Short Story – The Ravine

The Ravine

By Heather Gonzalez

 

The sun peeked through the windows and kissed my cheek to wake me up. Those are always my favorite kind of mornings. After such gloomy, cloudy days, I was ready to feel the sun against my skin again. 

 

The house was quiet which unusual for the weekend, but I gladly welcomed the alone time with open arms. I sat up in bed and reached for my phone. My wife had left me a message saying that she took the kids with her to see her parents and they would be back later this afternoon. I couldn’t hold back a smile as I began to plan out what I would do with my freedom. My mind raced through all of the possibilities. Would I lie on the couch in my underwear watching tv and eating junk food? It was hard to get away with that when everyone was home. Would I play a video game or watch youtube videos for hours with no one to stop me? Just when I was liking the idea of being lazy at home, the sun hid behind the clouds, making my body feel slightly colder. I knew I couldn’t waste such a beautiful day indoors.

 

I grabbed my hiking gear and picked a spot that I had not explored yet. Before children, I would hike every chance I could get. I even got my wife to join me sometimes. This was the first time in a long time, that I would be able to walk in nature without any distractions. No children whining about lack of wifi or my wife complaining about the bugs. I could leave all of the stress of adult life back at home. Usually, I carried around my emotional baggage of worries for the future or regrets from the past, but today my goal was to leave it behind.

 

Making it to my destination took less time than expected. I looked at my watch to see how much time I would have to explore. Wanting the whole experience, I left my phone in the car and grabbed my gear. By the time I made it to the top of the ridge, I was almost out of breath. It had been far too long since I had been this physical and it definitely showed. The ridge overlooked a ravine with a crystal clear stream running through it. The sun came shining through the small amount of clouds clustering in the sky creating a reflection in the water. I had to turn my sites away from the babbling brook for a moment and rubbed my eyes. 

 

That is when I saw it. An opening to a cavern. How did I not notice it before? I knew it was probably my imagination, but I swear I could hear soothing music coming from its direction. I pulled the strapped on my gear a little tighter to secure them and then headed down towards the cavern. I must have been paying too much attention to the music as it grew louder because I lost my footing. My whole body gave way as I began to roll sideways down the rest of the way, hitting rocks and small bushes. I finally stopped rolling only inches from the water. My head was aching from the rock that it hit on the way down. The whole experience knocked the wind out of me and for a moment, I wondered if I would be able to stand up. Why was I so stupid by leaving my phone in the car? There was no point in delaying it, I had to see what the damage was. First, I sat up and looked down at the cuts and bruises on my arms and legs. Then I tried my best to stand up. I was in pain, but I could still stand and move around with a slight limp. I had gone this far, I might as well keep going. 

 

I hobbled to the cavern and pulled out a flashlight. The light showed that the cavern was a tunnel that ended in a larger room. There was a long stick leaning against the wall at the opening of the tunnel. I used it to help me make my way down the tunnel. The closer I got to the open room, the less my body hurt. I began to convince myself that the fall wasn’t as bad as I had thought. The moist tunnel walls began to widen. By this point, the music was so loud, but I began to realize that I wasn’t hearing it with my ears. Instead, the music was inside my head. I wasn’t sure what I was going to find at the end of the tunnel, but I knew I had to keep going.

 

My left leg was no longer limping by this point, and I really didn’t have a need for the cane anymore. I was too focused on the music and the end of the tunnel to let go of it. The first glimpse I got was that the walls of the room had carvings all over them. Was this some kind of Native American site? The last thing I needed was to find a room full of bones and release some kind of curse. Instead, there was an intricately decorated box in the middle of the room. No lock or seal could be seen. Whoever left it here must not have cared if someone else opened it.

 

I put my gear down and placed the walking stick on top of it. Using the flashlight to illuminate the structure, the box was the only thing in the room. I knelt down, feeling no pain in my legs, and slowly opened the box. Inside was a scroll and nothing else. At first, I could have sworn that when I unraveled it, the paper was filled with symbols I could not recognize. A sudden sneeze made me drop my flashlight for a moment. When I picked it back up again, I saw words on the scroll. Without thinking, I read them out loud.

 

“For one who seeks knowledge of the future, just simply see it. For all that lay before you will be an easy path from here forth. Once you desire to see no more, just simply say ‘I am done knowing’ and close your eyes to life’s eternal sleep.”

