Dying to Live
I had been following the unknown shaped footprints for what seemed like an eternity. At this point, I wasn’t entirely sure why anymore. It had been a cool winter day when I began my journey, yet my environment was quickly descending into a frost-bitten permafrost. The ground was covered in a sheen of muddled snow, as an unexpected sand storm had occurred this past December. As the last rays of a mesmerizing sunset began to fade, not once did I consider turning back. I was dead set on finding the source of these demon tracks.
The tracks themselves were incredibly odd. Perhaps that’s why I was so enthralled by them. They appeared to be hooves, but unless a Shetland pony had learned to walk as a human, they were of unknown origin. They went straight North, never wavering, never changing direction.
The cold was beginning to take it’s toll. My leather jacket was quite heavy (roughly 15 pounds), but its insulation was limited. My Adidas sneakers were now soaked beyond my thin socks. Unfortunately, the demon tracks beckoned me, and I left my dwelling rather hastily. I grabbed my coat, threw on my shoes, put my belt on my jeans, grabbed my smokes, filled a thermos up with a hazelnut coffee blend, and simply took off after them. I gave no thought to how far these markers would go, or what I would find at the end. I only knew that I wanted- no, NEEDED to follow them. It was as if I had no choice in the matter.
After trekking for what must have been half a dozen hours, I realized there was no turning back through the dead of night. I had gotten myself into this mess, and now I had two goals; find the end of the tracks, and survive this harsh environment. It had began snowing again when I decided to build a fire. Although it had been snowing an incredibly wet snow off and on for the last few weeks, to my surprise, I was able to locate some dry tinder in a heavy brush. At the time I didn’t realize it, but it was almost as if I was supposed to survive (for now). I smoked one of my last 6 cigarettes, then fell asleep.
I had slept like shit. Luckily for me, the snow stopped halfway through the night. My fire seemed to have awoken me every hour as it began to fade, as though telling me to feed it. I had expected the morning’s sunrise to blanket my body with some much needed heat, but the snow seemed to have began again during the dawn, covering the sky. Although chilled to the bone and starving, I quickly remembered my quest to follow these strange footprints. That’s when I realized it: the night’s snowfall had covered any trace of them.
“What the fuck?!” I shouted to no one in particular. How could I have been such an idiot? Why didn’t I realize the snow would cover the tracks? That’s common sense. I should have known. I poured myself a cup of lukewarm coffee, smoked one of my 5 remaining cigarettes, and thought:
… it would be easy to turn back. Sure it would take me half a day to get home, but at least then I’d be home. At least I’d be warm. I’d have some food to eat, and I could continue on with my meaningless life. Yesterday I was going North, so simply going South would take me right back… wait… the tracks were headed straight North… there was never a curve or change in their direction. They just went straight! If I continue in that direction, I should be able to locate something… a sign maybe…
I headed North.
After walking for half the day dead North, I had reached an area where it hadn’t snowed the previous night. The tracks were right there! About 10 feet to my left side, but holy shit! There they were! I couldn’t believe it at first. I adjusted my route 10 feet to the left, and continued North.
It was warmer today. Still hovering around the freezing mark, but it was indeed warmer. The sun had came out from behind the clouds a few hours after noon, and the rays of light blasted my jacket with warmth. Although I had slept in a clearing between rows of trees, there was no sign of any plant life anymore. I used to venture out this way when I was a child, but never 2 days hiking distance obviously. I stopped shortly to drink a cup of coffee, which was now cold, and smoke another cigarette. “Shit.. only 4 left,” I murmured to myself. Simply another reminder that I had come on this journey completely unprepared.
Throughout my life, I have always talked to myself. Small conversations, insignificant observations, those types of things. The past few days however, I found myself longing for companionship. So naturally, I began talking to myself more and more. Harmlessly talking to myself. Sometimes I would sing a familiar song, sometimes I would whistle, and sometimes I would just make random sounds. When you’ve heard nothing but the blowing wind for a while, any other sound is a comfort. I smoked another cigarette. Three left. Suddenly, something unexpected happened. Though the tracks had continued North to this point, they separated.
“How the hell can this be? One foot going Northwest… one foot going Northeast? What in the fuck am I chasing?”
I had a choice to make, but I wasn’t sure which way to travel. I felt around my pockets for a coin, and as luck would have it, I had a 2004 issue quarter. “Heads I’ll go Northwest, tails… Northeast…” I flipped the coin about 3 feet above my head with every intention to catch it, yet it bounced off my hand on its descent. The coin landed in the snow, vertically. No heads, no tails, just the edge of the quarter staring up at me. Strange. An uneasy feeling seemed to sink my stomach. I quickly decided to reflip.
