And I want to try something new.
My friend Wade suggested I write a new story… one that involves all of you. This is an experiment and I’m excited to try it. So, here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to start a story, but I have no idea where this story is going to go because all of you will determine that. It’s a Choose Your Own Adventure story, and I am going to do my best to make it an adventure.
What do you have to do? It’s simple. Read the story and when you’re finished, vote on the path you want my character to take next. I’ll have a couple of options for you. Also, if you’re feeling like you really want to be part of the adventure, you’re welcome to leave your own ideas in the comments. Who knows, it may find its way into the story! My goal is to write a new installment every week, so stay tuned for each new post and create this story with me! The best part? We get to take this journey together. I have no idea what each week will bring!
Week 1 – The Adventure Starts
I’m famished. My stomach growls in anger as I sniff the tiny bit of food I hold, then pass it on to the next person. Always passing it on. Nobody ever passes it on to me. But that’s the way I was raised; that’s what I was taught to do. Everybody else comes first even if it kills me. The problem is if this keep up, it really might kill me.
I sneak a jealous glance behind me as the old man, balancing carefully on his cane, takes the food and drops it in his mouth. He closes his eyes in pleasure, and for a small second I see myself smacking that look off his face. A decent person would have refused my offering. A decent person would have seen that I was wasting away, that I hadn’t eaten in three days because everybody else came first.
Everybody comes first.
As quickly as my anger comes it fades away, replaced with shame. I turn away as heat floods my cheeks. Self-sacrifice is a good thing. Giving of oneself to another is right. It is the only way to retain my humanity, otherwise I’m no better than the dogs that hunt our dinner… dogs that are not doing their jobs the way I would like them to.
Before anybody recognizes the shame on my face, I slip away from the line. There’s no way I’m getting anything to eat anyway. I find myself in the same place I always run to, the gates that keep us from out there, and whatever is out there from in here. That’s why we have the dogs. Some of them get killed out there, but mostly they come back, sometimes with the carcass of an animal they’ve destroyed. My father came up with the idea to train the dogs, otherwise we would still be living on the little bit of food we’ve been able to grow.
I press my nose to the tiny crack in the gates, the only crack that allows me to see what’s out there. I do this every day, out of habit, out of hope… I’m not sure, I just know that someday I’ll see something new, something that explains all of this.
Today is not that day. I see the same thing I see every day; fields and fields of tall weeds and grasses that hide who-knows-what. My Father says that the animals lurking in that grass would kill me before I had a chance to scream. I’m not so sure. The dogs come back. Why couldn’t I?
Of course, with my stomach eating itself he’s probably right. I wouldn’t have the energy to defend myself anyway. I sigh, turning my back on the gates and facing my prison. Everybody else looks happy. Children are playing in the dirt, scratching figures in the dust while the other children guess what they’re making. The adults work together, all smiles, to carve some existence out of this, and the people my age, well… I don’t know what they do. Mostly they sneer when I walk by. Sometimes they’re thoughtful and put out a foot to trip me.
It’s my fault. I’m the reason we’re in this boat in the first place. I don’t even know what happened, I was too young, but I know it’s my fault.
While I’m watching the people I exist with, one of them breaks away from the group, headed toward me. I watch him approach, but don’t say anything. My father smiles as he gets closer.
“Are you hungry?” he asks.
He gives me a reproachful look then holds out his hand. On it is one of the smallest pieces of bread I’ve ever seen, smeared with a gelatinous blob of gravy. It looks like Thanksgiving dinner.
“Come on, Eva, I’m not stupid. I know you’ve been passing your rations on.”
“So have other people.”
“Not for three days they haven’t. We’re low on food, but that doesn’t mean you have to starve to death.”
I gaze at him, my mouth set. “That’s not what I was taught,” I said.
He sighed. “This again?”
“Yes. This again.”
He takes the bread and presses it into my hand. “Your mother chose her death. I didn’t.”
“She died by giving of herself to others. You said that yourself.”
He shakes his head. “You misunderstand me. Yes, she sacrificed herself. But not for the reasons you think.”
“Why won’t you tell me the reasons, then?”
“Because your burden is heavy enough without that knowledge.”
He kisses me on the forehead then walks away, leaving me with the bread and tumultuous thoughts. Again.
As he rejoins the adults, I hear whispers behind me. Glancing around I see nothing, but the whispers are real. Slowly, I approach the gate, pressing my nose against the crack once more. This time, a black eye stares back.
“Want to know the answers?” It whispers.
“Yes,” I breathe.
“I can give them to you.”
The voice grunts and the eye moves away, then returns a moment later. “Not right now. And my knowledge comes only after you’ve served me.”
“I need to get in there. With you.”
“That’s my business.”
“Tell me why or I can’t help you.”
The voice chuckles. “I can’t give freely.”
“If I help you get in here, will people get hurt?”
I hesitate, staring at the eye. Whoever the person is, it may hold the answers to questions I’ve asked since the moment I formed words. Who am I? What happened to my mother? What did I do to trap us all here? What is beyond the gate?
On the other hand, these people are all I have. While I love very few of them, I don’t want them to hurt. I don’t want to cause more pain because I exist. Is it worth the risk to get the answers I need?
I glance at my father, and he’s watching me, a puzzled look on his face. I can tell him. Maybe he can help me. Maybe if he knew I was considering betraying them all for the answers I needed, he would finally tell me.
I turn back to the eye, still uncertain. The eye is gone, but in its place is a book. It seems to glow.
“What is that?” I whisper.
“Answers,” the voice says.
I glance again at my Father then back at the eye.
What should I do?