 

The music in my head stopped at the last word I spoke. I stood there far too long staring at the words. What if it was true? What if I could see the future from now on? No, that was just things you tell children in bedtime stories. Magic isn’t real. I laughed slightly to myself at the thought that I almost believed it. Before leaving the way I came, I put the scroll back in the box for the next explorer. I made it to the end of the tunnel with the walking stick in my hand. I placed it back where I found it, thinking that someone else may need it in the future. Then, I laughed again at the idea of knowing the future. I surveyed the ravine to find a way out. I saw it. Not with my eyes, but with my mind. A perfect spot that had nature made stairs to the top. I rubbed my eyes and upon opening my eyes, I saw it in front of me. That had to be a coincidence. There is no way that I could see the future.

 

I got into my car and began to drive back home. I had just enough time to get home and shower before the whole family would be there. Suddenly, I saw a deer. Yet, it wasn’t there. I slowed down my car to a crawl and an identical deer came running across the road in front of me. I would have definitely hit it if I hadn’t slowed down. 

 

Is this real? Am I really seeing things before they happen? I needed more proof to be sure. Then my phone began to ring. Before I answered it, I could hear my wife’s voice in my head saying that they would be late. I answered the phone.

 

“Hey babe! Michael had an accident right as I was pulling out of the driveway at my parents’. I had to go back and clean him. We will be a little later than usual.”

 

I was speechless.

 

“Sam? Are you there? Have I lost you?”

 

I managed to squeak out a few words.

 

“I am here. See you when you get home.”

 

How I managed to drive all of the ways home while I felt like I was in a trance was beyond me. I left all of my things in the car and went straight to the shower. I think my best thinking in there. That is when I noticed. My bruises and cuts were all gone. How? I stood in the stream of the hot water for a long time feeling mystified by the whole situation.  

 

“So, am I like a superhero now or something?” I asked out loud as I turned off the hot water. 

 

Should I share this with anyone or do I just keep it to myself because people will think I am crazy? I knew the best option was to tell no one.

 

Things started out small. Like the deer or the phone call. But as time went on, I could see more and more. I told my oldest son which college to go to. He didn’t know that I had seen him graduate from Princeton. I even knew which scratch-offs to choose. Over time, I started to get the reputation of being a lucky guy after I won a few times. Everyone around me seemed so happy. We had no money troubles or any real issues at all. And yet, I found myself feeling less and less happy.

 

On my daughter’s wedding day, I saw her crying because her husband had died after being shipped off to war. I knew that he was thinking about enlisting to support their family. I wrote them a big wedding check with a note that said “Don’t settle for less than your dreams.” This inspired him to create a multimillion-dollar tech company instead of joining the military. I should have been satisfied with the fact that I had secured my daughter’s future. But, I wasn’t. The more I knew, the less I felt content. Surprise birthday parties were like putting on an act. I had to pretend I didn’t know it was going to happen or that I didn’t know what was in each wrapped box.

 

The worst was when my daughter got pregnant. I knew she would never have a baby. There was nothing I could do. Instead, I had to watch my baby miscarry over and over. I was beginning to grow miserable. My life had no need for hope or faith. I was tied down by the truth of what was going to happen, whether or not I could change it. 

 

I knew the time had come to say the words when I saw my best friend’s death. There he was sitting in front of me with a beer in his hand laughing over some dumb joke and all I could think about was the heart attack he was going to have. I told everyone that I wasn’t feeling well and needed to go lie down. I knew it would be the last time I would see them but I couldn’t go on any longer with knowing everything.

 

I sat on the edge of my bed and thought of all of the good and bad things that came along with the power of knowing the future. It was like a slideshow in my mind of all of the things I knew and prevented or knew and couldn’t do anything about. Taking a deep breath, I laid my head on my pillow one last time. 

 

“I am done knowing,” I said and closed my eyes.

 

Everything seemed to fade to darkness except for the slowly building sound of rushing water. I opened my eyes to see a stream flowing over rocks an inch from my face. Suddenly, I could feel immense pain all over my body. I was back at the ravine. 

 

I sat up and looked around. Now that I was close to the cavern, I could see that it was just a small cave for animals. Instead of worrying about the pain, I felt so overjoyed to be myself again. Even if it meant a possible trip to the emergency room from the fall. I managed to get myself up and out of the ravine. I found my car exactly where I had left it which felt like years ago. Picking up my phone and calling my wife was my first priority. I knew that it was late and she would be worried. For the rest of my mundane, normal life, I treasured everything, especially the surprises. Not knowing what will happen next made life so much more enjoyable. Even if sometimes they were bad things. What happened to me at the raven stayed with me for the rest of my life as I had learned to appreciate each moment as they came.

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