Chapter 3


There was a time when I did not long for the night sky. My feet were grounded, and even worse, my eyes never looked beyond the places I had already been. Eventually, I realized how much more was out there to experience, and so I dreamed of flying off into the sunset. Later on, I realized how much was out there still to discover (all the things beyond the current reaches of humanity), and so I dreamed of reaching into stars to learn of the worlds they have to offer.

There was a time when my soul did not yearn for life. What we're all trying here, I call it dying. It's really living we're after. The passions I bear are so heavy that they would suffocate all but the most determined maverick adventurers. To act upon these passions is to take one step further into the void, departing from beyond the mavericks and renaissance men to a place totally foreign to those content with their dying lifestyle.

There was a time when I did not know where I belonged. Then for a long time I thought I knew what my calling was. Looking back now, it's easy to pick out the things that weren't in junction with my very being; they were the things that kept changing to try to fit into the world humanity has constructed. They weren't really ever the things that resonated with me. Then there came a time where I did know. It was that morning, waking up in the lookout tower, knowing the road I needed to take to get from where I was to where I wanted to go, knowing that it was going to take everything I had to get there, and knowing that ultimately I was the only thing standing in my way.

Ourselves Our Enemy

Henrik and Danny were still asleep when I woke up, so I stayed in bed for a while thinking about everyone I knew. There were so many people that once had a spark in them who let it fade out. It's was almost never a crippling defeat that brought them to to their knees. That you can recover from. But it's the slow fade into irrelevance that always seems to completely incapacitate a person. Nobody wants to be that person, but we all become it unless we actively do something about it. I vowed that morning to never let myself become that person.

Henrik and Danny woke up some time later. We ate breakfast and packed our gear back up, making additional notes for items we needed to take out or add before we set off on our adventure. We still had enough food for another day, but we were eager to get back to Brentwood so we could thin out our packs where needed and pick up a few supplies. We were leaving in a month, but I wanted to be ready to go at a moment's notice.

We got back in time to eat lunch with Danny's parents. They asked us how camping was, and we told them it was good, but I feel like they knew we were planning something bigger. After all, our thoughts had long fled to other daydreams (or at least mine had). Henrik went home shortly after, and I stayed to help Danny rework his pack. We went through all of his items again, making sure everything was critical and hopefully served multiple purposes. We ended up writing a new pack list to replace the pre-trip one that had way too much stuff. We also decided on a few more pieces of gear that we would want as a group. Over the next few weeks we would do more research and buy the gear we needed, but for now we were pretty much set to go.

We met up after school that Friday to go buy supplies, but Henrik didn't show up, so we walked over to his house, thinking he forgot. When we got there, his mom told us that he was at the shop. It wasn't a strange thing, but Henrik never just hung out at the shop. We went to the shop and saw Henrik and his dad standing outside just talking. His dad was pointing around to things and Henrik was nodding. When we got closer, Henrik noticed us, and gave us a smile and a wave.
Danny, "I thought we were gonna hang out."
Henrik, "Oh, sorry. I didn't have a chance to tell you guys. My dad's giving me a job here at the shop."
"You don't even like cars." But that was the least of my concerns.
Henrik strategically ignored me to answer Danny, "Well, I won't be able to join you guys until a bit later."
Danny, "What time do you get off?"
Henrik looked at his dad.
Mr. Godel, "It shouldn't be more than an hour more."
"Alright, cool. Meet us on the hill when you're done, 'kay?"
Henrik, "Sounds good."

Danny and I walked to the store in silence, bought the supplies we needed, stashed them at Danny's place, and made our way up to the hill. We stayed in silence until we reached the top of the hill.
"You don't think Henrik would bail on us, do you?"
Danny, "I don't think so, but this trip is a pretty big deal. Maybe he's not up to it."
Neither of us wanted to leave Henrik behind, but Danny didn't seem as bothered by the idea of our trio losing a member.
Danny, "Maybe he's trying to save up a little more money for our adventure."
"Yeah, that's probably it." I was unconvinced, and it was audible in my voice, but I figured maybe I could fool myself... didn't work.

It was a while before we heard Henrik making his way up the trail. The sun had ridden across the sky, casting shadows from the surrounding mountains around our town.

