It’s only been an hour since I got here, and I’m already bored. That’s a terrible sign, since I’m supposed to stay here for god-knows how many more one hours. I can’t spend all of those hours rolling around on the bottom bunk.
There’s someone else here whom I can talk to, but aside from nodding and coughing out a hello when I arrived, he hasn’t said a word, or moved from his spot on the top bunk. I seriously wish I had been assigned with someone more lively.
Shut up. You should be glad you’re not with one of those hyper-aggressive junkies. This old dude doesn’t seem like he’d do much harm. Be grateful.
The voice in my head is right. In reality, I am lucky. At least I won’t be beat up half to death.
“Sh*t, this is so boring,” I mutter, sitting up.
“What did you say?”
I jump a bit at the voice. It’s deeper than I thought. I immediately imagine the Gruffalo.
“Uh, I just said that this is boring.”
“You swore, didn’t you.”
Recovering from my initial shock, I shoot back. “Hey man, I didn’t take you for the soft type. So what if I swear? And plus, shit isn’t even a proper swear word.”
Silence rings through the cell. For a second, I believe that I had succeeded in shutting him up.
Then he jumps down.
I hear the top bunk sag with his weight, then watch as a shadowed figure crashes down onto the cell floor. He is indeed much bigger than I had imagined. A heavy mane surrounds the lower half of his face, and a deep scar runs down his hairy arms. With a menacing glare to boot, he looks exactly like a villainous lumberjack. I gulp. Maybe I spoke too soon about not getting beat up.
Surprisingly, though, he plops himself down onto the floor, cross-legged. I didn’t know that those trunks could even bend.
“Let me tell you a story, kid.”
Okay… that is not what I was expecting. But what can I do, except agree? There’s no way I can beat him in a fight. And I’d rather not get into one. So I said sure.
“This is a story that my dad told me when I was a kid. And you better believe it shaped me into who I am today.”
Just as I’m starting to wonder if his dad was some psychopath that told his son murdering people was the same as slaughtering chickens, he begins.
“It was on the afternoon of a stormy day, when three hikers got caught in the rain on a steep climb up a mountain. Thankfully, they were able to hide in a cave to escape the thunderous weather. However, they had only brought enough food and water for eight days- four days for the climb up, and four days for the hike down. Now, with the dangerous pouring rain and lightning, it seems that they might have to stay the night.
One of them was an experienced adventurer, and was able to start a fire to at least warm them up. The other two decided to prepare their sleeping bags for the upcoming night. Then, they rationed out their food and water. Just as they were about to eat, however, a middle-aged man stumbled into their hideout.
‘Please,’ he exclaimed, ‘I have been surviving only on plants and berries for the past two days. Please allow me to join your feast.’
The three hikers stared at their own piece of bread, sausage, and can of beans. At first, none of them said a word. Then, the experienced adventurer broke his bread in half and offered it to the tired man. The other two followed humbly, one of them sparing half of his sausage, and the other gifting half his can of beans. Each of them offered some of his water. ‘Is that enough?’ the experienced adventurer asked.
“Yes, yes. Thank you very much!’ The man scarfed down his share as the other hikers ate.
Then, the man asked, ‘May I share your fire and stay here for the night?’
After consideration, all three of them agreed. They all fell asleep to the sound of the pouring rain.”
Here, the old gruff takes a pause. I’m about to raise my hand to ask how it shaped him into a prisoner, when he continues.
“The next morning, the three of them woke up, squinting at the bright sunlight. The weather was beautiful! They hurriedly packed up their things and continued with their ascent, though the experienced adventurer realized that the man who visited them was nowhere to be seen. The climb was much smoother than they thought, and they made it up in two more days instead of three. When they got to the top, they all lied down and marveled at their amazing feat. Suddenly, one of them saw another figure, sitting at a tall tree near the cliff of the mountain. The experienced adventurer recognized him as the man from nights before! At that moment, the man also saw them, and smiled hugely as well.
Then, to the astonishment of all three of the hikers, the man floated up and flew to them!
All of their eyeballs nearly popped out of their heads, and for a second, each thought that they were dreaming! The man only politely smiled. Then he said,
‘I am actually God.’
The three hikers immediately kneeled on the ground. God waved for them to get up.
‘There is no need for that. You see, once in a while, I like to reward those that are kind-hearted and generous. You three have passed my test. Thus, let me reward you.’
He gestured to the cliff on the edge of the mountain.
‘I would like each of you to run from here and jump off that cliff. As you jump, you may scream out something that you would like to appear at the bottom of the cliff, and it will appear on the solid cloud at the bottom of the cliff.’
Each of them looked down, and indeed, a solid, snow-white cloud covered a part of the ground at the bottom of the cliff.
‘If you scream out too early, that is, before your feet leave the ground, nothing will appear, and you will land safely on the cloud, to continue your journey home. If you scream out too long after your feet leave the ground, the same will happen. You must say what you want the moment that your feet leave the ground.”
Then, God pointed to the experienced adventurer. ‘You may go first.‘
The adventurer took a breath, and started running. As he jumped, he screamed, ‘Money!’ Or so he thought. He had screamed out too early, and had gotten nothing. Sadly, he walked off the cloud and waited for his companions.
God ushered the second hiker to run. The hiker ran up to the edge and shouted, “Gold bars!” Indeed, gold bars spanned the area of the cloud, and the man smiled hugely at the sight of it. Unfortunately, gold bars were solid and hard, so when he landed on them, he completely shattered his legs and hip, as well as much of the rest of his body. God, feeling sympathetic, transported him back home on the cloud with his gold. Sadly, the second hiker did not survive for long, even with his abundance of money from the gold bars.
When it was the third hiker’s turn, he decided to learn from the second hiker’s mistake. He knew that he would ask for $10,000 bills. Running up, he was confident that he’d be rich and land on the soft pile of paper money. Already grinning at the image, he opened his mouth to scream. However, just as he was about to jump, he tripped over a stick lying on the edge of the cliff.
What happened was horrifying. He stared as brown covered the cloud. He tried to cover up his mistake by repeatedly screaming out “Paper money!”, but it was too late.”
The old gruff stares hard at me. “And you know what happened next, right?”
I do. “He landed in a pile of shit right?”
He nods. “Indeed he did.”
We sit in silence for a bit. Then, he says, “I’m in here because I beat a guy to death. He had swore at me for looking like a homeless old dude, and I told him not to swear. Then he threatened me, so I sucker punched him.” He chuckles. “Might’ve been that this old head here has had too much anger stored up, because I didn’t realize I was still hitting him until the police pulled me away.”
Ah, so that’s why. Maybe this guy ain’t so bad after all.
“You know, I think we can get along fairly well then,” I propose. Then, I smile and lean in.
“Tell me some more of your stories.”
Photo: Jack B on Unsplash.com