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The Path 

The town sat at the edge of a cliff, a young man sat on his front porch watching the town. He doesn’t look his age, long hair and a scruffy beard. For such a young age, his memory was not that well. Everyday he watched as two young girls walk down a path to work at the large plantation up the hill. The plantation has been there as long as he could remember. His father and his father’s father once worked there. For as long as the fathers worked there, the plantation was passed through one family from son-to-son until tragedy struck and it was passed to the man’s only child. A daughter. Although the plantation continued to thrive and bring wealth to the town, a certain sadness seemed to fill the air.

It was carried as a weight on the shoulders of those that worked in the fields and could be heard in the songs of the cook in the kitchen and the girls hanging the wet clothes in the sunshine to dry. The same girls the young man watched every morning and every evening as they made their way back and forth to home and work.

They were young teens with matching blue dresses, one had blonde hair and the other brunette. As the girls walk by, the young man hides. Everyday he waits for all of the people who walk that path to and from work and hopes it’s still daytime because once the forest gets dark everything bad breaks through.

On one particular day many things began to occur, the tower that usually rung missed its ring by two minutes. The young man knew what that meant, somebody was going to stay late and walk through at night. He has walked this path so many times but still fear races through him when the hours become dark and the shadows begin to reveal themselves. Deeper and deeper in the forest the light begins to fade away as the shadows of the past begin to play games. The young man sits on his porch waiting for his mother to return home from the market like he has everyday. Once his mother returns, the fire in the hearth will be lit and the shadows will creep back from deep beyond the darkest tree.

For now, the young man waits patiently, lantern in hand, ready to light as soon as the last of the sunlight fades into the darkness. As he waits he hears voices approaching from the direction of the plantation. He greets the workers as they wearily make their way home from another hard day’s work, but they do not seem to notice. The steady stream of workers continue to make their way along the path through the woods as the sunlight steadily fades into the horizon.

Just as the Youngman thinks he has bid his last farewell to the people on the path, he hears the quiet, cautious voices of two girls about to make their way through all alone. It is the same two girls in the blue dresses he had watched come and go from the plantation everyday. Today, however, they were kept late by the mistress of the house and were now just making their way home. Never before had the girls been kept late, and never before had they had to walk the path after dark.

The young man was about to hide as he usually does when he sees the pretty young girls pass by, but hesitates as he realizes they will be following the path all alone in the dark. Nervously he approaches the girls and bids them hello. The girls pull their shawls closer around their shoulders and silently return his greeting with a nod of their head. He lights his lantern and motions with his cut stretched arms for the girls to follow.

As they moved through the forest following the path, they believed to hear the sound of footsteps and laughter rustling through the trees, they thought that it was just their imagination toying with them. Until they realized it was the sound of their own laughter and the dancing of their own feet as the young man shared stories and told jokes to distract and comfort them. At some parts of the forest it seemed as if the path was getting farther and farther, but the thought of their home and the company of the young man kept them treading on. The girls asked about the young man’s family and where he was from, and he told them that his father died when he was just a baby and that his mother had been at the market all day. Although she had only left that morning, the young man had no one else to talk to while she was gone, so it felt like an eternity. The girls told the young man about the home they shared with their father and mother, and how they had to work at the plantation everyday since their mother was blind. The girls had no memory of their mother any other way when the young man asked how it was she had lost her sight. Their father always became silent and stared into the fireplace as he rubbed old scars on the left side of his face and arm when they would ask, and their mother would grasp the locket around her neck and say a prayer, so eventually they stopped. The young man thought about the locket his own mother wore and how much he missed her, so he quickened his pace, and hoped the girls could keep up.

The mistress of the plantation settled in for the night after she watched the last of her workers enter the forest to make their way home and to their families. She thought of the wives and children waiting for them and the warm baths and meals they had prepared for their return. The same warm bath and meal her mother would have waiting for her father when he would return from his duties overseeing the running of their plantation. A sad smile spread across her face as she remembered the excitement and anticipation in her mothers eyes as they waited for him to walk through the door and sweep them both up into his strong embrace. As she wrapped her arms around her fathers neck, she would breath in the smell of earth, straw, sunshine and sweat. To this day, those familiar scents fill her with bittersweet memories of her young father, taken too soon from her life and only left her with these few moments. The death of her father had always been shroud in secrecy and sadness. It was never spoken of for the rest of her upbringing, and it left her mother in a state of mourning from which she never recovered. The day her father died seemed to cast a dark cloud over the plantation and nearby towns and left a lingering odor that seemed to permeate the very walls of the plantation. The memory of that odor flashing back into her mind as the maids sweep the ash from the fireplace floors, or the bonfires are left smoldering from the night before.

As she climbs into bed, she says a prayer for all that she has been blessed with and prays her loyal workers will be equally as blessed as she

As the girls and young man moved closer and closer through the forest the light of the town began to become closer. The girls pass through the gate, they begin to tell the young man Thank You for walking with them, only to turn around and realize the young man was gone. Once the girls got home, their father asked them about why they were so late from the plantation. They told him about the nice young man who walked them home. The father asked where the young man was from. When they told him he said ¨ Are you playing some sort of game with me!¨ they tell him ¨No,Why?”,then he tells them ¨I didn’t want to tell you this till you were older but that town he was talking about burned down 20 years ago, it’s now a graveyard for the victims¨. 

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