Pathway

Monday 10:02 AM

Misha was approaching the crossing on her regular drive to work. Thankfully she left 30 minutes early for work so she didn’t encounter any traffic and she could speed right past the spot. As she sped away she saw the rocks and the thick grass on the rocks in her rear view mirror. A chill went down her spine and she turned the volume higher, it was a creepy coincidence that ‘Cheap Thrills’ was playing at the exact same time. Misha looked straight ahead, trying to forget all about that little crossing. She decided she will take a different route while going back home tonight, since she would be driving alone. Vicky, her colleague who she often drops on the way back home wouldn’t be accompanying her and driving by that crossing after sun down, alone, is beyond her imagination.

Tuesday 10:30 AM

Misha was late for work. There would be a lot of traffic on the highway and it would move really slowly. Slow enough for her to pause at the crossroads. Slow enough for her to have a good look at the rocks and the path it was hiding. Misha quickly checked alternate routes to her work place but realized that she had to take this route if she wanted to reach office on time. “If you don’t give it importance, it will be nothing to you.”, she mouthed the words as her car was reaching the pathway. The car in front of her was slowing down and from the corner of the curve on the road, Misha could see a line of cars in front of her own. She sighed and avoided looking at the pathway. She tried humming to the song on the radio, but every now and then she found her eyes sort of involuntarily moving towards the pathway. She thought, ‘maybe I’m trying to avoid it so my subconscious is looking for ways to go back to it. What if I just look at it once? Then there won’t be any mystery and I can move on with doing whatever I want to do’. The reasoning seemed to make perfect sense and she looked at pathway and turned away. She smiled to herself, proud that she had faced her fear and now it would be mean nothing to her. But something she saw in that split second was stuck in her head and it kept nudging her all day long.

Long after she reached worked and got busy in her meetings, she still seemed to think about that pathway and that thing that she saw… what was it? How do you describe it? Misha was afraid of admitting it to herself or even saying those words in her head, because it would become 2% more real. And that was a frightening thought to have. Nope. She wouldn’t think it and she wouldn’t say it. She pushed the thought to a corner of her mind that she herself didn’t visit often.

Tuesday 9:43 PM

Misha was driving back home, alone and she was so busy attending calls all through that she didn’t realize she caught the same route and this time there wasn’t a chattering Vicky sitting beside her to help her overcome the fear of the pathway. Just as the thought entered her mind, the traffic signal right before the pathway turned red and Misha had to stop. She looked at the pathway from the corner of her eyes and then looked back at the signal that had a seconds-meter attached to it.

12.

All the thoughts from the morning about what she saw came gushing to Misha’s mind. It was like a clog got cleared and there she was thinking of all those things she didn’t want to think about.

11.

As if on cue, the weather changed and thick, dark clouds covered the bright moon. Misha looked at the pathway again and there it was a glimmer of light. You couldn’t miss it on such a dark night. She looked away trying to concentrate on the countdown.

Misha looks at the road ahead of her concentrating on getting out of there… but there is something that is drawing her attention to the pathway again and again. What is it about this road? What is it that she can’t seem to overlook it?

5.

Did 5 seconds just go in thinking about that road? When did, seconds get this long? Misha just spent 10 hours in the office yet here, 12 seconds seem to be going far too slow. Some people talk about training their mind to not think… how do they manage to do that? Is that what monks do as well?

3.

There it is again. What is that light? Is it a torch? Is it a cell phone? Or is someone living there? Misha thinks about the last time she saw some activity at that road and she draws a blank. It was always covered with rocks and no, she never saw anyone there or anything for that matter. It was almost untouched.

1.

Misha stares at the meter and it’s almost as if she can see the moment the meter is moving on from 1 to 0. Time seems to be moving slower and she can count her breaths as the signal turns to green.

0.

Just when she thinks she will step on the accelerator and drive away from that spot, she finds herself glued. Luckily there is no traffic around her so she stays there, with her eyes transfixed on the rocks that cover the pathway. Something about tonight makes her want to climb over the rocks and just have a look.

In a split second, Misha takes the decision that she would always remember, for good or for bad. She drives around the bend and stops her car in the service area. She leaves the parking lights on and crosses the empty road to reach the rocks. It wasn’t really a big climb but the rocks were big enough to cover the path. At this time of the night, she can’t even hear the insects anymore. All she hears is the sound of her breathing and an occasional hoot by an owl. How much more cliché can this moment get, she thinks to herself. The clouds have created quite a thick blanket over the moon and it’s almost what you could call pitch black. Misha struggles to find her phone and realizes that she left it behind in the car.

“Not so wise, huh? What if you get murdered here? How do you think you will call for help? Then again if you do think you are going to get murdered or there is a possibility of murder, why do you even want to go there? What is this mystery that you just must unravel?” Misha’s subconscious was going wild over this frivolous decision of hers. “Well, now that I’ve made it, let’s stick to plan, eh?” she reminds herself.

She climbs over the first rock and realizes that the rocks are covered with moss, which is odd at this time of the year. This is the time when everything turns brown, it’s the prime of the summer. She also realizes that the moss is moist, she can almost hear the slush beneath her shoes as she steps over the rocks. A few more rocks over, she comes to the top of the pile of the rocks and she looks down to see a road, a perfectly paved road hidden behind the rocks. There are big green trees on either side of the road and the tree tops too are hidden from the highway because of the rocks. She looks back at her car and sees the parking lights blink against the darkness. Somehow the orange lights too don’t seem to reach where she is standing.

Misha stands atop the little hillock of rock and comes to realize a new dilemma brewing in her mind. ‘Should I go down the road, or should I just go back?’

“You wanted to see what’s over the rocks and you saw that now, let’s just go back.”

“Come on, you always knew there was a hidden path, don’t you want to know why its hidden or where it leads to?”

Unable to decide and suddenly very tired, Misha sits down on the rocks. She feels the moist moss under her palms and she touches it gingerly. Somehow, so close to this mysterious road that gave her nightmares in the day, she doesn’t feel scared anymore. There is a weird sense of calm that Misha is overcome by. She sits there and just looks at the beautiful road. It’s scary too, but so beautiful that she would just want to stroll down the path, alone. Suddenly she jumps out of her skin, as she hears her phone ring in her car. She looks at the watch and realizes she’s actually spent quite a while sitting there. Her heart races as she hears her ringtone go on and on. Her reality was a world of pain; a job she did only so she could earn some peace of mind, but all she earned was some currency that never bought her any peace; a family that had charted the next 5 years of her life without as much as taking her nod, a hunt for love that had her stop loving herself. As the phone kept ringing, all these thoughts seemed to fade out. She seemed lighter as she looked at the world in front of her.

The pathway offered salvation, or so she thought. But anything seemed better than the path she had been walking every day. And just like that, like a fleeting thought, she stepped forward, leaving behind her whole world. She walked over the pathway and was consumed by the dark.

Her car stayed there on the other side of the road, still blinking its orange lights. Her phone rang through the night, but there was no sign of Misha. The rocks stood strong covering the pathway, hiding a secret and consuming her darkness. Misha was never found, nor did she find where the path leads to, but she did find why its hidden and that secret remains a mystery for the next one to discover.

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