I immediately searched for the path that led back to the light. The sun was beginning to sink lower in the sky with the colors of daylight changing into the warm hues of the approaching sunset. Things looked quite different today and I assumed it was the shadows that accompanied the sunset that made the difference.
Finally, I found it. There it was all along, nestled tightly between a clump of sumac and a small stand of crabapple trees. I thought it would be easier to find now having been down this way before. But upon entering the path, I noticed that it was quite different from the day before. At first I thought it was because the storm that accompanied me on my last journey was over. Yes, that was true, the storm was over but there was something else. As I walked down that path and into the tunnel, I noticed that it was quite different now. For one thing, I was not surrounded by the darkness of the walls as I had been before. Now the walls gave off a slight glow and upon further scrutiny, I saw that they had become somewhat translucent, allowing me to see all of my surroundings.
I looked around, taking in the colors and smells of all that surrounded me and I could see the wildlife all about. In particular, I noticed there were two deer walking ahead and slightly to the right of me. All the while, they stayed ahead of me and periodically looked back as if they were guiding me along. Yes, that’s what they are, my guides. They must be. What other purpose would they serve?
I let those thoughts fade slowly as I walked along, taking comfort in their presence. It was then that I noticed something quite different about the light. Even though it was still far away, there was a quality about it that I had not seen on my previous journey. As I looked at it, I noticed a distinct shimmer about it as though it were a diamond glistening in the distance. And in that shimmer, I could see thin shafts of color emanating from it as though the light it gave off was first filtered thru a prism. “How beautiful,” I thought to myself. But there must have been some sort of illusion taking place because I didn’t appear to be any closer to it than when I had first set out. “Oh well, no matter.” “I’ll get there soon enough,” I thought.
I continued walking along that path, continuously marveling at all the different wildlife I was seeing. Never before had I seen so much life all around me. I had made frequent trips to the foothills of the Allegheny mountains in the past, but never before had I seen such a variety of flora and fauna as I was seeing now. And there, ahead and to my right were the two deer that I now considered traveling companions, still guiding me along the path.
As I looked about on my journey, I began to realize that the light had not changed at all since I first entered the path. Just how long I had been walking, I cannot say. But as before, there was no sense of time. I could have been walking for mere minutes or years. It just didn’t matter. All that mattered was the here and now and all that drove me on was the need to reach the light once again.
As I continued on my journey, I again realized that the buzzing in my head had diminished greatly as did the pain in my head. The pain was now mostly centered to the base of my skull and it radiated downward along my neck in a sort of dull ache. In fact, it had diminished to the point where it was now a mere annoyance rather than a massive pain, much more like you would feel upon waking to a sore neck because you slept in some unnatural position.
I then noticed that my two guide deer had fallen back and were much closer to me. I now had the impression that they were not guides at all, but rather, just as I previously thought, more like traveling companions. I also noticed that I had drawn much closer to the light and I was now able to see it much clearer.
It was at this point that I began to hear what I thought to be the whispering of the wind. But as they drew closer, I discovered it wasn’t the wind at all. What I was hearing were voices that were barely discernable, faint unintelligible whispers. My two companions, I noticed, were much closer now. Close enough that I was able to determine that the whispers I was hearing were coming from them. “How curious,” I thought. But then again, not very much of this journey made much sense to me, at least not yet anyway.
I drew closer to the light with each step and soon I stepped into the clearing that was bathed in that light. There I was once again; the chair just as it had been previously, the hedgerow that towered up, making me feel like I was in a cathedral or some other holy place. That pleasant, lemony scent of water lilies was all that I could smell now. I looked at the chair briefly and sat down, looking for the opening in the hedgerow. But I couldn't find it. It was there. It had to be. My two companions joined me as each lay beside me, one on my left and the other on my right. The whispering was gone as was the pain and the buzzing in my head. There we sat and waited.
The whispers started once again, but this time it was not coming from my two companions. Now it seemed to come from nowhere and from everywhere. I must have blinked because suddenly, there was a figure standing in an opening in the hedgerow and that bright light behind it, causing the figure to be silhouetted by it. “The woman,” I thought. She had once again returned.
But it was not her. It was someone else, someone unfamiliar to me. The figure stepped forward and paused before me. I waited patiently for the figure to speak, but there was nothing. Even the whispers had stopped. I stared intently at the figure for some time and it was during this lull that my two companions rose up and walked toward the figure and beyond, disappearing into the light, which continued to pour from the opening in the hedgerow.
Once they had departed, the figure moved slightly as if to draw my full attention to it. In a soft voice, it asked me a single question. “Are you ready?” was all it asked. “Yes,” I replied. “Yes, I am ready.” “Are you sure?” the figure asked. “I am sure,” I replied. “You do know that there is no coming back.” It was more of a statement than a question. “Yes, I am ready.” “Good.” “Please follow me.” I rose slowly from the chair and looked about.
“I have a question,” I said. “Yes, I’m sure you have many questions, but I think most of them will be answered during orientation.” “What is your question, perhaps I can answer before we proceed.” “You are not having doubts, are you?” “No, no, nothing like that,” I replied. “I was merely wondering where the woman is.” “You know, the woman that was here during my previous visit. And…. What day is it? ” “Well, that’s two questions but…"no matter,” the figure replied. “Its Thursday, July 16th and what about the woman?” the figure asked. “She was very familiar to me, but yet, I could not determine who she was. Do you know her?” I asked. “I know everyone here,” the figure replied. “Please tell me who she is, I must know.” The figure looked at me for a moment and said nothing. “You really don’t know who that was?” it asked. All at once, I knew my journey was over. Then suddenly it turned and motioned for me to follow. As I followed the figure through the hedgerow, I heard it say over its shoulder, “it was you my dear… it was you.” All at once as I stepped thru the opening in that hedgerow, that feeling of peaceful bliss washed over me once again. It was over. No more pain. No more waiting. I was free at last.