… it was just a freak thing. I’ll do this again, make sure I catch it, and slap it flat on the arm of my jacket…
I flipped the coin up, about 2 feet above my head this time, and snatched it out of the air, and slapped it onto my awaiting arm. I lifted my hand from the point of impact, and eagerly looked at the coin. To my complete and utter shock, the coin was now blank. I picked it up, inspected both sides, and somehow, impossibly, my last flip had wiped this metal disc clean of all features. The only remaining feature was the ridged edges. This was when I knew something was deviously wrong with this journey of mine. I threw the blank as far as my arm would take it, fell to my knees, and lit one of my cigarettes. Two left.
After much thought, I decided that this entire coin ordeal was trying to tell me something: head back home, forget this shit ever happened, and just continue on living. My body turned around, and for the first time in a few days, I saw the Southern sky. I took a step and stopped.
… there’s no way I can go back. I’ve come so far!
I couldn’t go back. Something wouldn’t let me. Was it my seething stubbornness? Unlikely. Someone as intelligent as me should have known to turn back long ago, stubborn or not. Something was driving me North, as if I was in a trance. I turned around, and continued North, ignoring the directions of the footprints.
Smoking a cigarette as I walked (one left), the uneasy feeling of the coin flip returned. My 6th sense had seemingly detected a set of eyes… watching my every movement… stalking me. I quickly spun around, expecting anything, hoping for something… only to find nothing. The only things I could see were my own tracks, stretching back to where I had come from.
I walked. And walked. And continued walking. As the sun neared the border of the Earth, a blot on the horizon appeared. I had no idea what it could have been, as it appeared to be miles way, but it was something. I was going to try my damnedest to reach this object before darkness fell.
Eventually, the shape began to take form. It was some sort of brick building, I thought. It was quite strange to find this settlement miles from anything. When I reached the wall, the temptation to travel North faded away. I could feel it fading away. Whatever I had been chasing was in this building, and I was sure of it.
There were no windows, and there was only a 6 foot tall door on the south face. I reached for the doorknob. Although the heavy steel door seemed frozen shut, it was relatively easy to pry open. Inside, there were 6 candles lit around the room on tables. “No windows… no sunlight, no electricity either…” I muttered.
A quick scope of this room and I realized the entire building was this room, yet it was completely devoid of life. A feeling of beauty fell over me as I felt the warmth inside the room. There were 3 chairs, 6 tables, a hook in the middle of the ceiling, and what appeared to be an expensive rug in the middle. I walked over and plopped myself into one of the 3 chairs.
…whoever- well, whatever lives here surely won’t be happy about my presence… but what else can I do? My gut is telling me to sit here and wait. What am I waiting for? Hell if I know…
An hour or so had passed, and I was growing tired of waiting. I lit my final cigarette, and tried to make it last as long as I could. After it was finished, I closed my eyes, replaying my entire journey – eternity in an instant.
My eyes opened instantly when I felt something… something was vibrating. I didn’t know what, nor did I hear it, but I could feel it in the floor boards. The vibration quickly escalated, shaking the entire building. Three of the candles had gone dim, when as suddenly as it had began, it was over. I breathed a short lived sigh of relief. Not more than 2 breaths later, the heavy metal door flew open and slammed against the wall. I was so startled, my neck ached from the speed of which I turned my head. To my surprise, there was nobody there. No terrifying beast, no ghostly figure, nothing.
“What do you want from me you fucking asshole!?” I shouted at the top of my lungs.
… okay, enough of this shit! I’m getting the fuck outta here!
I quickly stood up, and I bolted for the door. Although I was going as fast as I could, it seemed to take forever just to get halfway through this room. About 6 feet from the door, it slammed shut. The startling noise made my knees shake, and I fell flat on my ass. I stood up, and yanked on the door. It wouldn’t budge. Not one fraction of an inch. It was as solid as the bricks surrounding it. At that moment, I knew I would never see the light of day again.
I gathered my thoughts, used my lighter to relight the candles, and began to think:
… this was a mistake. It wasn’t MY mistake though. I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t stop it. I had to follow those fucking tracks. I couldn’t turn back. And now I’m going to die in this fucking room…
I had never been a spiritual person, and that wasn’t about to change. But something had driven me here. Some all-powerful, all-knowing, almighty force. A god? I doubted it. A demon? Definitely.
After pacing for what must have been a couple of hours, I decided the only way out of this was to kill myself. That was my only way out of this room, this tomb. That was my only salvation. Perhaps that’s what this was all about. Maybe I was supposed to reach this desolate building, and kill myself right here.
So I did.
I brought one of the chairs under the hook, took off my belt, wrapped it around my neck and fastened it to the hook. Then I kicked the chair away. It slid out of my reach, and I was hanged. As odd as it seemed, I wasn’t frightened anymore. I was at peace that I was finally going to reach the end of my journey. A few moments later, everything went black.