually swear, but if I ever was going to, now seemed like a good time.
I went back into the warmth of the cave and saw a lever. I pulled it and torches on the wall I hadn't noticed before blazed to life. I felt contentment, I had done something right. Until a huge rock slowly covered the only entrance, and exit in sight.
“No!” I screamed.
I tried to stop the rock from covering the entrance, but the lever had been farther away than I had thought. I ran as fast as I could, but by the time I was there, the rock was already solidly in place. I kicked the stone, and the echoes bounced off all the walls like bouncy balls. I realized there was only one way to go, and that was forward.
I started walking, and I realized only later that that one step would change my life. For better or worse, depending on how you see it. I kept walking and walking, for what felt like forever. It was a straight road, the same thing every single step. It got very, very boring. Then I realized something very strange. This road was like my life. Nothing new, different or exciting.
Just then, while I was deep in my thoughts, the road forked. One way looked exactly the same. The other twisted and turned every step. I walked straight toward the identical tunnel. Without even realizing it, I drifted toward the new, mysterious cave. A rock rolled into place behind me, and exasperated I said “great just great.”
Then I saw a sign.
I walked toward it, and it said “Wrong way, the other tunnel led outdoors”. The anger boiled my blood, and I wanted to punch everything and anything.
“DAMN IT DAMN IT DAMN IT!” I screamed, full of rage.
I walked swiftly, my footsteps echoing like thunder. I kept walking and the tunnel became full of vines and weeds. Just then, the tunnel opened up like a mouth, revealing a cave filled with plants, gold, diamonds and the most precious things you can think of. It was as big as the mountain itself. I was sure that there was only a foot between me and the surface. I tried and it sounded as if there was at least a mile between me and the surface.
A greedy man would have taken it. I thought, almost unconsciously. My family and health meant a lot more to me than this ever would.
“Nice job, now you’re a cheesy action hero.” I said to myself.
I realized very quickly I needed to get out of here, and I realized even quicker I had no idea how. The tunnel stretched out in front of me, leading into a darkness that reeked of death and despair. I wandered along, not knowing where I was going, and honestly not at all worried about it. I had had a bright candle of hope, even though sometimes I couldn’t see it, it was there. Guiding me along in a foolish hope of finding my way back. This candle had completely burned out, leaving nothing for me to lean on.
Then, I walked into a vast room, carved from marble with hanging vines and flowers in every shade you can think of. It was filled with a strange light, then I looked up and realized it was sunlight. I saw a man who had been at the top of the ski slope with me pick up my jacket and call for help. I watched all of this with excitement, as the police and ambulances came to investigate.
“Down here! I’m down here!” I called gleefully, full of hope. But my smile faded as I realized they hadn’t heard me.
I looked at a sign I hadn’t noticed before. “Your future is buried between an inch of glass. We love to see bones.”
I read it over and over and over. That was it. I would die here. I lost all hope, and I sat there and stared at the seasons change, people go by and one day, the world went black.
One week later.
“We have reports that the police still haven’t found Donald Black, a 40 year old man who went missing a month ago on a popular ski slope. The slope has been shut down for further investigation.
“I miss daddy,” Rose said miserably.
“Me too,” said William.
“It’s okay, it will be fine. We will miss him a lot, but it’s all going to be okay,” Monica said, but her voice sounded doubtful, almost like she wasn’t sure about it.