Henrik, "Hey guys."
Danny, "How'd it go?"
Henrik, "It was good. He just showed me everything that goes into keeping the shop running. He'll teach me how to work the machines next week."
Danny, "Cool."
I needed to know why Danny took the job. It didn't make sense. Why would you sign up for something like that if you already have something else planned?
"So he knows that you're just going to be there for a short time, right?"
Henrik, "Well, I haven't told him yet."
I shot him an ornery look, "You can't just do that. You can't just get a job and leave a month later."
Henrik, "But they don't even know that I'm leaving at all."
"How does that make it any better?"
Henrik, "Hmmm... I suppose you're right, but I can't tell them."
"Why not? You are coming with us, right?"
Henrik, "Of course. Why wouldn't I?"
"Because you've been acting otherwise."
Henrik, "Well sorry if I'm not as enthusiastic about everything as you."
Danny, "Look, Sam... you can't make Henrik go if he wants something else."
Henrik, "But I do want to..."
"Hold on." Danny raised his hand slightly. "You can't make anyone but yourself go, Sam, and you'll never know for sure whether someone else wants to go or not. Henrik says he wants to go, and I believe him. That's good enough for me. If he ends up not going, well, that's his decision, but don't make him feel bad for making the choice."
"I'm not trying to make him feel bad; I'm trying to make him see the reality of living in this god-forsaken place the rest of his life. If ever there was a chance to escape, it's now."
There was a long silence.
Henrik, "I do want to go."
I let out a sigh and turned my gaze to the mountains.

After the sun had set, we were forced to retreat back to the city below. No one talked on the trail down. We were all questioning Henrik's resolve to our adventure, even Henrik. He just didn't acknowledge it yet.

The weeks passed as our graduation day grew closer, the day that we would be set free into the world, free to choose our futures or let them be chosen for us, free to stay here or leave this place. We are all stuck at varying levels of entrenchment in this man-made construct of reality. From the minute we are born, our minds are destined to rot away into nothingness. But in the time that a person gets to exist, they have choices; they can affect things. They can dream. They can create. They can become things. They can grow ideas. They can forge a new path... or they can let themselves be content with the culture as it is fed to them by those in power who manipulate a broken system for personal gain. The only thing holding us back is ourselves. We can become anything we want to be. What do we want to be?

Henrik had been working a lot at the shop after school, so we didn't see as much of him, though he seemed just as happy as before. Danny and I finalized the gear list, and I spent my time trying to avoid telling them the location of our adventure. I tried saying that it was going to be a surprise, but they still wanted to know. Eventually, I decided it was only fair to give them the details of where we were going, since it was their lives as well. So I told them about Whiterock, a place not too far away from Judgement Pass that we would have to go through anyway. I even pulled out a map and showed them the entire plan (minus the Judgement Pass part).

Henrik, "So what are we going to do after Whiterock? Are we just going to hang out for a while?"
"Yeah, I figured we'd stay there for a few months. It sounds like a nice place, and there are a lot of things to do in that area." In actuality, I didn't really plan to stay there for more than a few days.
Henrik, "How is that any different that just staying here? It's just another place. They're still just people. And we'll run out of things to do eventually, but we'll probably run out of money before that."
"Henrik, it's an adventure. We don't know what awaits us there; that's the point. There is nothing to do here. No one is going anywhere with their lives."
Henrik, "Why don't we wait a little longer to really make a plan. We need a budget. We need something more to go on that your dreams."
"Would that make you happy? Is that what it would take for you to come with us? -- A million step plan of everything we're going to do from now until the end of our lives. You know, sometimes you just have to jump as far as you can see and then figure out the next move from there."
Danny, "I'm going to have to agree with Sam. It just sounds like you're making excuses not to go at this point. You were okay with everything up until now. Is there something that made you change your mind?"
Henrik, "I just thought we'd have more of a plan for our lives than picking a direction and seeing where we end up."
Danny, "If you wanted to go, you would be helping us and wanting to figure this out. But your actions speak otherwise." Danny looked intensely into Henrik's eyes, "So are you coming with us?"
Henrik paused to think about it. He looked into Danny's eyes and gave a firm nod, "I want to come with you."
I knew he was just fooling himself, "But are you going to? Don't just say you want to; tell us that you are going to."
Henrik, "Yes, I'm going to come with you."
Danny, "We're still leaving two days after graduation."